Lighting is an important element when setting up any type of shop or work space, but it is also easy to overlook. In a well-lit shop, the lighting fixtures can blend in, drawing the attention instead to the tools, machines and work spaces. But without proper lighting a shop can be a dangerous place to spend time.
Lighting manufacturers and designers measure light in lumens, with each type of bulb or fixture rated to produce a particular number of lumens. Lumens are a more reliable and consistent measure than other ways of measuring light, like candlepower or the wattage rating of household bulbs. To light a shop, the light should be spread out throughout the space and the total number of lumens divided by the floor space to produce a lumens-per-square foot rating. This number should be well above 100 for a well-lit shop, and preferably closer to 150.
Any type of lighting fixture can help add lumens to a shop, but some fixtures are better than others in certain cases. For example, overhead fluorescent lights with reflectors or plastic lenses provide wide coverage. Compact fluorescent bulbs have a warmer quality and use less energy, making them essential to a shop where there is an effort to reduce energy consumption and environmental impact. Individual work lights on portable stands are best for lighting a specific area or machine temporarily, augmenting the light from overhead hanging fixtures. Finally, flashlights provide a means of peering behind machines or performing fine detail work where larger light fixtures may not cast much illumination.
A shop needs special lights to make it a safe place to work and help workers or visitors in the event of an emergency. Illuminated exit signs indicate the location of exits so everyone can get out as quickly as possible in the event of a fire or chemical spill. A back-up lighting system that runs off batteries or a generator can provide light in the event of a power outage, while emergency lighting strips along corridors or aisles can illuminate the way out when the shop suddenly goes dark. Flashlights should also be part of a shop's emergency and first aid kits.
If a workshop hosts guests or clients, it will need additional lighting to make it a safe place to visit. Interior exit signs are especially important in these shops, but exterior lights are also essential. If there is a parking area, it should include lights rated for outdoor use, which can be mounted on a post or on the building itself. Besides making it easier to find the door or read a sign indicating the shop's location, exterior lighting also makes the parking area and entrance safer. Exterior security cameras may also need powerful exterior lights to provide enough illumination to make it possible to identify vandals or would-be intruders.