Stairwell Lighting – Designing for Safety

Stairwell lightingStairwells are a common part of many workplaces and other industrial and commercial facilities. Stairwell lighting is particularly important in commercial and industrial applications because falling on the stairs accounts for over 60 % of slip and trip injuries in buildings. Stairwell lighting safety amounts to proper lighting, slip resistance of stair treads, suitable handrails and dimensional geometry of stairs.

These best practices will help reduce workplace injuries and provide the appropriate lighting for stairwells.

Stairwell Lighting Best Practices

First, choosing the appropriate size and strength of lighting is particularly important for stairwells because of their shape and size.

Hallways and stairways need to be illuminated every eight to ten feet for safety reasons. Consider installing a luminaire at the top of the stairwell in addition to the recommended eight to ten foot space throughout. Generally, when it comes to illuminating halls and stairwells, it can be done with ceiling, wall and recessed fixtures. Depending upon the application, there may be a need for accent lighting to highlight art or photos. Recessed lighting is especially effective at this task in stairwells.

For safety reasons, you should consider putting the light switches at both ends of the stairwell. It is highly important that stairwell visibility is good so people can ascend or descend safely. Handrails and step edges should be visible too in order to decrease the risk of missed steps. Do not forget to luminaires withe appropriate weather protection if the stairwell is exposed to the elements. Make sure that the switches are properly wired so they do not cause hazards.

Slip resistive strips are a good solution for making the stairs more visible. With a luminance contrast bigger than 30 %, they should be put to the edge of the stairs. This is particularly handy in situations where people need to adapt their eyes to poor lighting conditions. These strips are most effective between 50-75mm wide applied near the step edge.


In commercial and industrial applications, safety is paramount. Safety measures are particularly important for the visually impaired or for conditions that require the eye to adjust dramatically. The best practices discussed in this article mitigate risk to those using the stairwell and liability to the business who is designing the stairwell and its lighting.