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Exterior Lighting Requirements for Working Employees

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Many companies conduct around-the-clock business operations where employees work at night as well as in all weather conditions. Companies with outdoor operations may also have employees working in environments that will require sufficient lighting at all times. Adequate exterior lighting is not only important to ensure that employees working outdoors can see what they're doing; it's also vital from a safety standpoint. Fortunately, various government regulations address workplace exterior lighting and illumination to ensure employee safety.

Exterior Lighting Requirements

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets minimum exterior lighting requirements for a variety of workplaces. OSHA regulations help employers meet safety standards for the lighting of outdoor workplaces. According to these regulations, workplaces such as construction areas, ramps and runways, corridors, offices, shops and storage sheds must be lighted to minimum illumination intensities. Illumination intensity is measured by foot-candle, which is how bright a light is at one foot away from the source casting the light.

OSHA Minimum Illumination Intensities

OSHA's workplace lighting regulations have the force of law and are the minimum requirements for employers. OSHA requires office hallways and corridors and general construction areas to be illuminated to at least five foot-candles. Three foot-candles of illumination are required for excavation sites, work areas for concrete placement or waste activities, access ways, active storage areas, loading platforms, and refueling and field maintenance areas. Three foot-candles of illumination are bright and will allow for safe work in outdoor environments.

Workplace Lighting Concerns

If you believe your workplace is being poorly lighted, address the issue first with your employer. If you fear retaliation from your employer for complaining about poor illumination in your workplace, you can make an anonymous request to OSHA to investigate. Employers and employees concerned about whether workplace lighting is adequate can request assistance from the federal government. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health conducts free workplace health hazards evaluations upon request from employers, employees or employee representatives.

Lighting Standards and Safety Managers

OSHA standard 1926.56(a) governs only minimum workplace illumination requirements, and employers are free to improve their lighting as they see fit. Additionally, each state can have more stringent occupational safety and health requirements for workplaces, including those for exterior lighting. Michigan, for example, has an extensive occupational safety and health program that addresses workplace illumination standards. Depending on your company's size and its operations, you may be able to bring your workplace lighting concerns to an on-site safety manager or other professional.


Tony Guerra served more than 20 years in the U.S. Navy. He also spent seven years as an airline operations manager. Guerra is a former realtor, real-estate salesperson, associate broker and real-estate education instructor. He holds a master's degree in management and a bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies.

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