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Poor lighting levels, and/or the lack of emergency lighting and illuminated signage in times of power failure or in emergency situations, can lead to serious workplace incidents.

General requirements for lighting in workplaces

Lighting systems should be considered at the design and installation phases should:

  • be able to accommodate changes in work activities and progression of construction
  • ensure the safety of people so that hazards are visible and well lit
  • take types of work task into account
  • create a suitable lit work environment
  • provide a safe and comfortable visual environment.

Section 40(d) of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 (WHS Regulation) requires that a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) ensures, so far as is reasonably practicable, that lighting enables:

  • each worker to carry out work without risk to health and safety
  • persons to move within the workplace without risk to health and safety
  • safe evacuation in an emergency.

These requirements apply to all workplaces, not just construction sites.

Section 314 of the WHS Regulation also requires a principal contractor for a construction project to ensure the requirements of s40(d) are complied with.

Natural lighting

Where natural light is present the workplace should be assessed to make sure there is enough light for:

  • safe access to and from the workplace
  • safe performance of tasks
  • exiting the workplace in emergency situations (specific attention should be given to the identification, illumination and signage of emergency exits)
  • the size and complexity of the workplace, taking into account all of the above.

Further considerations

While PCBUs should ensure minimum recommended levels of lighting, each workplace is different and should be assessed to determine whether higher levels of light may be needed.

Lights are most efficient when new. This means that if only minimum levels are provided to begin with, lighting will quickly drop below minimum requirements as lights age, get covered in dust or simply stop working. This should be considered during initial planning stages.

Lux levels in the workplace often decrease without people noticing.

It is essential to regularly maintain lighting to ensure ongoing safety.