Many Lights Make Hands Work

The importance of commercial lighting systems in your facility

As all facility managers (FMs) will know, lighting is one of the most fundamental pillars to a healthy and safe working environment, and getting your lighting right will go a long way toward managing your facility effectively… and cost-efficiently. 

The Health & Safety Guidelines (HSG38; Second Edition; published 1997) set out the strict guidelines for lighting at work, as well as explaining how lighting contributes to the health and safety of people in the workplace. This includes common practices and minimum illumination levels in certain areas. 

Health and Safety

Let’s begin with a thorough understanding of why lighting is so critical to the health and safety of employees. 

The first reason is simple. The more light there is, the greater the chance for a person to spot a potential hazard or risk in the workplace. As such, the type of hazard will determine the rule of thumb for the lighting required to keep it safe. 

The second reason is simple, but critically important to understand. Poor lighting leads to health issues. For example, it can cause symptoms like eyestrain, migraines and headaches. In recent times, poor lighting has been linked to Sick Building Syndrome in new or refurbished buildings, and includes symptoms like headaches, lethargy, irritability and poor concentration. 

Profit Margins

But lighting can also affect the balance sheets, in the following forms:

  1. Employees taking time off work due to accidents or injuries
  2. Increased absenteeism
  3. Reduced staff efficiency and productivity


The HSG38 also clearly lays out the issue of responsibility; for maintenance and legally. 

Firstly, employers, the self-employed and people in control of non-domestic premises are required to ensure that the lighting is safe and does not pose any health risk to any who may use the premises.

Secondly, employers are required to consult their employees on health and safety matters with regularity. In essence, employers are required to be aware of lighting systems and methods, and should consult with experts on the best possible practices. 

Finally, employees have a duty NOT to endanger their own, or others’ lives, while at work. 

Let’s look at the potential effects

It has been well-documented at this point that poor lighting can negatively affect work ethic and cause health issues. Last year in October, UK-based company Staples conducted a survey of around 7,000 office workers from around Europe. 

80% of respondents said that good lighting in the office is important to them. 32% said that better lighting would directly increase their happiness. 25% admitted to frustration with lighting levels at work.

According to an article by Doctor Pragya Agarwal on the Forbes website, it takes only 13 – 15 minutes of exposure to natural light to trigger the release of endorphins into the brain. 


Interestingly, there are no statutory workplace lighting levels in the UK. Regulation 8 of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) lays out the requirements as “suitable and sufficient” and that, where able, workplaces be lit by natural light. 

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations state that you must “assess and control any risks to health and safety, including lighting risks”.

The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations, as well as Regulation 21 of the Provision of Work Equipment Regulations both state that any place where a person uses work equipment should be suitably and sufficiently lit. 

The Guidelines

While the HSG38 admits that lighting is largely subjective, it does lend some broad guidelines which are as follows:

  • the finer detail a worker needs to see, the higher the illuminance needed;
  • lighting needs to produce a “reasonable uniform illuminance” in all task areas; and
  • lighting design needs to account for the effect of shadows caused by people or objects.

The Illuminance Levels

Refer to the following list, taken from HSG38. 

ActivityTypical locations/types of workAverage Illuminance (lux) lx. Minimum Measured Illuminance (lux) lx. 
Movement of people, machines and vehicles Lorry park, corridors, circulation routes205
Movement of people, machines and vehicles in hazardous areas; rough work not requiring any perception of detailConstruction site clearance, excavation and soil work, loading bays, bottling and canning plants5020
Work requiring limited perception detailKitchens, factories assembling large components, potteries10050
Work requiring perception of detailOffices, sheet metal work, book binding200100
Work requiring perception of finer detailDrawing offices, factories assembling electronic components, textile production500200

Looking Forward

Of course, in this day and age, new technologies are constantly being researched or coming to the market; technologies which will have a large impact on the common practices of facility managers. One such example is the LED lighting system, taking over from halogen lights as the halogen ban was introduced to the UK last year. 

LED lights use about 80% less energy than conventional bulbs and as their costs have dropped over time, their value to businesses has skyrocketed. Cheaper and longer lasting always is. 

But the real gold standard going forward is ‘smart-buildings’ and ‘eco-design’ buildings. The former refers to buildings which will look to utilise space more effectively and include automated systems as effectively as possible. The latter refers to buildings which are designed with health and safety already firmly entrenched in the concept.

Jonathan Dore, Commercial Director at Kingspan Light + Air, had the following to say on the issue of incorporated design.

“In modern architectural design, building natural lighting into projects is becoming a key consideration due to its health and safety benefits for occupants and additional energy-saving prospects. But with LED lighting becoming the lighting of choice due to its energy efficiency, striking the balance between natural and artificial lighting from design stage is needed to ensure a compliant and comfortable working environment for staff which embraces overall energy-saving potentials.”

Consult Today

Voltix Services specialises in statutory compliance, assisting your facility in understanding regulations and legal responsibility. Voltix Services also offers full energy management services, and can assist you in reducing your energy consumption and increasing your profits.