Proper Lighting in Construction

Click here for Spanish

Illumination is one of the more obscure and overlooked regulations. This isn’t surprising necessarily, since it isn’t one that is cited often, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t important.

What is REQUIRED?

For the Construction Industry there are generally 3 specific levels of illumination that you need to remember:

  • 3 Foot-Candles – This applies to most of your “outside” areas. For this regulation, “outside” means anything that is NOT covered. So standing on the first floor of a multi-level structure that isn’t enclosed is still considered “inside”. But if you can look up and see the sky, you are “outside”.
  • 5 Foot-Candles – This applies to most of your “inside” areas. If you can’t see the sky when you look directly up from where you are located then you are “inside”.
  • 10 Foot-Candles – Batch plants, Carpenter Shops, Active store rooms, Toilets, etc….

The key to all of this is that these levels apply to ALL areas where workers are located. So, if they have to walk from the parking lot to their work station, the path has to be illuminated. If they are going to leave the work station and walk to the toilets, that path has to be illuminated. If they are going to be rummaging around looking for tools in a yard or trailer… you guessed it, those locations have to be illuminated.

Translate that please…

If you don’t have a visual in your head on just how bright that is, don’t worry, most people don’t. There are a few tools on the market that can help you.

If you are looking for a decent all around safety meter then you can get one from Amazon:

Check out this one for a “Four in One Environmental Meter” or this one for a “Five in One Environmental Meter“. Both of these instruments will allow you to measure the Temperature, Air Velocity, Relative Humidity and Light. The 5-in-1 adds in a Sound Meter as well.

Note: These just happen to be the ones that I have specifically used so they are the ones I know. I am not affiliated with them in any way other than as a customer. I am sure there are other great devices in the field, so get with your specific vendors and get their recommendations.

If you aren’t interested in carrying around another device or spending $200 to $250 dollars there are some apps that are available through the App Store (Apple). I am going to have to assume that there are similar apps available through Google Play but since I don’t have an android I will have to depend on those of you that do to fill in the gaps.

When it comes to straight up “light meters” keep in mind that most of these are meant for photographers and can get pretty fancy in the data they give you. But you can get one for free that gives you are really good idea of the amount of light in an area without all the other fuss.

The one that I recommend strictly for a quick “Light meter” is:

  • Lux Light Meter Pro – by Elena Polyanskaya
    • There is a paid option of this app (about $4) but the free one has been sufficient for my needs.

Wondering what a “foot-candle” is? This illustration shows it better than I can describe it.

So, 5 foot-candles would be equivalent amount of light that 5 standard candles would project on a 1’x1′ square surface from 1′ away.

The short answer is… it is brighter than you think!

Use the tool but trust your gut! If you EVER enter a space and think to yourself “its a little dim in here” it is nowhere close to 5 foot-candles. If you enter a space and think there is plenty of light because you can clearly see… it might be enough, it might not be enough. Without testing it you won’t actually know.

What is the point of all of this?

If no one tests this except for the few random crazy folks, and OSHA never cites anyone for it, why do we care? The answer is simple.

The NUMBER 1 leading cause of Injury and Death in the Construction Industry is Falls, which includes Slips and Trips and Falls on the Same Level.

If a person cannot clearly see where they are walking they are at risk of injury. Preventing a workers injury far out weighs the avoidance of a citation.

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