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The Challenge of Lighting Confined Spaces

3rd April 2024
5 Star Review
120+ Years Experience Over 120 years' experience
People trained (25,000) - 25,000 trained in last 12 months 25,000 trained in last 12 months
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Nationwide (UK Wide Coverage) UK Wide Coverage

Few environments pose as many challenges as confined spaces. These areas, characterised by limited access and ventilation, present a range of hazards that demand careful management. Among these hazards, the issue of lighting is often overlooked but possesses the potential to exacerbate existing risks. 

In this article, we delve into the complexities surrounding confined space lighting, addressing common questions and shedding light on regulatory considerations.

Can Lights Be Dangerous in Confined Spaces?

The simple answer is yes. While lighting is essential for visibility and safe operations in confined spaces, improper use or installation can introduce new hazards. Traditional lighting solutions, such as incandescent bulbs or high-wattage fixtures, may generate excessive heat or emit sparks, posing a fire risk in environments where flammable substances or combustible materials are present. 

Additionally, inadequate lighting can lead to reduced visibility, increasing the likelihood of accidents or injuries caused by trips, falls, or collisions with equipment.

There are many records of accidents and incidents where lamps have been found to be the ignition source causing severe burns and fatalities. Lamps for use in potentially explosive atmospheres must be maintained as required by the manufacturer and used carefully to ensure that the risk of them being damaged while in use in a potentially explosive atmosphere is minimised or, preferably, eliminated. 


Selection of lamps

Great care must be taken when selecting lamps for use in potentially explosive atmospheres. (Refer to BS EN 60079-14 electrical apparatus for explosive gas atmospheres. Electrical installation in hazardous areas).

The lamp should be carefully checked and tested by a suitably competent person for any sign of damage prior to use. The lamp should be checked again prior to storage to ensure that no damage has been done while the lamp has been in use. The lamp should be carefully stored to ensure it is protected from damage.

checking for gases in a confined space

What Are the Challenges of Lighting Confined Spaces?

Several factors contribute to the challenges of lighting confined spaces, including:

  • Limited Access

Confined spaces often have restricted entry points, making it difficult to install or maintain lighting fixtures. This limitation necessitates careful planning to ensure adequate illumination throughout the space without obstructing pathways or emergency exits.

  • Ventilation Constraints

Proper ventilation is crucial in confined spaces to prevent the buildup of hazardous gases or vapours. However, the installation of lighting fixtures may impede airflow or interfere with ventilation systems, creating stagnant pockets of air and increasing the risk of asphyxiation or exposure to toxic substances.

In the United Kingdom, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations and the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR) establish stringent requirements for the management of hazardous substances. These include provisions for lighting in potentially explosive atmospheres. 

Compliance with these confined space regulations is essential to mitigate the risks associated with lighting these dangerous work zones.

DSEAR Regulations and Lighting Classifications

Under the DSEAR regulations, lighting installations in hazardous areas are subject to specific classifications based on the nature and extent of the risks present. These classifications, ranging from Zone 0 (highest risk) to Zone 2 (lower risk), dictate the types of lighting fixtures permitted and the measures required to minimize ignition sources. 

By adhering to these classifications and employing suitable lighting solutions, businesses can enhance safety and reduce the likelihood of ignition in confined spaces.

Implications for Lighting

The classification of a confined space into one of these zones dictates the types of lighting fixtures that can be used and the precautions necessary to minimise ignition risks.

  • Zone 0

In areas classified as Zone 0, only lighting fixtures specifically designed and certified for use in such environments should be installed. These fixtures are typically intrinsically safe, meaning they are incapable of producing sparks or generating sufficient heat to ignite flammable substances.

  • Zone 1

Lighting installations in Zone 1 areas must also meet stringent safety requirements. Intrinsically safe lighting fixtures are recommended, along with additional measures such as explosion-proof enclosures and protective barriers to prevent ignition sources from coming into contact with flammable materials.

  • Zone 2

While the risk of explosive atmospheres is lower in Zone 2 areas, precautions must still be taken to ensure safe lighting. Lighting fixtures installed in Zone 2 should be selected for their robust construction and resistance to potential sources of ignition, such as overheating or electrical faults.

Selection Criteria for Lighting Fixtures

When choosing confined space lighting fixtures, several factors should be considered to ensure compliance with DSEAR regulations:

  1. Ingress Protection (IP) Rating - Lighting fixtures should have a suitable IP rating to withstand the ingress of dust, moisture, or other contaminants commonly found in confined spaces.
  2. Temperature Class – Temperature is a key consideration when working in confined spaces, so the thermal impact of lighting should never go unassessed. The temperature class of lighting fixtures determines their maximum surface temperature under normal operating conditions, ensuring they do not exceed the auto-ignition temperature of nearby flammable substances.
  3. Certification - Lighting fixtures should be certified by accredited bodies to confirm their compliance with relevant safety standards and regulations, providing assurance of their suitability for use in hazardous environments.

By adhering to the DSEAR classifications and selecting appropriate lighting fixtures tailored to the specific hazards present in confined spaces, businesses can enhance safety, minimise the risk of ignition, and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements. 

Additionally, regular inspection, maintenance, and testing of lighting installations is essential to identify and address any potential safety concerns proactively.

Seek Expert Confined Space Training with MRS

MRS Training & Rescue is a leading provider of confined space training courses, offering comprehensive programs designed to equip individuals with both the theoretical and practical skills needed for safe operations in low risk, medium risk, or high risk confined spaces.

We also offer extensive rescue, managerial, and requalification confined space courses, ensuring safe operations from all potential aspects

Conducted in our purpose-built facilities located across the UK, our training immerses participants in simulated real-world scenarios. This approach ensures that every trainee gains invaluable experience and readiness to tackle the challenges inherent in confined space work.

Book your confined space training with MRS today - or contact us for more details on any of our confined space courses or facilities.

confined space training at MRS training and Rescue


Ensure you have a full understanding of the hazards and the risks in the work area. Carry out an effective risk assessment and, if possible, always remove the hazard as a priority. Then reduce the risk of other hazards present by having suitable controls in place.

For lighting, this would mean ensuring it will provide sufficient light to assist in making the working environment safe whilst keeping the risk of it becoming an ignition source to an acceptable (low) level. 

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