How Much Light is Adequate for Your Workplace?

Light level for a workplace is a significant factor for productivity and mood of staff. Poor lighting (as a result of light flickering, strong glare, excessive contrast, uneven distribution or under supply) can lead to problems like occupational accidents, headaches and eye illnesses. Proper lighting, on the other hand, reduces electricity cost, reduces risk of occupational accidents, creates aesthetics and improves concentration and accuracy in work.

It is therefore important that you understand the adequacy and quality of light for your office. The quality of light (or illuminance) is measured by a luxmeter and the measured illuminance is displayed in lux (lx).

Light quality is an occupational health and safety issue, thus, must be taken seriously. A system of lux measurement called light ergonomics can be used to define appropriate lux for a workplace. It is recommended that a work station (e.g. desk area) should have between 300 to 500 lux and 1200 to 1600 mm above floor level should be lit to 150 lux. Further recommendations on the lighting level are as shown in the table below.

Recommended Illumination for Workplaces

ActivityLight Level (Lux)
Performance of very special visual tasks of extremely low contrast and small size10000 – 20000
Performance of very prolonged and exacting visual tasks5000 – 10000
Performance of visual tasks of low contrast and very small size for prolonged periods of time2000 – 5000
Detailed Drawing Work, Very Detailed Mechanical Works1500 – 2000
Normal Drawing Work, Detailed Mechanical Workshops, Operation Theatres1000
Supermarkets, Mechanical Workshops, Office Landscapes750
Normal Office Work, PC Work, Study Library, Groceries, Show Rooms, Laboratories500
Easy Office Work, Classes250
Warehouses, Homes, Theaters, Archives150
Working areas where visual tasks are only occasionally performed100 – 150
Simple orientation for short visits50 – 100
Public areas with dark surroundings20 – 50
Office Space
General Office500
Normal Work Stations300 – 500
Conference Room, Executive Offices500
Computer and Data Preparation Rooms500
Filing Room300
Conference Rooms300
Training Rooms500
Auditoria150 – 200
Banks and Other Financial Institutions
Counter, Office Area500
Waiting Area300
Entrance Halls100
Reception, Cashiers and Prospers’ Desks300
Bars, Coffee Lounge, Dining Rooms, Restaurants Lounge50 – 200
Cloakrooms, Baggage Rooms100
Bathrooms50 – 100
Small Retail Outlets500
Grocery, Vegetable Stores1000
Showrooms500 – 700
Covered Arcades and Malis50 – 300
Public Areas
Entrance Lobbies, Atria200
Elevator Lobbies, Public Corridors200
Ped. Tunnels and Bridges200
Support Spaces
Staff Locker Rooms200
Storage Rooms, Janitors’ Closets200
Electrical Rooms, Generator Rooms200
Mechanical Rooms200
Communication Rooms200
Loading Docks200
Trash Rooms200
Specialty Areas
Dining Areas 150-200 Kitchens 500 Outleased Space 500 Physical Fitness Space 500 Child Care Centers 500 Structured Parking, General Space 50 Structured Parking, Intersections 100 Structured Parking, Entrances 500
Dining Areas150 – 200
Outleased Space500
Physical Fitness Space500
Child Care Centres500
Structured Parking, General Space50
Structure Parking, Intersections100
Structure Parking, Entrances500

Improving Illuminance

Illuminance is achieved by the number, spacing, positioning and design of lighting points. Many light fixtures are designed to reflect light off walls, ceilings and objects. Illuminance is also determined by the colour temperature. For example, warmer colours (e.g. warm white) tend to create more relaxed environment while cool white keeps staff alert. Poor of insufficient lighting can be corrected by:

  • Replacing bulbs on a regular schedule. Old bulbs give less light than new ones, so replace them before they burn out. Follow manufacturers’ instructions.
  • Clean light fixtures regularly. Dirt on light fixtures reduces the amount of light given off. Light fixtures with open tops allow air currents to move dust up through the fixtures so dust and dirt do not accumulate on them.
  • Add more light fixtures in appropriate places.
  • Paint walls and ceilings light colours so light can be reflected.
  • Use more reflected light and local lighting to eliminate shadows. For example, a covered light mounted under a transparent guard on a grinding wheel provides the added light needed to clearly see the task.
  • Do not position work station with light fixture directly behind a worker.

Determination of Illumination

To determine illumination of your workplace, you can use the following formula.

  • Given that Lux = Lumens (quantity of light) per square metre;

I = Ll X Cu X Llf/Al  


I =        Illumination (lux, lumen/m2)

Ll =       Lumens per lamp (lumen)

Cu =    Coefficient of utilization

Llf =      Light loss factor

Al =      Area per lamp (m2)


5 incandescent lamps of 20 W (10600 lumens per lamp) are used in an area of 40 m2. With Cu = 0.6 and Llf = 0.8 illumination can be calculated as:

I = 5 (10600 lumens) x (0.6) x (0.8) / (40 m2)

Illumination = 636 lux

You can also work backwards to determine the number of light points, given amount of illumination and workplace area.

 How to Make a Choice

Lumens are a better measurement to purchase light fixtures as compared to watts. One should therefore consider lumens to watts when deciding on light fixtures to purchase. For instance, an LED bulb can produce as many as 60 – 100 lumens per watt as compared to an incandescent bulb that only produces 12 – 17 watts. For purposes of conversion, please note that:

Brightness (Lumens)250+450+800+

This implies that to replace a 40W standard bulb in your workplace, you need a bulb that gives 450 lumens. Comparatively, LED and CFL bulbs have less wattage but still produce more.

Contact us for on illumination assessment and correction for your workplace illumination:

|info(at)     | +254 739 669 914    |     @depriss1

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