CAW National Council 4000
Occupational Health and Safety

Physical Hazards:  Lighting

Good lighting, whether natural or artificial, is extremely important for the health, safety and well being of workers. Light is a
necessary condition for vision. Our sight is a main sensory channel for receiving information about our environment. The ability to
work safely on most tasks depends on the quantity and quality of light that illuminates our work and our workplace.

Light in most workplaces has been installed with a view to providing the most light for the least cost. Unfortunately, lighting is often
installed with no input from workers and with little regard for their specific visual needs. Eye strain and visual fatigue caused by
poor lighting and the need for maintaining uninterrupted visual and mental alertness is very important for the health and safety of
workers. Employers who fail to recognize the need for improving lighting conditions in the workplace are endangering the safety
and health of workers.

Legislated Lighting Requirements

Each province in Canada has enacted building codes that include lighting requirements. Most of the minimum lighting requirements,
including the ones set by a number of health and safety regulations, are based on the recommendations of the illumination
engineering society of North America (IESNA). The lighting requirements found in the national building code, various provincial
building codes and health and safety regulations can be enforced by building inspectors and health and safety officers. Members of
the Joint Safety and Health Committee and Health and Safety Representatives should review these building codes and regulations
to become familiar with the lighting requirements.

If there are no specific lighting regulations in your health and safety jurisdiction, you can use the "general duty" clause. For
example, workers covered by the Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act should use the provision found in section 25(2)(h)
which states:

"An employer shall take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of the worker".

Workers under federal jurisdiction should use the general duty of the employer as specified in part 2 of the Canada Labour Code to
bring about improvements in the quality of lighting. Section 124 states the following:

"Every employer shall ensure that the safety and health at work of every person employed by the employer is protected".

Inspections By Worker Representatives

Members of Joint Committees and Health and Safety Representatives have the right to conduct inspections of the workplace as one
of their duties and responsibilities under Federal and Provincial occupational safety and health legislation. An inspection focusing
specifically on lighting may be needed. Using the inspection results, workers committee members and safety and health
representatives can detect hazards and recommend solutions for lighting problems.

When conducting your inspections, you should be looking for the following:

  •    provides adequate lighting for the work area
  •    provides additional lighting for specific tasks
  •    evenly distributes and focuses light for the work task and work area
  •    integrates daylight and electric light
  •    provides a safe, comfortable and efficient visual environment
  •    lights up dark areas and highlights hazards such as moving machinery and other safety hazards

By becoming familiar with this subject workers and their representatives can play a major role in improving lighting conditions at


The result of poor lighting is a workplace where workers experience visual discomfort and fatigue causing eye strain, headaches
and accidents. Good lighting in the workplace provides a safe, comfortable and healthy visual environment for a variety of tasks in
the workplace.


Illumination engineering society of North America 9IESNA)
National Building Code
Provincial Building Codes

Source:  CAW Health, Safety & Environment Department