Legal Requirements for Office Lighting

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Office lighting requirements are designed to ensure that all employees have enough lighting to do their jobs efficiently. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has the task of enforcing these lighting requirements.

Lighting requirements pertain not only to the work area within an office, but the hallways, corridors and emergency routes of the office building as well.

The Law

Under the guidelines of OSHA, all offices must be lit with a minimum of 30 foot candles of light at all times. A foot candle is the equivalent of one burning candle viewed from a foot away. The purpose of this requirement is to make sure that all workers have enough light to complete their duties within the office. OSHA does not have a minimum standard of natural light, or daylight, that an office must receive, but does state that daylight should be used if possible. However, daylight should be limited so that it does not cause a glare on the computer screen. A glared screen can be harder to see and cause employee eye fatigue throughout the day.

Keeping It Safe

Office buildings must be equipped with exit signs and exit routes. These routes and signs must be properly lit under the guidelines of OSHA. All exit signs must have at least 5 foot candles of light powering them. The sign must be illuminated in a way that makes it easy for all to see. The exit routes must have a minimum of 5-foot candle illumination at all times and be clearly visible. Under Section 1926.56(a) of OSHA, all hallways and corridors within an office building must also be lit with 5-foot candles of illumination. The purpose of emergency lighting requirements is to ensure all workers have clear visibility in the event of an emergency or evacuation situation.


Having proper lighting within an office carries with it benefits as outlined by OSHA. If lighting is too harsh, it can wash out images on an employee's display screen, such as her computer. Washed out images can lead to eye fatigue as the employee struggles to clearly see her work. OSHA recommends that employees working on paper tasks around the office have between 20 to 50 foot candles of light. Those working on LCD monitors may require more light.