How to Choose Lighting for Harsh Industrial Environments

October 6, 2017

This article explains common challenges for lighting in industrial environments, the standards that industrial users should keep in mind, and considerations for extreme environmental conditions to help you choose the right lighting for your facility.

Common Challenges for Lighting in Industrial Environments

Industrial facilities have a wide variety of tasks, machines and purposes, but the following key features are common:

  • Most industrial facilities have high ceilings and large open spaces, and they often host detail-oriented or risky work that can require very specific (and bright) lighting solutions.
  • Lighting systems may need to withstand harsh conditions, such as extreme temperatures, dust, or moisture.
  • Lighting may be exposed to mobile equipment and heavy machinery. 
  • Industrial facilities often have sensitive equipment that can be damaged by electrical noise from poor quality lighting. Conversely, equipment in the space may create electrical noise that can damage a lighting system.
  • In some industries, sanitary standards require the protection of consumable goods or other manufactured products against contamination from the failure or breakage of the light fixture. 

Industrial Lighting Applications

Industrial lighting can be categorized as area lighting or task lighting. Area lighting includes high-bay and low-bay applications, such as warehouses and other open spaces that often require high-power lights to achieve adequate illumination over a large area.

Task lighting, on the other hand, can be used to augment the area lighting in a space by focusing illumination where the work occurs. By bringing the light source closer to the work, industrial users may be able to achieve recommended illumination with lower-powered lights.

Industrial users should consider using task lighting for the following:

  • Worker assembly cells and workstations
  • Machine/robotic assembly cells
  • Electrical panels and other enclosures
  • Inspection stations
  • Machines where operators need to be able to see inside to work on components

Performance Standards for Industrial Lighting

Determining the appropriate level of light for a given application can be challenging. Too little light can potentially be dangerous, while too much light can create unpleasant glare and add unnecessary costs. Because of the variety in architecture and uses of industrial space, there is no one-size-fits-all recommendation for light output.

The Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) publishes appropriate light levels and distributions for more than 100 industrial and manufacturing tasks in its exhaustive Lighting Handbook. For this reason, lighting designers often begin an initial assessment by taking an inventory of spaces in a facility, including the occupants and their functions.

The following table shows recommended lux levels for different industrial applications and for different ages of workers. A lux meter can be used to get live or before and after lux levels to help ensure your illumination levels are sufficient for the space, task, and people.  To learn more, see our Lux/Lumens calculator.

Application Recommended Lux Ages 25-65 Recommended Lux Ages 65+
Warehouse 100 200
Work area 150 300
General assembly 1,000 2,000
Detailed assembly 2,000 4,000
Fine inspection 5,000 10,000

Considerations for Lighting in Extreme Conditions

Lighting products can be designed to withstand rough conditions inside typical industrial facilities.  Three things to look for in lighting for industrial environments are resistance to water, oil, and dust; protection against impact and vibration; and temperature protection mechanisms to ensure the light performs safely and effectively even in high heat.  Not all of these will be required for every application.  Contact an engineer to discuss your specific application requirements.

Water, Oil, and Dust

LED strip light for machine lighting

Image: The WLS27 LED strip light is ideal for lighting inside of machines--shaterproof with IP66, IP67 and IP69K construction.

Along with other kinds of electrical equipment, lights can be rated based on Ingress Protection (IP) Code designations.  Lights rated IP67 and above are dust and water resistant, making them ideal choices for many industrial lighting applications, including machine lighting and machine tool environments. Enclosures rated IP67 can withstand temporary immersion in water.

Lights rated IP68g are resistant to oil and water penetration. IP69K rated enclosures withstand high-pressure wash-down environments necessary for sanitation procedures common to food, beverage, and pharmaceutical manufacturers.  Read this article to learn more about IP ratings and what they mean.

Vibration and Impact

Dust and water resistance is important, but lighting fixtures in industrial environments may also need to withstand vibration or impact from heavy equipment. Incandescent and fluorescent technologies use glass enclosures that can shatter upon impact, exposing workers and other equipment to risk.

Constant vibration can also reduce the lifetime of some lighting solutions, especially those with fine filaments and other delicate components. On the other hand, LED lights do not use glass enclosures or filaments, and are therefore extremely resistant to vibration and impact.

Extreme Temperatures

Industrial facilities may also be subject to extreme ambient temperatures that make certain technology options ideal. LEDs perform better in cold conditions compared with traditional technologies. LED lights are ideal for refrigerated warehouses with temperatures as low as -40 °C.

LED manufacturers continue to make improvements in designing for higher temperatures, using high-grade housing materials that dissipate heat and temperature sensors that automatically dim lights as heat increases.

Image: The WLS27 LED strip light has automatic temperature protection built into the unit. Above 50 °C, the light dims to manage heat and protect product lifetime.

WLS27 shatterproof LED strip light



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