Mike Sopp looks at the benefits of outdoor lighting and assesses the risks where inappropriately assessed, designed or installed.


Suitable and sufficient outdoor lighting at the workplace can assist the building occupier in managing a number of premises related risks relating to occupiers health and safety.

It can also play a significant role in the deterrence of intruders/assailants and therefore protection of assets. It can also give reassurance to premise occupiers in terms of personal safety.

However, unless appropriately assessed, designed and installed, the benefits of outdoor lighting can be negated and could even create risks to premise occupiers, opportunities for intruders and produce unwanted environmental impacts in terms of energy consumption and “light pollution”.

Purpose of outdoor lighting

Premises outdoor lighting can serve a number of purposes. Many employees can undertake work activities outside of a property including in the hours of darkness.

It should be borne in mind that regulation 8 of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 requires that every workplace has suitable and sufficient lighting. A workplace is defined as “any premises or part of premises which are not domestic premises and are made available to any person as a place of work” with premises being defined as “any place including an outdoor place”.

In a similar vein, regulation 21 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 requires suitable and sufficient lighting, which takes account of the operations to be carried out, to be provided at any place where a person uses work equipment.

Clearly without sufficient lighting, employees may not be able to observe/recognise hazards. As the Health and Safety Executive guidance notes “the quicker and easier it is to see a hazard, the more easily it is avoided”. As well as insufficient lighting, increased risks may arise from:

  • lighting effects such as glare, colour effects, flicker and veiling reflections

  • incorrect lighting design that does not provide adequate lighting

  • improper lighting installation, maintenance and replacement work.

Premise outdoor lighting can also have a significant role to play in premise and personal security. Used in an integrated security system, lighting can:

  • deter would-be intruders and/or assailants

  • provide light to assist in the detection of intruders/assailants

  • prevent shadows and other areas of potential concealment.

In a similar vein to poorly designed and installed lighting for health and safety purposes potentially creating hazards, according to government guidance security lighting could actually assist criminal activity by enabling intruders/assailants to see what to attack/steal, to identify more clearly potential victims and by occupiers obscuration of intruders/assailants.

Assessment and design criteria

Clearly, outdoor lighting requirements and priorities for each premise will differ. The challenge is to assess operational requirements against risks and then design/upgrade the lighting system to control risks to a tolerable level.

Whether the premise occupier is looking to implement a new lighting scheme or review an existing installation, the starting point must be the production of a clear and comprehensive “operational requirement”.

Guidance from the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) on security lighting notes that the main drivers in the lighting industries’ market and desirable criteria for these, that focus on “operational” and “H&S” issues, also have a direct application to security.

As such, the CPNI guidance states that “before any lighting is considered it is imperative that a clear and unambiguous operational requirement has been drawn up covering not only the security issues and objectives but also Health & Safety and environmental impacts the scheme may have”.

Designing or upgrading outdoor lighting can be complex and it is likely that expert advice will be required. When considering the design of any outdoor lighting, professional engineers will tend to follow good practice guidance. This may include the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) Lighting Guide LG6: The Outdoor Environment.

CIBSE recommends running through a series of strategic decisions to see what needs lighting and the type of lighting that is likely to be most effective. In essence, these decisions are made around the following questions.

  • Should it be lit (ie is there a real need to install lighting)?

  • Should all of it be lit (ie is there a need for blanket lighting)?

  • What form should the lighting take (ie choosing the right lighting for the purpose)?

  • Where should the light come from? The position of the lighting equipment not only determines the lit appearance of the building, area or object but affects the spill of light into the night sky and onto adjoining properties.

  • What lamps should be used? The choice of lamps will affect the colour of the lighting, the appearance of the object or area being lit, and the energy usage.

  • How long does it need to be on? It may be that the lighting only needs to be on for part periodic times during the year.

Further guidance has also recently been introduced in the form of British Standard BS EN 12464-2: Lighting of Work Places. Outdoor Work Places. The standard provides the lighting design criteria for installation task groups and task activities. In addition, recommendations are given for good lighting practice from both a safety and security viewpoint.

Planning and environmental issues

Any outdoor lighting should be designed to meet the lighting requirement of a particular task or area in an energy efficient manner but without compromising its effectiveness.

There is considerable guidance available on energy efficient lighting systems. For example, BS EN 12464-2 suggests that saving can be made by “harvesting daylight when available, controlling the electric lights in response to workers presence and improving the maintenance characteristics of the lighting installation”.

Many people suffer disturbance due to excessive and poorly designed lighting. Under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, light pollution was brought into the definition of a statutory nuisance, this is defined as “artificial light emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance”. Exceptions exist where high levels of light are required for safety and security reasons such as railway premises, prisons and airports.

Many Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) have already produced, or are producing, policies within their planning system utilising so-called “environmental zones”. As such, lighting schemes may have conditions imposed, as part of their planning permission, to ensure that no light pollution is created. It is always advisable to consult with the local authority planning department to determine if planning permission is required.

For industrial, trade or business the concept of “best practicable means” should be utilised when designing systems as this would form any defence against pollution complaints.

Clearly, prevention is better than cure and it is preferable to address potential statutory nuisances at the design and planning stage for example, by making reference to the Institution of Lighting Professionals (ILP) Guidance for the Reduction of Obtrusive Light.

In particular, the guidance warns against over-lighting and recommends adherence to the various standards “which will help minimise upward reflected light”.

The ILP document provides useful and cost-effective solutions to reduce potential pollution issues including recommendations, based around the key elements of the light source, luminaire and method of installation.

Further Information

Last reviewed 18 October 2016