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How to Conduct a DIY Lighting Survey at Your Warehouse

Bad lighting in the workplace can create all sorts of problems. If your workplace is too bright, staff may develop eye discomfort or headaches. Dim the lights too much, though, and you may create a serious safety hazard — especially when you add forklifts into the mix.

“Lighting ergonomics” is the term often used to describe the quest for perfectly balanced illumination. If you haven't looked closely at the lighting ergonomics in your warehouse lately, it may be time to conduct a lighting survey. Vintage Light Measuring

Rather than hire an expensive outside firm, why not start with a brief, DIY investigation?

Here's what you need to do:

    1. Invest in a light meter.

    Eyesight is pretty subjective, so it's better to rely on scientific measurements rather than personal preference. Industrial light meters can measure illumination in either the metric unit, lux, or in foot-candles, which are standard in the United States.

    2. Determine the type of work that takes place in each area of your facility.

    Some tasks require brighter lights than others, and OSHA sets mandatory minimum lighting for certain activities. You'll figure out how much light each area needs based on the work that takes place there.

    3. Create a lighting checklist.

    In addition to checking general illumination levels, there are a few other factors to consider: things like light diffusion, the prevalence of shadows, reflective surface that can create glare, or other specific conditions. It's best to assemble these factors into an organized checklist. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) publishes a good list to get you started.

    4. Measure light levels according to the following scale,

    adapted from CCOHS recommendations: for spaces where working materials are high contrast or large, light should measure roughly between 18 and 46 lumens per square foot (lm/ft2).

    If visual requirements include medium contrast materials or small items, set illumination between 46 and 93 lm/ft2. For very low contrast work or very small materials, light should measure between 93 and 185 lm/ft2.

    5. Double check forklift traffic areas.

    OSHA sets a specific minimal lighting level of 2 lm/ft2 for all areas in which forklifts operate. If light is dimmer than this in any forklift traffic area, you'll need to install headlights on your fleet.

    6. Use auxiliary lighting to improve dim work areas.

    If your lighting audit uncovers spaces that aren't getting enough light, portable work lights can fix the problem immediately. Hang-A-Light lamps can be attached with clamps or magnets for quick, on-the-spot illumination.

As you complete your DIY lighting audit, you may uncover more problems than you expected. That’s when it’s time to invest in professional analysis. There are plenty of lighting companies that conduct professional lighting surveys. Contact the Illuminating Engineering Society or your local lighting services provider for more information on lighting ergonomics.


Lighting Ergonomics - Checklist.” CCOHS. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, n.d. Web. 30 Sept. 2015.

Lighting Ergonomics - Survey and Solutions.” CCOHS. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, n.d. Web. 30 Sept. 2015.

Powered Industrial Trucks - 1910.178.” OSHA. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, United States Department of Labor, 2006. Web. 30 Sept. 2015.