Lighting - I think my workplace is too dark

The employer has a duty of care under Section 21(2)(c) of the 2004 OHS Act to 'maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, each workplace under the employer's management and control in a condition that is safe and without risks to health'.

Persons who manage or control workplaces - if these are different to the employer - also have a similar duty under Section 26 of the Act.

However, there is nothing more specific mandated, either in the Act or in Regulations.  There is guidance provided, however, in the Workplace amenities and work environment Compliance Code which sets out what employers need to do in order to comply with their duties under the OHS Act:

Lighting

133. Lighting from natural and/or artificial sources needs to be provided for employees to ensure working conditions that are appropriate to the nature of the work, the location of the work and the times at which the work is performed.

134. If the workplace is a building, employers need to comply with the lighting specifications contained in the Building Code of Australia, part F4.2 to F4.4 Light and ventilation and Table 3 (which is on page 26 of the Compliance Code) where applicable. (*See Note below)

135. The lighting in a workplace needs to allow employees and others to move about easily. It needs to allow them to carry out their work effectively, without adopting awkward postures or straining their eyes to see.

136. Some tasks may require local lighting in a particular area in addition to general lighting for the workplace or different lighting at different times of the day. For example, employees loading a transport vehicle outdoors will have different lighting requirements when they work at night than they will during the day.

137. Factors that employers need to consider when providing lighting include:

  • the nature of the work activity
  • the nature of the hazards and risks in the workplace
  • the work environment
  • illumination levels, including both natural and artificial light
  • transition of natural light over the day
  • glare
  • contrast
  • reflections

138. The lighting provided needs to improve the visual environment and be free from glare including reflective glare, flicker and stroboscopic effect.

For good, brief advice on lighting for offices,  Officewise - A guide to health and safety in  the office  is very useful. This publication covers many office related OHS issues - pages 22-25 give advice on lighting levels and quality of light. This publication is free from WorkSafe, or you can download a copy from the VWA website.

The Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZ1680, Lighting and the Visual Environment also provides valuable information for workplace lighting and should be considered when lighting workstations. Australian standards must be purchased and are quite technical. AS1680, part 1 is 123 pages long. There are other parts on interior lighting, office and screen based equipment lighting, educational and training facilities, and so on. The Compliance Code can be downloaded from the WorkSafe website.

*NOTE: The Building Code has been updated and amended - however, the Workplace amenities and work environment Compliance Code has not.

Last amended June 2015

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