Lighting – just a matter of common sense? Part Three

Lighting – just a matter of common sense? Part 3

In this article split over three parts, Dr Richard Brown looks at effective lighting at work and how it enables safe working. This third part discusses sockets for temporary lighting, how providing lighting can lead to accidents and ensuring the correct type and positioning of lighting. You can catch up on parts one and two at the bottom of this page.



Written by

Dr Richard Brown

It is perhaps a matter of ‘common sense’ that effective lighting at work is required and enables safe working. However, common sense very often isn’t common, and this article sets out the legal requirements, good practice, associated hazards and some tips on lighting strategies. Dr Richard Brown, Head of Expert Services at Finch Consulting, muses over his experience with lighting over his well-established career.

The legal requirements are detailed at the bottom of this article and referred to throughout the body of it. The article does not discuss lighting requirements in explosive or potentially explosive atmospheres.

Have enough sockets for temporary lighting

I have endured the unfortunate experience of being within a large coal boiler furnace during an outage (a maintenance shutdown in the power industry) when without warning all the temporary furnace lighting failed. The furnace was decked out with scaffolding, and most workers held on to a handrail and waited for the lighting to be remedied. As is usual in these circumstances, the language was rather choice and voluminous! After the many shouts the lighting returned to its previous state after what was probably a minute or so (but perhaps in absolute darkness seemed more like hours).

After an investigation, it was discovered that a welder needed to grind out a weld and couldn’t find a free power socket. Rather than spend time arranging for this to occur, he simply unplugged the nearest plug to him in a splitter box and carried on with his work. As part of the investigation, it was discovered that there were generally insufficient power sockets for the trades at each boiler level. Due to slow reactions to complaints, workers grew tired of constantly asking for further sockets and resorted to their own means of finding a power source.

In this circumstance, I was lucky to have a personal light on my hard hat, as did many of the contractors. Better provision of power sockets and mandatory personal lighting to enter the boiler was a result of the investigation.

Providing lighting can lead to other accident types

Temporary lighting is often strung at low levels, across the floor, over motors, pumps etc. Consequently, poorly designed temporary lighting often leads to slip-and-trip types of accidents and incidents. Additionally, lighting can be placed on improper surfaces (e.g., hot) which can affect the lighting cabling. How often in the industry do we see extension cables, lighting, sockets surrounded or in pools of water? In my experience quite often.

I have always found the best approach to temporary lighting to be to plan it like any other task. On large power station outages for example consultation with the scaffolders has allowed the temporary lighting to be attached to set points above head level, to prevent trip hazards and the damage of cabling at low level. Furthermore, the minimisation of electrically related accidents can be achieved.

This approach in conjunction with the scaffolders also allows the proper derigging of scaffolding and lighting, without overly affecting the lighting provision. Often without planning high-mounted lighting, once the scaffolding is dropped ends up on the floor because the scaffolders haven’t been consulted.

Ensure The Correct Type and positioning of Lighting

Some lighting systems will have a stroboscopic effect that may make rotating objects appear stationary (this happens with video cameras recording helicopters flying and the footage looks as though the rotors are stationary). Different lighting systems may need to be combined that operate at different frequencies to prevent this effect.

Ensure that lighting levels are assessed at the point of work. High-level lighting may provide ample lighting however when work equipment is installed or used then lighting levels may be reduced at the point of work (think of working underneath vehicles).

For any queries related to what you have read here please email [email protected].


The Law and Relevant Guidance

Health and Safety At Work Act 1974

Section 2 – General duties of employers to their employees:

  • Assessing the risks in the workplace, tell employees of these risks and how they will be protected.
  • Ensure the safety of employees in connection with the use, storage, and transport of articles
  • Ensure safe maintenance of the place of work
  • Consult employees on H&S issues

Section 3 – General duties of employers and self-employed to persons other than their employees

  • The employer must ensure that others not in their employment who may be affected by their activities (visitors, contractors, etc) are not exposed to risks whilst at the employer’s site. (i.e., by ensuring adequate lighting levels are in place to prevent accidents and incidents)

Section 7 – General duties of employees at work:

  • Employees must take reasonable care of the health and safety of themselves and others and must cooperate with any requirement imposed by the employer so the employer can comply with any required duty. (i.e., reporting of defects for example defective lights to ensure lighting levels remain effective)

The Regulatory (Fire Safety) Order 2005

Part 2, Article 9 – Risk Assessment:

  • The ‘Responsible Person’ (RP) must ensure a suitable and sufficient assessment of fire risks has been reviewed if it is suspected that it is no longer valid or there has been a significant change. The risk assessment must include emergency lighting provisions to ensure persons can safely evacuate.
  • These assessments must be recorded when an employer employs five or more employees

 Part 2, Article 14 – Emergency routes and exits:

  • The RP must ensure emergency routes and exits requiring illumination must be provided with emergency lighting of adequate intensity in the case of failure of their normal lighting.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

Regulation 3 – Risk assessment

  • “3.—(1) Every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of—

               (a )the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they  are at work; and

(b) the risks to the health and safety of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him of his undertaking,”

The risk assessment must include assessing whether lighting levels are adequate for the work environment/tasks and activities being undertaken.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992

Regulation 8 – Lighting:

‘(1) Every workplace shall have suitable and sufficient lighting.

(2) The lighting mentioned in paragraph (1) shall, so far as is reasonably practicable, be by natural light.

(3) Without prejudice to the generality of paragraph (1), suitable and sufficient emergency lighting shall be provided in any room in circumstances in which persons at work are especially exposed to danger in the event of failure of artificial lighting.’

The Display Screen Equipment Regulations 1992 (as amended in 2002)

Regulation 3 (Schedule) – Requirements for workstations:

Requires in the Schedule for there to be adequate lighting and adequate contrast (i.e. no glare or distracting reflections). In particular the Schedule states:

  • ‘Any room lighting or task lighting provided shall ensure satisfactory lighting conditions and an appropriate contrast between the screen and the background environment, taking into account the type of work and the vision requirements of the operator or user.
  • Possible disturbing glare and reflections on the screen or other equipment shall be prevented by co-ordinating workplace and workstation layout with the positioning and technical characteristics of the artificial light sources.’
  • Additional information can be found on lighting in BS EN ISO 9241 Part 6.

Lighting at Work Guidance (HSG38)

This guidance from the HSE explains how lighting contributes to the health and safety of people at work. It deals with assessing and managing the health and safety risks attributable to lighting in the workplace, good practice and the minimum recommended illumination levels that meet health and safety requirements.

Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015

Para 82 CDM ACOP states, “Designs prepared for places of work also need to comply with the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 (the Workplace Regulations)  taking account of factors such as lighting and the layout of traffic routes”. This requirement is to ensure that lighting post construction phase is adequate for the building.

Regulation 31(4) states, “An emergency route or exit and any traffic route giving access to it must be kept clear and free from obstruction and, where necessary, provided with emergency lighting so that it may be used at any time”.

Regulation 35 headed ‘Lighting’ states:

“(1) Each construction site and approach and traffic route to that site must be provided with suitable and sufficient lighting, which must be, so far as is reasonably practicable, by natural light.

(2) The colour of any artificial lighting provided must not adversely affect or change the perception of any sign or signal provided for the purposes of health or safety.

(3) Suitable and sufficient secondary lighting must be provided in any place where there would be a risk to the health or safety of a person in the event of the failure of primary artificial lighting”.

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