Workplace and Office Lighting Standards and Policy

How much light is best?

Which of the following is the best lighting scenario for an office environment?

  • Bright light
  • Medium light
  • Low light
  • There is no "best" light; it's all about the same
  • There is no "best" light because people react differently
See results without voting

Lighting Policies in the Workplace

Office managers and company officials of assorted ranks are often faced with making decisions regarding lighting in the office space. Lots of opinions are bounced around, but frequently decisions are made based on misinformation or even just someone's opinions because he or she happens to be the one in charge. In light of recent events in this author’s experience, reasons were given for imposing a policy that insisted all lights in the office be turned on that included OSHA as a primary justification, and that “bright lights will make everyone happier and more productive.” This decision was obviously meant to be in the best interest of the company, but it met with many complaints, and even a few instances of very intense emotional opposition. One person was so upset she didn’t even come to work the next day. Some people were happy with the decision and even called those who favor a much darker workspace “cave dwellers.” It seems very likely many companies have had lighting issues with their personnel about which decisions are made with the justification of OSHA regulations and improved productivity beneath brighter lights.

What follows is an analysis of these two concepts compiled after careful reading from numerous academic, governmental and industry sources including a detailed lighting experiment carried out by the Light Right Consortium, managed by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and contracted by the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lighting Research Center and the National Research Council of Canada Institute for Research in Construction (NRC-IRC), along with several other academic inquiries involved with lighting, its effects on productivity, psychology and mood. In addition, the actual documentation from OSHA has been carefully reviewed. The findings of this research have come to the following three conclusions:

1) OSHA does have a minimum standard for office environment and lowers it even further for workstations.

2) There is no uniform lighting level to optimize productivity, and while lighting levels do correspond to individual productivity, they do so on a highly variable and individual basis.

3) Non-daylight lighting can have negative impacts on business in three key areas including emotional/psychological issues involved with human neuro-biology and physiology; financial implications due to heat generation as well as energy consumption and environmental factors; and productivity/profit.

OSHA on Office and Workplace Lighting

To begin, OSHA has set forth a standard of thirty (30) foot-candles as a minimum lighting requirement for “office” space (United States, Illumination). For clarification, Webster’s defines the term "foot-candle" thusly, “A foot-candle is a unit of illuminance or illumination, equivalent to the illumination produced by a source of one candle at a distance of one foot and equal to one lumen incident per square foot” (“Foot-candle” 746). The OSHA chart has been reproduced below, and can be quickly viewed HERE.

The rules are clear regarding where and when illumination is required and how much, including thirty foot-candles for an office environment. However, OSHA has appended this standard by creating a separate guideline for workstations (seen HERE). In this document, OSHA sets for the guidelines as follows, “Generally, for paper tasks and offices with CRT displays, office lighting should range between 20 to 50 foot-candles" (United States, Computer). The softening of the thirty foot-candle regulation indicates recognition on the part of OSHA that in the actual workspace, there is less need for brilliant lighting in some cases. This is not merely supposition, as that particular document begins with the acknowledgment that environmental factors do have an impact on productivity, and even link “comfort” with “productivity” in one line (United States, Computer Workstations).

Typical office lighting arrangement.
Typical office lighting arrangement.

Office Lighting – the relationship between light and productivity

In considering this factor, the relationship of comfort to productivity, there is a vast sea of research making that relationship perfectly clear. In the extensive experiment conducted by the group working for the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory mentioned in the introduction above, this was one of the essential components of their investigation. Ultimately the conclusion they had on this regard was as follows:

Overall, these experiments found that changing lighting installations influenced appraisals of lighting quality, and that people who were more satisfied with their lighting (regardless of the type of lighting they experienced) considered the space to be more attractive, were happier, and were more comfortable and more satisfied with their environment and their work. (Veitch 145)

First, it should be noted that the term “quality lighting” was established and was defined as “the intersection of individual needs, architectural form and external conditions (energy, environment and economics)” (Veitch 146). With that definition in mind, consider the above passage. People that were satisfied with lighting were “comfortable with their environment and work.” Arguments can be made as to whether a company wants their workers to be comfortable or not, but to assume discomfort as preferable seems counter-intuitive. In addition, the use of the parenthetical “regardless of the type of lighting they experienced” gives evidence to the variable nature of preference amongst the people participating in the studies, as there were several different lighting set-ups used over the course of the experimental process.

Variability and Personal Choice

This variability in what pleased whom lead to the conclusion that having personal control over lighting was the best choice for a workplace environment. The essential point was that different people wanted and needed different levels of lighting. In fact, the main thrust coming out of this experiment was to suggest that for optimal productivity, workplaces should consider installing lighting with individual unit controls so that each person had total control of the light levels in their own workstation. This conclusion is supported in the work of Nancy Clanton, a lighting design specialist who speaks internationally on lighting issues and who teaches lighting courses and seminars around the world as well as at the University of Colorado. Clanton writes:

Controls are extremely important in office-lighting design . . . Manual controls give workers control over their individual work environments, increasing user satisfaction and acceptance. Because each person has different lighting-level requirements, glare tolerances, and task performance goals. (9)

Once again the importance of the “individual” is clear, and Clanton emphasizes the idea that “each person has different lighting-level requirements.”

Psychologists have further developed this idea, and have linked productivity to personality traits of extroversion or introversion:

Extroverts generally have a higher threshold for sensory stimulation than introverts do, which means extroverts aren’t as affected by bright lights or loud noises. Introverts tend to prefer less stimulation, and are more affected by sensory input. Introverts also tend to be easily distracted by their senses. Bright lights and loud noises wear them out. In contrast, extroverts are more comfortable in the midst of a 'gong show.' Their performance and mental state may not be as negatively influenced by sensory stimulation.

If you’re an introvert at work, make sure your office or space offers low amounts of sensory stimulation. (Pawlik-Kienlen)

Again the evidence is clear in support of the notion that different people have different light requirements, and this documentation even provides a breakdown as to the who and why that is the case, and even goes on to illustrate why some people are going to be more productive in a much lower light environment than others. There simply is no one-size-fits-all lighting level. The experts are in agreement that the best situation for the workers is to be allowed to determine what lighting suits them best individually.

Other Benefits of Lighting the Workplace Right

Positive impact on the satisfaction and mood of workers is not only advantageous to the workers. The organization benefits as well. Offices wherein lighting is not perceived as being unfavorable by workers are more productive; have higher levels of customer satisfaction from their clientele; and have less employee turnover. Veitch, one of the authors participating in the experiments referenced above, wrote,

Other researchers have demonstrated that satisfaction with lighting contributes to greater environmental satisfaction, which in turn leads to greater job satisfaction and that higher environmental and job satisfaction leads to greater organizational commitment and reduced intent to turnover. Moreover, organisations whose employees are more satisfied show better customer satisfaction and business unit performance [Sic]. (146)

This reduction in turnover and improved productivity is not the only benefit of workers being satisfied that an organization will enjoy. Clanton wrote:

What building owners, developers, and employers do not realize is that maximizing daylighting [Clanton’s term for use of windows and sky lights for natural light], installing suspended luminaires, and giving employees control over lighting raises user-satisfaction levels well above 20 percent. Considering that employee salaries are close to $90 per square foot per year, while lighting and control first costs $5 to $10, improving visual quality is a safe investment. (9)

Not only is she championing the benefits of individual controls here, she is even suggesting that spending money to improve lighting by installing personal controls (and “daylighting” which will be addressed a bit further down), is worth spending money on if those controls are not already in place. Now it is not the intent of this article to propose investment in lighting controls for all companies, but it is the intent of the document to suggest that mandatory maximum lighting may not be in the interest of maximum productivity. The evidence supports allowing individuals to control their light-spaces as much as possible to accommodate the highly divergent nature of personal preference, which translates to individual productivity.

Both videos (above and below), while disussing home office, examine elements of lighting that pertain to office and work stations in general.

Light can even be fun!

The most natural light. The light of origins.
The most natural light. The light of origins.
Fire light can be associated with life, sustenance, spirituality and social bonding.
Fire light can be associated with life, sustenance, spirituality and social bonding.

Psychology, Physiology and Less Tangible Things Are Affected by Workplace Lights

Personal preference is obviously a key and almost random seeming factor here. Where some prefer bright light, others prefer to work nearly in the dark. Very few people like glaring fluorescent lights. Un-natural lighting (as referenced in opposition by the term “daylighting” above), particularly in large amounts, is counter-productive to the workplace and to human physiology. This is partly due to psychological and biological reality. In his article discussing the color variability in light, Jeff Sauer writes:

Many people tend to find that the warmer white light of tungsten creates a more pleasant environment than the colder light of an office environment. Although in either case our brains do a good job re-establishing our own internal white balance, thereby creating a new reference by which we judge a healthy face or edible fruit. (19)

Clearly what is at stake here is the very ability to recognize the recognizable. Communication is at stake, implicated by the suggestion that we judge “healthy faces” and, by reasonable extrapolation, the expressions thereupon. This is verified in Clanton’s work as well. She writes, “Directional light from parabolic troffers creates uncomplimentary lighting for people’s faces. Because non-verbal communication depends on realistic facial views, the parabolic effect can be disastrous [Sic]” (9). “Disastrous!” she says. The very nature of communication is at stake. Good communication is essential in a workplace, and too much un-natural light actually puts that at risk. Too much un-natural light impacts how we understand each other and how we interpret our environment. Going back to the latter part of Sauer’s comment regarding “recognizing edible fruit,” the impact of un-natural light actually works on deeply rooted, primitive parts of our cognitive process too, invoking the pre-historical, early formative portions of our neurology, bringing in how we locate ourselves in the familiar and the safe. And while Sauer writes that we do a “good job” of “re-establishing our own internal white balance” this does require that people actually make that unnatural adjustment. Human history is one that took place primarily beneath the sun and for tens, if not hundreds of thousands, of years by fire light. It is no accident that the natural light of fire is used in spiritual ceremonies across religions around the globe. Naturally occurring light is comforting. Artificial is not. Massive amounts of artificial light can be even more uncomfortable, particularly for some.

Server farms.
Server farms.
2 bulbs depicted here.  Imagine 12 of them directly over a very small area.
2 bulbs depicted here. Imagine 12 of them directly over a very small area.

Beyond the Human: Cost and Environmental Impact of Office Light

In addition to the human elements of lighting, and the obvious productivity issues that unpleasant lighting conditions create, there are other costs associated with lighting as well. According to Paul Walitskey, the North American Environmental Affairs Manager for Philips, “Lighting consumes about 40-50% of energy use in a typical office building” (3). Obviously companies with large rooms filled with Internet servers or other variables will have different percentages, but nonetheless, this statement suggests that the costs involved with lighting are extremely large and not something that should be ignored. Given this, any reduction of lighting that falls within legal standards should be considered as a means of saving money. An example of this would be the lighting above the marketing department at this author’s workplace. Four fixtures are mounted above that area, primarily over one cubicle. According to OSHA, “A standard fluorescent light fixture on a nine-foot ceiling with four, 40-watt bulbs will produce approximately 50 foot-candles of light at the desktop level” (United States, Computer Workstation). If OSHA standards want thirty foot-candle minimums, and actual workstations only require twenty foot-candles of light, this particular cubicle is getting approximately two hundred foot-candles of light. That is TEN TIMES the amount specified by OSHA. Not only might that much blinding glare be unfavorable to the individual working beneath that luminous onslaught, it is costing the company ten times more to light that area than the company needs to pay. This factor can be multiplied out across the office space, mediated, of course, by personal preference in such cases wherein certain individuals may favor more light. In those cases, while the light is costing more, remember what was said earlier regarding “improving visual quality is a safe investment” (Clanton 9). In instances of preference for more lighting, the cost is justifiable as that individual’s productivity will, according to the data, be higher for his or her being comfortable in that work environment. The point is that any reduction in lighting is a reduction in cost, not to mention a reduction in energy consumption as well. “Even a reduction of 100 watts is going in the right direction,” says George Milner, the senior vice president of energy, environmental, and governmental affairs for a large paper company after his plant underwent a massive process and equipment evaluation to reduce their carbon footprint and energy expense (qtd in Mitchell 24). Productivity and profits are improved on the macro level by micro level adjustments across the board.

Office Lighting Policies Should be Flexible

In conclusion, the data and research suggest that having a mandatory maximum lighting throughout the building may have negative impacts on productivity and therefore profit. The evidence suggests that allowing people to select their own lighting levels based on some unquantifiable factors, but factors that are rooted in primal processes of physiological and psychological origin, is the most efficient route for a company to take short of actually investing in advanced lighting processes and designs. By allowing the lights to be on or off by departmental and individual preference, not only is overall productivity to be at its best, there will be less employee turnover, better communication amongst the staff, a healthier environment and lowered overall company expense. Furthermore, no OSHA violations are put in play with the lowered lighting so long as the workspace lighting does not dip below twenty foot-candles. If verification needs to be done regarding minimums, a process for determining this is simple:

Foot-candles can be easily measured and calculated with the use of a (manual) camera equipped with a built-in light meter. With the film speed set to ASA 25 and the shutter speed set to 1/60th of a second, focus on a sheet of white paper placed in the area where intensity is to be measured. Adjust the f-stop for proper exposure. Each f-stop has an approximate corresponding foot-candle reading. (“Foot candle” 2)

Short of violating actual OSHA standards, it is the recommendation of this author that policies of mandatory maximum lighting should not be enacted. Such policies, while perhaps well-intended and founded on a belief that the more light there is the more productive an organization will be, are not supported by the facts.

Works Cited

Clanton, Nancy. "Seeing the Light on Office Lighting." Heating/Piping/Air Conditioning HPAC Engineering 76.9 (Sep. 2004): 9-9. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. California State University of Sacramento, Sacramento, CA. 23 May 2009 <>.

“Foot-candle.” Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. 2nd Ed. 2001.

“Foot-candle” (2). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 23 May 2009. <>.

Mitchell, Robert L. "Mohawk Fine Papers Inc." Computerworld 43.15 (20 Apr. 2009): 24-24. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. California State University of Sacramento, Sacramento, CA. 23 May 2009 <>.

Pawlik-Keinlen, Laurie. “How Light Affects Your Mood: Sensory Data Improves Extroverts’ Performance, Decreases Introverts.’” 26 March 2009. Suite 24 May 2009. <>

Sauer, Jeff. "In Search of a Consistent Gray." Sound & Video Contractor 26.12 (Dec. 2008): 18-21. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. California State University of Sacramento, Sacramento, CA. 23 May 2009 <>.

Veitch, J. A., et al. "Lighting appraisal, well-being and performance in open-plan offices: A linked mechanisms approach." Lighting Research & Technology 40.2 (June 2008): 133-151. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. California State University of Sacramento, Sacramento, CA. 23 May 2009 <>.

Walitsky, Paul. “Sustainable Lighting Products: Energy Use and Toxic Content-Choices for Sustainability.” 23 May 2009. <>.

United States Department of Labor. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Illumination. 1926.56. 23 May 2009. <>.

---. Computer Workstation. 23 May 2009. <>.

Comments 84 comments

pgrundy 7 years ago


This is exhaustive. Really well done. I kept thinking all through it though that the problem isn't lighting at all but the tendency of corporate entities to apply industrial principles of standardization to office environments and treat office work like factory work--breaking everything down into quantifiable bits that can then be analyzed and adjusted to create increased 'productivity'.


Whatever happened to being able to bring a framed photo of the kid and a potted plant and to be able to count on being treated like a human being instead of a robot or a piece of equipment with corpuscles? Having working in two cube farms for close to eight years, I've witnessed the kind of meltdowns you describe over way less than lighting changes. Those kinds of meltdowns should tell management that more is wrong with their model than just the wattage on the light bulbs.

That entire category of workplace environment needs to be reconsidered. I think it makes people insane.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California Author

Exhaustive or exhausting?  lol.  I'm glad you read it, was hoping at least one would.  I got into the topic and the reading kept opening up more reading, etc. you of all people know how that goes.  And I'm totally with you on standarization and policy stuff.  I think whenever companies start making blanket policies they abdicate the ability to be flexible.  Ultimately that always undermines productivity.  I totally understand how once a company gets really big individuality can be tiresome, but, well, you just can't stop treating people like individuals because your company is big. Just because a company has 10,000 employees doesn't mean its workforce suddenly became a collective unit rather than a collection of individuals still.  10 or 10,000, all still just folks. 

Thanks for reading this.  It know it's long, but, well, it is what it is. :)

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

Very good stuff. It's something that is taken very seriously in TV, in set lighting, where you have to look after luminance to within a few percent. Fortunately, in Europe, we've abandoned the foot-candle in favour of Lux. We use Minolta meters that give you luminance and colour temperature together. TV cameras are far less forgiving than the eye and have to be matched carefully on a standard grey-scale chart. But the offices for people are as haphazard as any other industry!

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California Author

Yeah, I did some reading that started taking me down that road too (only used a little of it in the article).  There was some interesting stuff about red light and how different diodes (or something... my brain started hurting when they used scary words like that so I ran away) don't emit red, or fluorescents don't emit red... something to do with red, but it didn't dovetail with my point so I didn't chase it down too much.  Probably speaks to the issues of fire and sunlight preference, but I didn't feel like I needed to "prove" that part to make my point.  Maybe I should link to some of it, but then I'd have to make the connection and I am pretty well spent on this project for now.  I will say I learned in the process that a lot of people like you really spend a crapload of time understanding light down to its very, very minute behaviors and effects.

Glenn Frank profile image

Glenn Frank 7 years ago from Southern California

My office cubicle has a large skylight over it. It is pretty bright there and there are also large windows aroud the outer walls of the office. So much so that it is not really even nessisary to have the office flourecent lights on. But during the summer months it can get very bright and very warm because of the skylights. I have found that I do feel kinda sick feeling sometimes and I am not sure if it is the light level or heat. We have put difusion tarps over the skylights to cut down the light and the heat. So we shall still see if it makes a difference. With the cut down light we are using the overhead lights more. I personally dont dislike the bright light, in fact I think I like it more than the darker envirnoment. but maybe my "likes" are not nessisarily best. Your article was very interesting. Thanks for writing it.

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

Well, light and sound are the raw materials of TV. Doesn't matter whether it's analogue, digital, whatever. We grab the stuff and send copies of it into folks' living rooms. About the red light thing, have you noticed that women in rooms with red lights tend towards extreme friendliness...?

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California Author

Well, Glenn, your "likes" are best... for you. Your company would do well to accommodate your preference for your workspace as much as possible. They'll get more out of you. I'm the opposite. I'm a "cave dweller." My den here at home is practically air-raid safe. LOL. I hate light, especially for writing. My creative juices flow best out of a dark pool. Thanks for commenting. :)

And yes, Para, I have noticed that... erm, ahem, or have heard of that. An interesting notion, perhaps one that should be investigated for a follow up hub. :P

Paper Moon profile image

Paper Moon 7 years ago from In the clouds

The fluorescent bulbs are getting to me. I like fire light. Perhaps on tuesday I could start a bonfire in the main office or the production room..

Glenn Frank profile image

Glenn Frank 7 years ago from Southern California

HA... Yeah, a bonfire in your cublicle... I bet your boss might not go for that. Because it was so bright under the skylight in my cublicle, I once threatened to fill my cublicle with sand, put in a beach chair and an umbrella and make my workspace a tropical paradise. The boss didn't think it was a good idea. Hmmm.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California Author

I've already suggested a nap room and a beer tap (and been denied), maybe they'll go for the bonfire. I'm taking that idea, Paper Moon. :D

And Glenn, you should have told him your little beach would include bikini girls clamoring for someone to rub suntan lotion on their backs... he might have gone for it then.

Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 7 years ago from St. Louis

I am one of your cave dwellers. I like my work illuminated so my eyes don't straink, but I don't need the whole bloomin place lit up like a day at the beach. Funny, just last night I had the TV playing in the background of an old, WWII movie, and whenever they would show these important meetings going on, they were all lit darkly and dramatically. Think Failsafe and Dr. Strangelove, and I thought to myself, you just knew in real life these rooms would be lit up like the inside of a sun lamp.

In depth and detailed. Good work!

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California Author

Dangit... it just did it again. Made my reply not register. I hate that. I get that about every tenth or so post. Grrr. Anway, what I said was I love the Dr. Strangelove movie, and that I wonder what those war rooms are really like. Seems like they'd be dark so nobody misses a blip on a screen... like in a video arcade. Would love to have the clearances to go see. As for the in-depth/detail thing... welcome my world of anal retentiveness. lol

spryte profile image

spryte 7 years ago from Arizona, USA

I prefer sunlight. Natural sunlight. In fact, if I can't have natural sunlight brilliantly streaming in the windows and lighting up my home or office like a day at the beach then I prefer to work in low lighting with only the comforting glow of my monitor to guide me.

And wow....this was a lot of information to digest Shade. Nice work! :)

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California Author

I'm totally with you on the sunlight or skip it thing. I work by monitor light all the time. If my den wasn't such a fire hazard, I'd have a candle too. Literally one foot-candle. LOL.

Thanks for the read, Spryte. It's nice to know all that digesting didn't go unread.

james 7 years ago

i work in an industrial setting with loads of mercury vapor lights for illumination. the building sucks the life out of me. it is bright, artificial and glaring. i like light to be dim. enough to be safe but then use a spot light for specific jobs. i can feel ok about the day when i wake up but as soon as i step onto the shop floor the lights hammer me into submission and i don't want to be there or do anything.

great information. i'm not just lazy or not getting enough sleep. someone other than me thinks the workspace doesn't need to be lit like the inside of a star. thanks!

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California Author

James, I'm with you man. The evidence is there in huge portions proving that beyond the light required to do the job... the "spot light for specific jobs" that you would want anyway... is actually counter productive.

I hope you get some relief. This article was spawned by genuine misery on my part and the part of others.... I truly hope you get some relief.

Morris Streak profile image

Morris Streak 7 years ago from UK

I'm agreeing with the benefit of good workplace light, which you provided with a quote. Environmental satisfaction really does translate into job satisfaction. There's something about a room with much natural light that makes it airy, and not constricted. Window placement is probably part of it, along with optimising work space. I'm into home improvement, by the way, which is why I found your hub.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California Author

Thanks for the comment, Morris. And "airy" is a great way of describing it. The industry experts seem to be in agreement with your assessment of natural light over artificial lite, or, as I call it, "fake" light. I'm glad you found my article, and appreciate the read. :)

sbeakr 7 years ago

Hella comprehensive and genuinely interesting...Being one of those dejected creative introverts, I've often wondered at the debilitating effects of most artificially lit office (and residential) environments. As in, am I the only who cares how this FEELS?

I'm all for anyone who champions individual controls.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California Author

Thanks. This was an effort on behalf of many who were suffering under what for so many others just "had" to be trivial. Ultimately, the lighting situation was made comfortable for everyone, a credit to the company, imo.

Kent 6 years ago

I have been in the lighting business for many years. Lighting is a science and an art with it's own vocabulary. Color rendering, color temperature and lighting distribution all affect how we see and how we feel under artificial light. People like being out in the sun but it hurts our eyes if we look directly at the sun. The challenge to good lighting is to light what is around us clearly without reflections. It is critically important to keep all sources of light out of our line of sight. Good lighting design reveals the color and texture of the space and allows us to do our jobs comfortably.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

Very well said, straight to the essence of it. That's what my reading seemed to say, and it's definitely how I see it. Especially the light sources out of our line of sight thing. I hate having the big lights up above me in my peripheral vision. I have this hokey light-blocking set up I red-necked up for now just so I don't have it leering at me while I try to concentrate.

Nice to have an industry pro weigh in on this. Thanks!

Black 6 years ago

I am doing some research because this very issue is creating MUCH hostility at my workplace. Myself and 5 other I work with are "cave dwellers." There is one individual who works in our office one day a week. He has cried OSHA and without speaking with the rest of us who work there full time, they have instituted a strict "all lights on during regular work hours" policy. I'm upset and angry and not quite sure how to proceed. Human resources and compliance decided on this new policy and my managers have taken the position of "be quiet and don't rock the boat." I'm at a loss as my formerly wonderful work environment has been turned upside down in a few short days. Any suggestion on how to deal with this?

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

Hi Black, sorry to hear about that situation. That is EXACTLY (except the part time person here was a new person) what happened at my work. I wrote this, with a few changes that were more specific to our particulars, because of that event. And I respectfully presented it to senior management. We got them to relent on the lighting a few weeks after they changed policy and folks are happy again. You might see if you can use this to your advantage, parts or all.

Beyond that, I recommend that you do the following:

A) STAY respectful, so that management doesn't get defensive and have to dig in out of human emotion and to maintain "face." Being a good, patient diplomat is absolutely, totally essential to getting this policy reversed.

B) Tell the other "regular" folks to stay cool. Little insurrections, petitions or other "acts of rebellion" won't help things.

C) Using proper management channels, have people who have lighting issues, i.e., headaches, stress, distraction, anxiety, eye strain, irritability, have them go to their immediate supervisor and calmly explain it.

D) Present the facts. I list the OSHA lighting regulations in this document. Get copies of those, this article, the articles I list as evidence, and anything else you want to research yourself. If you present your case calmly, intelligently, and rationally (after management are less defensive given the rebellion you guys might have had at first ... like we did), you will probably prevail in the end. Productivity and lots of stuff really are at stake, and I doubt your managers want to make everyone miserable.

E) Also present management with a solution for the ONE person that has the problem. Don't make it sound like you all hate that person (even if you do lol). Point out it is ONE person, and so, to make EVERYONE else happy the OTHER FOUR DAYS a week, perhaps you can provide extra lighting for his/her cubicle/station, and forgo the FORCED lighting for everyone else.

Good luck. And I'd love to know how it turns out.

Kent 6 years ago

I work for a company that is manufacturing a radically diferent approach to lighting. The product line is called Tambient. Check it out and see if it answers some of your concerns. Of course our offices have this lighting system and it is gorgeous.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

I did go check it out, Kent. That does look very cool. In fact, I'll even link it. Thanks for the info.

marketingplan profile image

marketingplan 6 years ago from New Zealand

Awesome hub! Thanks. You Thumbs UP.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

Thank you for saying so. Appreciate the read and comment.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

That looks interesting enough to leave the link on here. If anyone checks it out and likes it, I'd like to hear back. Maybe I'll work it in to this article or write a new one. If you hate it, or it turns into something spammy, even more important to let me know so I can spoof the hell out of it for the link. (Brandon, I'm assuming you're giving some link love back too, one good turn etc.)

Green Lotus profile image

Green Lotus 6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

Wow Shades we do think along the same lines. I'm a design partner in my husband's interior design business and lighting can make or break an environment when it comes to productivity, health and well-being. As you suggest, it isn't about the intensity of the lighting, it's about quality.

You hit upon the two biggest problems with contract lighting, OSHA's highly uneducated and knee jerk requirements (which are completely archaic and focused only on energy efficiency) and your opening statement-"Office managers and company officials of assorted ranks are often faced with making decisions regarding lighting in the office space". That important decision should be handled by lighting designers who are trained to create a happy, productive space for employees utilizing natural, LED and full-spectrum lighting. Sorry if I'm rambling on and getting preachy, I'm just revolted by typical office lighting as you've illustrated in photos four and five.

Hope to publish my second lighting article next month :)

Thanks for a really enjoyable and well researched Hub!

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

Thanks for reading it, Green Lotus. It was sort of an emotionally spawned thing. I had just enough discipline to put the emotions into the research, not the paper, because I really needed to make a point. And for me, lighting is creeping into the spiritual zone, although I'd never say that outloud at work. It just matters. Period. Thanks so much for reading this long thing. If you let me know when you put up your lighting hub, I'll put a link to it, and the other.

emergencyresponse 6 years ago

Very details, excellent info!

Ken Mossman 6 years ago

Reminds me of an incident years ago in Canada.

I had turned off most of the lights in the computer work-station room to reduce the heat - the air-conditioners could not keep up with the summer temperature and we were all wilting. Everyone seemed much happier without the glaring lights (and marginally, by 2 degrees, temperature drop).

When in walked a senior manager and declared the lights must be on.

You could hear the groans and feel the resentment - it was our work area, yet beyond our control.

lindsays5624 profile image

lindsays5624 6 years ago

I did not realise that office lighting was this well regulated. It is a good thing becuause it can have a major impact on eye strain.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

You are quite right about major impact on the eyes, Lindsays5624. Take it from the guy whose eyes can feel like they are starting to swell out of his head when lights are to bright, light can hurt. There's still one poor woman in our office trying to use visors and special amber glasses and stuff to stop the headaches and stuff. Poor thing.

Amal Shah profile image

Amal Shah 6 years ago from Mumbai

Lighting at workplace is very important factor as it affects people’s circadian rhythms—which can alter melatonin levels—affecting their level of alertness and mood throughout the day.Fluorescent lamps give low-level ambient lighting in large, open indoor areas.

Very nice hub.Keep sharing.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

Thanks for leaving a nice comment, Amal Shah. I appreciate that. And you're right about the circadian rhythms. We evolved under a rising and setting sun. We have light requirements that go deeper than just being able to read whatever the boss threw on our desk.

Waste Management Jobs UK 5 years ago

Nice write up there, and yes, lighting completely affects productivity and moods within the workplace.

Strip lighting has been known to cause headaches, though it is economical and the new approach seems to be leading towards the 'SAD' lamps as by using these to create better moods, productivity will also rise.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

SAD, how delightfully ironic. I still say putting windows in the right places when they build buildings would go a long way to fixing the problem too.

Bryan 5 years ago

Thanks for this informative write-up. Good source of information.

Lighting-101 5 years ago

As any room in your home, you should always try to add layers of light in your office. The layers of light and light sources should be selected based on the needs, i.e taks lighting, accent lighting, etc.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

You are quite right, Lighting. For a lot of people, being stuck in an office precludes making many lighting decisions, but in an ideal environment, the company will take steps to provide a comfortable and satisfying lighting environmnent.

Coach Michael 5 years ago

I bought a house recently with a 440 sq ft home office. Well, actually the office is in the barn, has few windows and has a ceiling height of 6'11". Currently there are just a few table and floor lamps lighting the place. I plan to start using it soon almost fulltime for computer work and proposal writing. How can I strike a happy medium for my desk area and coference room area where I will lay out 100 pages or so of colored pages?

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Hi Coach Michael. First, congrats on the new place. That office sounds sweet (wish I had that going). As far as lighting it goes, a lot of what you decide will depend on how much natural lighting you can get through windows, the paint you choose, and that sort of thing. Given how important a space your office will be, a creative center of your universe, I think getting the lighting right is essential--essential enough even to consider having a proffessional come help if you can afford it. Interior decorators are worth their weight in gold if you are willing to go that route.

In fact, if you go check out a fellow hubber, Green Lotus ( I believe she does lighting design professionally. She might know someone in your area (or she might give you some tips... she's got some good hubs on it).

Good luck, and again, congrats on the new pad.

Coach Michael 5 years ago

Thanks, Shadesbreath. It will likely be a year-long journey getting it well-lit.

Green Lotus has quite a background. I'll have to contract her at some point.

JodiVee profile image

JodiVee 5 years ago

I never knew there was such interesting research into lighting. I work in an office and the lighting is quite bright, but nothing to complain about.

jcalbon 5 years ago

Lighting's something I've really struggled with at work. I find I get a little lazy about turning on extra lights on cloudy days, and my eyes definitely get tired too quickly when that's the case. It's great to read specifications and tips for how to make my lighting better especially since I work from home so it's up to me to make sure my office lighting is optimum.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Yeah, you should do it too, Jcalbon. It's worth the effort. You'll be happier, feel better, and get more done. There's no down side. :)

lindsays5624 profile image

lindsays5624 5 years ago

I never realised that there was do much science in lighting the workplace. But it does make sense.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Hi Lindsays. I didn't realize there was either until I started digging in and looking around. It's actually pretty cool. :)

Fonegal 5 years ago

I work for a large company, and we moved to a new building several months ago. The extremely bright lights make several people feel ill, and we complained. Now we are told that all the complaining lead to their decision of going by "Osha Standards" and leaving the lights on at all times! This is a 24/7 center and I work at night, constantly getting migraines just about every night. It is honestly the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen. WTF :(

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Fonegal, that is essentially what happened to me, which prompted this. I suggest you take this article, or at least the OSHA portions to HR. There are links directly to the sections of OSHA that pertain to the 30 foot-candle guidelines and the rest. You don't have to suffer, and that's what OSHA is for. Too many companies use OSHA as a scary word to back up rules they are too lazy to look into--which is sad, because they are often completely WRONG in what they are claiming is an OSHA rule, which they would know if they actually read it, which they often haven't (like what happened where I work). If you really are having migraines, start from this and, calmly and professionally, but backed with data and facts, go fix it. It worked for me; it can for you.

George Fred 5 years ago

Thank you for your in-depth research on this subject. If we all could appreciate each other's differences, both the light brights and the cave dwellers would be much more productive. Even bosses are not immune to the damaging effects of the 'light ignorant'. Those I supervise actually went to my boss (not me) with comments that my dungeon office made them concerned, citing an un-named study that "proved" low light equated to lack of productivity and depression. The whole thing snow-balled into other perceived issues with management and, although complaining as a group was a sociological high for them, it is now a very hostile work environment for me (the only cave person). So again, even if it is too late for me, THANK YOU for offering solid evidence in the face of absolute conjecture.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Wow, George, that's awful. Man, nothing is more irritating than a pack of haters. There's no HR you can go to, or a union? Show them the facts, and then get them to back off? (I already know how that would probably go... sigh.) Hey, the economy is improving, maybe time for a new company with less morons in it, eh? Anway, sorry to hear you're getting grief at work. Having to have a job sucks as it is, having one that sucks makes it double suck. :(

eLightSpot profile image

eLightSpot 5 years ago from Enid

Did they ever make a change for you?

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Yes, I'm happy to say they did. :) I once again work in perfect darkness.

SnowBright 5 years ago

I'm one that is very oriented toward bright but 'natural' light and likely experience Seasonal Affective Disorder during winter months (or in a dark work places). My cubicle is moving from what was a comfortable, bright to a very dark area with neighbors that want it kept that way. I completely agree with individual controls of lighting, odors, etc. that doesn't spill over into unwanted neighboring spaces. Does anyone make high quality light that mounts or clamps to the top rail of cubicle walls (my cube has ~5foot walls)? I'm envisioning a discrete looking, single fluorescent fixture or LED strip that directs light downward but broadly onto my cube desk. All I find are reading desk lights which cast small area light or funky spring arm task lights. Thanks for the site. I referencing it frequently!

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Hi SnowBright. First, I'm very sorry to hear your lighting situation is getting messed with. It never ceases to amaze me how companies lose sight of such a fundamental thing. I think it's because the people in charge all have offices in which they can adjust lighting and often have windows. (sigh). Anyway, here's what I suggest.

Get a few lamps that you like. As you have found, there are less lighting options than one might think, but there are nice lamps. You can look online, but I really think you should find a nice lamp store, one dedicated to lamps. They can be pricey, but they have really cool stuff sometimes that will stretch your ability to be creative in how you get the lighting you desire into the space you have. If you don't have one near you, even Lowes and Home Depot have decent lamp aisles. The thing is, you really want to SEE the lamp light, which you can't really do with a light you get online. Find one, two, or even three that you like. And don't forget to think creatively. Make it cool looking, something you will enjoy the decore/feel of. As you select them, be thinking of the space and how you will arrange them. For example, a small reading desk lamp can be set on a lamp stand (you can buy one or make one, something narrow and tall).

Once you have your lights picked out, be they clamp on spring ones or lamps placed in different elevations (my preference), if you don't feel like turning them on individually, you can plug them all into a small power strip, and use the switch on that to turn your lights on with one click.

Also, consider getting some cloth of a nice color that makes you feel happier. (For me, I was going to use black felt or velvet to eat up some of the glare, but the principle is the same for you going the other way). Your cube is probably brown or gray, so find cloth that is bright and reflective (not necessarily shimmering or silky, just light, a cream or white, sunny yellow, something with energy. Pin that up on one or two of the walls, depending on what you need.

Keep in mind too, that there are lighted picture frames you can hang on the wall that are fun and add light, and little framed mirrors and things like that can help spread the light you do have around.

Good luck, and let me know how it turns out. At the very least, you have a sympathetic ear here. :)

Jeff_McRitchie 5 years ago

Very informative Hub. Proper lighting in the workplace is more important than people realize.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

Much more than a LOT of people realize. It's funny to watch people minimize it, and blow off people who whine about it being too bright... but put them in a dimly lit room and watch them start in about, "I can't see anything in here!"

Barbo 5 years ago

Thank you. Great information, and a great main idea... "Choice"

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 5 years ago from California Author

You're welcome. Hopefully, if you're in a position where you found this because you're suffering from light deprivation or overload, this will will help you get some sanity into the place.

Asadujjaman Khan 4 years ago

Thank you. Very informative which many people are not following. We have to advise our nearby people or our organization to follow this guideline to avoid electrical, hwalth and environmental hazards.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 4 years ago from California Author

Awareness is the starting point, Asadujjaman Khan. Good luck, hope it works out for your team. :)

Chris J 4 years ago

This article and gathering of information hits the nail on the head for me. The office I work in has turned the over head lights back on, or this one woman who claims she cannot see turned them on. She turns them back on after they have been turned off for over a year. Immediate are the affects of the light, I can hardly focus on the screen. I have anti glare coatings on my glasses and a hat on but the glare is unstoppable. This place is to bright.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 4 years ago from California Author

Chris, you can probably take your complaint and, politely, express your concerns to HR. They may be able or willing to make some accommodations like a "cube shield" or move your desk by a window to diffuse light or something else.

Good luck. It's pretty amazing how big an impact something you can't even touch or "see" can have on your contentment level and ability to concentrate. I feel your pain.

Ron Lentjes 4 years ago

I only work from home now under dimmed INCANDESCENTS. What a bloody difference. I can concentrate so much better. Hate fluorescents and hate CFL even more so.

Ron Lentjes 4 years ago

In Australia, Philips has made the requirement for some aspsect of building code so that it must be brighter (yet again). I was talking to a member of gov't and he said that almost every year the stores are getting brighter. What gets me is they BAN the INCANDESCENT and then up the requirement meaning that more light has to be used. Sounds dodgy to me! Come visit Australia. The stores have shiny containers of 2 big CFL per container. Way to annoying light and also have large industrial blocks of way too bright too white halogens. I literally can't stand the shopping centers in Australia. I simply avoid them full stop! All this crap of research - read between the lines: $$$PROFIT$$$. In Australia, the Lighting Association of Australia is responsible for all this stuff. Guess who the two main members are? Philips and Osram! Get it. The INCANDESCENT ban has nothing to do with ENVIRONMENT. In 2003 a study showed no more than 2.5% take up of CFL by Americans. To cut the story short, they banned the winning competition: the INCANDESCENT bulb! That's they only way they could get people forced into the product. It's pure Marketing scam people. Open your eyes!

Ron Lentjes 4 years ago

The Standard Incandescent Light Bulb

What is Incandescence?

Incandescence is the light produced by a heated object. This light contains BILLIONS of frequencies. It is the highest quality of light you can get.

How NOT to save energy:

- Using light source that cause a disturbing effect on people and environment around them. These sources are cold, aggressive, eerie forms of lighting. These include CFL, Fluorescent, and white-LED.

How TO save energy:

- Solar power

- Wind power

- Turn off electrical when not in use

- Use light dimmers (on INCANDESCENT lights)

(Note: Modern light dimmers use a TRIAC and no rheostat (have not heard that word for 20 years or so). They are VERY efficient. I use trailing edge dimmers and these dimmers also slowly turn on the light (dark to dimmer setting in about 2 secs) to further prolong the life of your INCANDESCENT. Do not be fooled by some of the current false news about light dimmers. They are efficient).

Ron Lentjes 4 years ago

The Standard Incandescent Light Bulb


-If a store so much as starts banning just one kind of light (they will start with 100W first), then immediately email and write to them:

"Since you have banned my choice of light bulbs, I will no longer purchase any items from your store. YOU ARE BANNED.

This ban will not be lifted until all 40W, 60W, 75W, 100W STANDARD INCANDESCENT clear and frosted BULBS/GLOBES are returned to the shelves. Have a good day."

And then get 5 other friends who will each tell 5 other friends to do the same.

-Speak directly to everyone everyday about this issue. Make sure the entire world is saved from this disaster.

Ron Lentjes 4 years ago

The Standard Incandescent Light Bulb

What is wrong with 'efficient lights'?

- CFL / FLU / white-LED give off a light that is simply unpleasant

- Too bright, Too white halogens are also annoying

- In lighting, more efficient than STANDARD INCANDESCENT just leads to very undesirable light

- Do you paint your walls with pure white? or with cold-off-white? I hope not. If you want comfort, you paint with warm-off-white (the yellow and reds). Just like you would choose an INCANDESCENT (reddish to yellowish-white).

- CFL is cold light (you can try to filter it and get 'warm' but there is a reason why this does not work). White-LED is also cold and eerie.

Ron Lentjes 4 years ago

The Standard Incandescent Light Bulb

Why is INCANDESCENT best source of light:

CFL / FLU / white-LED produces about 5 peaks of light frequencies:

(IR) ____I______I____I__I_______I_____I___ (UV)

(graph looks like dead trees with little fill in)

This is terrible light. And it is summed to a BLUE area of light. Very annoying. Very toxic. Hard to concentrate. Uninviting. Unnatural effect

Fire-place Light, Candle-Light, Incandescent-Light has BILLIONS of frequencies




The area between the top curve and the base is full of frequencies. It is TOP QUALITY light that is created by HEATING AN OBJECT. This is why it takes a bit more energy to get this quality light.

You can dim it and is calm.

Your eyes see RED / GREEN / BLUE differently according to DNA. EVERYONE will see the COLOR COMPOSITION OF CFL / FLU / LED differently due to the spikes mismatch.

Not true for INCANDESCENCE. All FREQUENCIES exist so we see all there is for any combination of human DNA RED / GREEN / BLUE receptors.

Ron Lentjes 4 years ago

The Standard Incandescent Light Bulb

EVERYTHING IN YOUR ROOM is lit by the light you choose. All this light is reflected, refracted, filtered, so on. It lights your ceiling, floors, sofas, coffee table, clothes, pictures, everything. If you start off with bad light you get strange results. Only full-body INCANDESCENCE can deliver the BILLIONS of frequencies required!

Try RED filter on white-LED. Result is odd BLUE / PURPLE / REDDISH. True test of bad light.

Try RED filter on INCANDESCENT. Result is awesome pure RED amazing light!

I strongly recommend only using STANDARD INCANDESCENTS. You can use the 30% efficient halogen bulbs but it certainly is not as aesthetically pleasing due to internal glass and many also have a metal clip. It really is a waist of effort just to get 30% (I have measured 25% on one).

STANDARD INCANDESCENT is far cheaper to produce and extremely easy to recycle.

Ron Lentjes 4 years ago

The Standard Incandescent Light Bulb

Please note that this BAN is NOT really about SAVING ENERGY.

It is a marketing plan as any other. Make the competing product look bad. Make the new product look better. Plant propaganda to make you feel bad by not going for the new product. Nothing new under the sun here. Marketing 101.

Philips wants to push their baby the CFL so on. A 2003 study showed that take up was only 2.5% for Americans who kept going back to the more pleasing light of the INCANDESCENT bulb. So to cut the story short, the INCANDESCENT was banned to further the sale of other lights (Philips, Osram, GE, LED Industry all would like to have more sales).

The INCANDESCENT is our most important form of calm lighting. It is easy to make and recycle. It is easy to hook up to DC and AC and batteries.

The only other sources for this quality light is Fire-place Light, Candle-Light, Kerosene-Lamp Light.

Don't let $$$PROFITS$$$ and $$$GREED$$$ ruin your country.

Example Australia. Now "Hellstralia" for its bad lighting.

Ron Lentjes 4 years ago

The Standard Incandescent Light Bulb

This BAN is ABOUT $$$PROFIT$$$. Trust me. If you put a kink in their profits, they will complain with greater effect than a mere single citizen to Philips/Osram/GE. If they can only make a profit by selling INCANDESCENTS, guess what follows. Its not rocket science but you have to do as I say or it will not work.

I am for all citizens in the world to have the best and most pleasing form of lighting. Your lighting environment effects how you feel and behave. There is no excuse for bad lighting. CFL/FLU/white-LED are aggressive, unnatural, dangerous, uninviting, hard-to-concentrate-under "Light for the dead" kind of lighting.

INCANDESCENT is calm, inviting, friendly, romantic, warm, comfortable, safe, "Light for the living" kind of lighting.

For God and Country. America (and the rest of the world). Do not let them take about your INCANDESCENT lighting!

You will regret it!

Come visit Australia. I don't travel Australia anymore.

Australia has such bad and uninviting cold lighting everywhere including hotels, motels, restaurants, coffee shops, shopping centers, so on. Even the street lights have a mix of good and horrible white lighting (it only lights the rain, quite dangerous).

Oh sorry, its now called "Hellstralia".

Ron Lentjes 4 years ago

The Standard Incandescent Light Bulb


-Sit on your sorry ass crying

-Sign up for all petitions (just doesn't go anywhere)

-Write to the government (usually just ends up in the waist bin)


-Speak directly to everyone

-If a store so much as starts banning just one kind of light (they will start with 100W first), then immediately email and write to them:

"Since you have banned my choice of light bulbs, I will no longer purchase any items from your store. YOU ARE BANNED.

This ban will not be lifted until all 40W, 60W, 75W, 100W STANDARD INCANDESCENT clear and frosted BULBS/GLOBES are returned to the shelves. Have a good day."

And then get 5 other friends who will each tell 5 other friends to do the same.

This BAN is ABOUT $$$PROFIT$$$. Trust me. If you put a kink in their profits, they will complain with greater effect than a mere single citizen to Philips/Osram/GE. If they can only make a profit by selling INCANDESCENTS, guess what follows. Its not rocket science but you have to do as I say or it will not work.

Ron Lentjes 4 years ago

The Standard Incandescent Light Bulb

You want efficiency only and trade it for bad lighting? Just visit Australia. A complete wreck of a place.

Ron Lentjes 4 years ago



Should you accidentally break you CFL (Compact Fluorescent Light),

Please follow these procedures:

Please read these now BEFORE disposing of or breaking a CFL.

Many people have NOT left the room first (you will breathe in mercury

vapor) or have used a vacuum cleaner (spreads mercury vapor).


To prevent potential mercury exposure:

* Store and handle CFLs responsibly

* Following cleaning procedure when cleaning up broken CFLs

* Always recycling CFLs (never throw into normal garbage bins)

* Use other types of lighting such as Incandescent Lights in areas

where breakage is likely.

Cleaning Up Spills

What Never to Do After a Mercury Spills

* Never use a vacuum cleaner to clean up mercury. The vacuum will

put mercury into the air and increase exposure.

* Never use a broom to clean up mercury. It will break the mercury

into smaller droplets and spread them.

* Never pour mercury down a drain. It may lodge in the plumbing and

cause future problems during plumbing repairs. If discharged,

it can cause pollution of the septic tank or sewage treatment plant.

* Never wash clothing or other items that have come in direct

contact with mercury in a washing machine, because mercury may

contaminate the machine and/or pollute sewage. Clothing that

has come into direct contact with mercury should be discarded.

By "direct contact," we mean that mercury was (or has been)

spilled directly on the clothing, for example, if you break

a mercury thermometer and some of elemental mercury beads came

in contact with your clothing.

* Never walk around if your shoes might be contaminated with mercury.

Contaminated clothing can also spread mercury around.

Ron Lentjes 4 years ago


Cleaning Up a Broken CFL

Fluorescent light bulbs contain a small amount of mercury sealed within

the glass tubing. When a fluorescent bulb breaks in your home,

some of this mercury is released as mercury vapor. The broken

bulb can continue to release mercury vapor until it is cleaned

up and removed from the residence. To minimize exposure to

mercury vapor, EPA recommends that residents follow the cleanup

and disposal steps described below.

This page presents only the most important steps to reduce exposure

to mercury vapor from a broken bulb.

1. Before cleanup

* Have people and pets leave the room.

* Air out the room for 5-10 minutes by opening a window

or door to the outdoor environment.

* Shut off the central forced air heating /

air-conditioning system, if you have one.

* Collect materials needed to clean up broken bulb.

2. During cleanup

* Be thorough in collecting broken glass and visible powder.

* Place cleanup materials in a sealable container.

3. After cleanup

* Promptly place all bulb debris and cleanup materials outdoors

in a trash container or protected area until materials

can be disposed of properly. Avoid leaving any bulb

fragments or cleanup materials indoors.

* If practical, continue to air out the room where the bulb

was broken and leave the heating/air conditioning system

shut off for several hours.

Ron Lentjes 4 years ago


6. OPTIONAL STEP: It is OPTIONAL to use commercially available powdered

sulfur to absorb the beads that are too small to see. The sulfur does

two things: (1) it makes the mercury easier to see since there may be

a color change from yellow to brown and (2) it binds the mercury so

that it can be easily removed and suppresses the vapor of any missing

mercury. Where to get commercialized sulfur? It may be supplied as

mercury vapor absorbent in mercury spill kits, which can be purchased

from laboratory, chemical supply and hazardous materials response

supply manufacturers. Note: Powdered sulfur may stain fabrics a dark

color. When using powdered sulfur, do not breathe in the powder as

it can be moderately toxic. Additionally, users should read and

understand product information before use.

7. If you choose not to use this option, you may want to request the services

of a contractor who has monitoring equipment to screen for mercury vapors.

Consult your local environmental or health agency to inquire about

contractors in your area. Place all materials used with the cleanup,

including gloves, in a trash bag. Place all mercury beads and objects

into the trash bag. Secure trash bag and label it as directed by your

local health or fire department.

8. Contact your local health department, municipal waste authority or your

local fire department for proper disposal in accordance with local,

state and federal laws.

9. Remember to keep the area well ventilated to the outside (i.e., windows

open and fans in exterior windows running) for at least 24 hours after

your successful cleanup. Continue to keep pets and children out of

cleanup area. If sickness occurs, seek medical attention immediately.

View information on health effects related to exposures to vapors

from metallic mercury. For additional information on health effects,

the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) provides

a Mercury Fact Sheet Exit EPA Disclaimer that also presents information

on health effects related to exposures to vapors from metallic mercury.

Ron Lentjes 4 years ago


Recommendation: If there are young children or pregnant women in the house,

seek additional advice from your local or state health or

state environmental agency.

Many states and local agencies have developed collection/exchange programs

for mercury-containing devices. Some counties and cities also have household

hazardous waste collection programs. For information about these programs,

contact your local officials to find out when and where a collection will

be held in your area. Earth911 also provides information about local

collection programs. For information on recycling compact fluorescent

light bulbs (CFLs) and other mercury-containing bulbs,

see Recycling and Disposal After a CFL Burns Out.

Note that some states and local jurisdictions have elected to pass regulations

that are more stringent than the federal hazardous waste regulations.

Several states and municipalities do not recognize the exemption for

households; others regulate all fluorescent bulbs as hazardous,

regardless of their mercury content. For example, Vermont bans all

mercury-containing waste from landfills, including mercury-containing

waste generated by households. For more information specific to your state,

visit to contact your local waste collection

agency, which can tell you if such requirement exists in your state or locality.

At site cleanups of active facilities or abandoned hazardous waste sites, mercury

presents significant environmental challenges because it is difficult

to treat, exists in many different forms, is volatile, and can be difficult

to analyze. Some mercury contamination sites are also contaminated with oils,

radioactive materials and organic compounds that present technical challenges.

Cleaning up mercury contamination at active facilities or at abandoned hazardous

waste sites and preparing the land for redevelopment or redeployment happens

in a variety of EPA programs. EPA is improving the coordination, speed, and

effectiveness of cleanups at the nation's contaminated sites through the

One Cleanup Program. This Program is EPA's vision for how different

cleanup programs at all levels of government can work together to meet

that goal and ensure that resources, activities, and results are effectively

coordinated and communicated to the public. EPA accomplishes this work

in partnership with state, local and tribal governments and responsible

parties. View more information about the various cleanup programs managed by EPA:

Please note that the instructions apply to CFLs and Fluorescent tubes and

FS (Full Spectrum) lights (which are Fluorescents).

It also applies to other items containing mercury such as thermometers

and older style thermistor controllers. See links below for more details.

NOTE: These instructions DO NOT apply to Incandescent Lights. They do not contain

mercury. They are also easily recycled and do not pose a threat to the environment.

Note: Above is only a summary. To see full text, please refer to the references

listed below.

References from agencies:

United States Environmental Protection Agency

Mercury Releases and Spills

United States Environmental Protection Agency

Cleaning Up a Broken CFL

Mercury Releases and Spills I Mercury I US EPA

Ron Lentjes 4 years ago



From Canada.

Minimizing Your Risk

* Always handle CFLs carefully when installing and removing them.

* Check with your municipality to see if CFLs can be recycled in your area.

Recycling them means that the small amount of mercury they contain will

not end up in the environment.

* If you have skin sensitivities to UV, or have Lupus or another auto-immune disease

that makes you sensitive to UV, you can take these steps:

o Buy CFLs that are marked low UV.

o Buy CFLs that have a glass cover already added, which will help

further filter out UV radiation.

o Use additional glass, plastic or fabric materials in your lighting

fixtures to act as UV filters.

o Increase the distance you are from the CFL,

as this will reduce the level of UV exposure.

* If you break a CFL, follow these directions for clean-up:

o Leave the room

+ Remove people and pets from the room and keep them out of the room during

the clean-up process.

+ Avoid stepping on any broken glass.

o Ventilation

+ Ventilate the room for at least 15 minutes prior to starting clean-up by

opening windows and doors to the outdoors. This will ensure that

mercury vapour levels are reduced before you start cleaning.

o Clean-up Directions for Hard and Carpeted Surfaces

+ Do not use a vacuum to clean up the initial breakage, as it will

spread the mercury vapour and dust throughout the area and may

contaminate the vacuum.

+ Wear disposable gloves, if available, to avoid direct contact with

mercury and to prevent cuts.

+ Scoop or sweep up the broken pieces and debris with two pieces of stiff

paper or cardboard. Do not use a broom.

+ Use sticky tape, such as duct tape or masking tape, to pick up any

remaining fine glass or powder.

+ Wipe the area with a damp paper towel, cloth or disposable wet wipe

to remove any residual particles.

+ Place the broken glass and clean-up materials in a glass container

with a tight fitting lid to further minimize the release of mercury vapour.

o Carpeting - Steps to Take After the Initial Clean-up

+ If the rug is removable, take it outside, shake and air it out for as

long as is practical.

# The first time you vacuum on installed carpet after the clean-up,

shut the door to the room or close off the area as much as possible

and ventilate the room in which the lamp was broken by opening the

windows and doors to the outside. When the vacuuming is done,

remove the bag, wipe the vacuum with a damp paper towel, cloth

or disposable wet wipe, and then place the vacuum bag and paper

towel in a sealed plastic bag outside. In the case of a canister

vacuum, wipe the canister out with a wet paper towel and dispose

of the towel as outlined above. Continue to ventilate the room for

15 minutes once the vacuuming is completed.

o Disposal

+ Immediately place waste material outside of the building in a

protected area away from children.

+ Room with an open doorDispose of the waste at a household hazardous waste

location as soon as possible. Check with local, provincial,

or territorial authorities about the requirements for recycling

and for the location of household hazardous waste depots or pick-up.

+ Do not dispose of the waste in your household trash.

+ For further information on disposal, please contact Environment Canada.

o Washing

+ Wash your hands after storing and disposing of waste.

* Additional Information

o Remove and install the CFL by handling only the base of the lamp to prevent

any unnecessary pressure on the glass that may cause it to break.

o Consider using a drop cloth when replacing a CFL to minimize the chance of

breakage should the lamp fall or to protect the flooring and assist

in clean-up should the bulb drop and break.

o Store fluorescent lamps in containers that prevent them from breaking,

such as in their original packaging.

o Consider avoiding the use of CFLs in areas where the lamps may be easily broken.

Those who have Lupus or another auto-immune disease and certain skin conditions

can be sensitive to the UV from CFLs, in the same way they would be sensitive

to sunlight and other light bulbs that emit UV. If you believe you are suffering

from symptoms related to UV, you should consult your health care provider.

Note: The limits of exposure for Canada are: no closer than 30cm for 3hr or 1hr depending on CFL light.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 4 years ago from California Author

Holy crap, Ron. LOL. Normally, I would just refuse all of that in the comments of a hub, but I actually read it (well, until you got to the symptoms and and cleaning stuff), but I do agree it's all about profits. I just don't think there's enough people who give a crap to do anything about it. It's hard to start up a movement of outrage for the fact that we're getting ripped out of our retirements and nobody can afford to go to the doctor (and even if you can, it takes 9 weeks to get an appointment, so you better hope whatever you have isn't fatal). So, yeah, I just don't see the movement to stop the greed from winning out. We'll get proper lighting back when some company sees the profit in counter marketing, as "niche" and underground incandescent bulbs become trendy and nostalgia brings people back to when light used to be pleasant. For now, get used to grumpy people, because that's what happens under this shitty lights.

drheaton 13 months ago

Part 1926 is for construction activities. I work in a completed office. Where is the OSHA light level for regular office workers?

Your article says:

"). The OSHA chart has been reproduced below, and can be quickly viewed HERE. "

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