Lighting of workplaces

Good lighting in the workplace is intended to help workers see well, prevent accidents, and excessive eye strain. Employees’ safety and health therefore depend in part on the illumination of their environments at work. In this context, apart from the classic visual factors such as visual acuity and visual comfort, occupational safety and health is also focussing to a greater extent on the non-visual effects of daylight and artificial light.

Light for good visibility

Workplace lighting is essential to the visual process and the prevention of accidents caused by poor visibility, while excessive strain on the eyes is to be avoided. Insufficient light levels, glare, or uneven illumination may, for example, cause mental strain, visual fatigue, a deterioration in performance, and a higher risk of errors and/or accidents. Good illumination accordingly helps to promote activity and well-being among staff members, which has positive impacts on their performance and commitment.

The occupational safety and health requirements regarding the lighting of workplaces primarily relate to aspects of visual performance and the avoidance of visual discomfort and visual fatigue. The protection targets to be achieved with regard to the lighting of working environments are defined in the Workplaces Ordinance (Arbeitsstättenverordnung, ArbStättV), the requirements of which are given concrete form by Technical Rules for Workplaces (Technische Regeln für Arbeitsstätten, ASRs). The ASR A3.4 sets out the requirements placed on the illumination of workplaces with daylight and artificial lighting. ASR A2.3 specifies requirements for the illumination of escape routes and emergency exits.

Non-visual effects of light

Apart from the visual effects of light, its contributions to visual performance and visual comfort for instance, occupational safety and health is paying ever more attention to the non-visual effects of light. These are the effects light has on individuals’ physiology, mood, and behaviour. In recent years the research into the non-visual effects of light has increasingly established direct links between light and health. The non-visual effects of light are also closely connected with factors that affect mental health in the work domain.

The discovery of a previously unknown kind of photoreceptor in the human eye that is sensitive to blue light marked the starting point for an intensification of research into the non-visual effects of light around the turn of the millennium. When these cells are stimulated by blue/cyan parts of the light spectrum, the body is switched into an attentive, alert state. This activation is caused naturally by daylight, but can also be triggered by artificial light. Laboratory-based fundamental research has already established a solid foundation of findings about such effects of light, their connections with human circadian rhythms for example. There is currently intensive discussion about how these new findings should be incorporated into workplace lighting concepts. Further information on these discussions can be found in the position paper on the treatment of artificial, biologically efficient illumination in standards that has been published by the Commission for Occupational Health and Safety and Standardisation (Kommission Arbeitsschutz und Normung, KAN).

Daylight

With its high intensity and large amounts of light in the blue-appearing part of the spectrum, natural daylight produces the non-visual effects of light discussed above and supplies the biological clock with the information it needs about the time of day. Daylight consequently makes it possible for important body functions to be synchronized and adjusted to the external environment. For example, the body uses the information supplied by light to regulate its core temperature and control the release of stress hormones in the morning. As light's direct counterpart, the darkness of the evening and night allows the unrestricted production of "night hormones" and their release into the bloodstream, thus ensuring individuals are able to rest and recuperate overnight. These effects are closely linked to human health. Efforts should therefore be made to ensure that workplaces get plenty of daylight and unnecessary exposure to light is avoided in the evenings and at night. As far as the future of lighting design for workplaces is concerned, it will be important to gain an even better understanding of the interactions between daylight and artificial illumination, and how they influence employees’ safety and health.

Research Projects

Project numberF 2534 StatusOngoing Project Effects of temporal light modulation on workers’ cognitive performance, mental workload and well-being

To the Project

Research ongoing

Project numberF 2496 StatusCompleted Project Non-visual effectiveness of light at night as a function of the light direction

To the Project

Research completed

Project numberF 2475 StatusCompleted Project Interactions of indoor climate, noise and lighting in workplaces

To the Project

Research completed

Project numberF 2448 StatusCompleted Project Effect of light on the alertness during the day: Dependence on the spectral composition of light and the exposure time

To the Project

Research completed

Project numberF 2449 StatusCompleted Project Occupational circadian effective light exposure

To the Project

Research completed

Project numberF 2302 StatusCompleted Project Lighting of workplaces: impact of AmI-based lighting systems

To the Project

Research completed

Project numberF 2355 StatusCompleted Project Determination of the actual light exposure from natural and artificial sources with regard to circadian effects in shift-working employees - Joint project between BAuA and PHE

To the Project

Research completed

Publications

Search results

Determination of criteria for lightwells to distribute sufficient daylight into workspaces

baua: Report 2024

The task of lightwells is to distribute daylight into adjacent spaces. When oriented to a lightwell workrooms receive daylight …

To the Publication

Interactions of indoor climate, noise and lighting in workplaces

Report 2024

The interactions between climate, noise and lighting in rooms of workplaces with regard to their influence on perception, …

To the Publication

12th Symposium Light and Health

baua: Report 2023

In April 2024, the 12th "Light and Health" symposium was held, organized by the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and …

To the Publication

Blue-light hazard risk assessment for white-light sources

baua: Guidance brief 2023

Light from screens and general lighting is almost always photobiologically safe. The use of high-power spotlights e. g. in …

To the Publication

Effects of Light on Attention During the Day

Report 2023

Light has been shown to not only enable human vision, but to also elicit other physiological responses. Besides its ability to …

To the Publication

Effects of light on attention of daytime workers: a laboratory study

Article 2023

To the Publication

ENLIGHT: A consensus checklist for reporting laboratory-based studies on the non-visual effects of light in humans

Article 2023

Background: There is no consensus on reporting light characteristics in studies investigating non-visual responses to light. …

To the Publication

Light exposure in home-based work: Can a simple lighting system increase alertness?

Article 2023

Since the proportion of digital and more flexible work in the western labour market increases, more and more employees are …

To the Publication

Assessment of the Light Exposures of Shift-working Nurses in London and Dortmund in Relation to Recommendations for Sleep and Circadian Health

Article 2022

Shift work causes disruption to circadian physiological processes in the human body, and desynchronization from the natural …

To the Publication

Non-visual effectiveness of light at night as a function of the light direction

Article 2022

To the Publication

results per page: