EU Directives

European legislation and the European directives referring thereto result on the basis of international agreements, the EU treaty last amended on 1 December 2009 on the basis of the Lisbon treaty of 2007 (

Articles 114 (formerly article 95) and 115 (formerly article 94) of the EU treaty address the harmonisation of regulations to prevent barriers to trade within the European Community. The work of the European Committee for Standardization CEN is dedicated to these purposes – for light and lighting, the responsible technical body is CEN TC 169.

Articles 153 (formerly article 137, previously article 118) and 154 (formerly article 138, previously article 118a) concern the improvement of living and working conditions, work environment and occupational health and safety. These articles of the EU treaty are the foundation of European occupational health and safety.

In addition, the occupational health and safety framework directive 89/391/EEC on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work was adopted in 1989. To specify its contents, a series of individual directives on European occupational health and safety have been released, e.g.

  • for the workplace (89/654/EEC)

  • for work equipment (2009/104/EC)

  • for display screen equipment work (90/270/EEC), for details refer to chapter "Illumination of offices and rooms with VDU workstations".

According to the individual EU directive for the workplace (89/654/EEC),

  • workplaces must as far as possible receive sufficient natural light and be equipped with artificial lighting adequate for the protection of workers' safety and health,

  • lighting installations in rooms containing workplaces and in passageways must be placed in such a way that there is no risk of accident to workers as a result of the type of lighting fitted, and

  • workplaces in which workers are especially exposed to risks in the event of failure of artificial lighting must be provided with emergency lighting of adequate intensity.

The directive only provides minimum guidelines for workplace lighting which fundamentally apply for all EU countries. Beyond that, EU countries can establish more extensive national requirements which do not require harmonisation with other EU countries. This applies particularly for the practical implementation of these verbal minimum requirements, e.g. through further country-specific regulations. However, the prerequisite for this is that such regulations do not give rise to trade barriers, which are prohibited according to articles 114 and 115 of the EU treaties. The possibility of national regulations is not meant to change the high level of occupational health and safety of some EU countries at the cost of an alignment by harmonisation of regulations with contents related to occupational health and safety.