Workplace lighting is often an afterthought for business owners, but it’s one of the most important aspects of your office. A good lighting system can help increase productivity and improve worker morale. This blog post will discuss some of the factors you should consider when providing workplace lighting.
Lighting is one of the most important factors to consider in any workplace. Proper lighting can help improve employee productivity, while poor lighting can lead to eye strain and headaches. Remember a few things to remember when choosing the right lighting for your workplace.
The first thing to consider is the type of work that will be done in the space. If employees are doing a lot of computer work, it’s important to have bright, even lighting that doesn’t cause glare on screens. If workers are on the move a lot, task lighting might be a better option. This lighting type focuses on specific areas and can help reduce shadows and glare.
It’s also important to consider the color of the light. Some studies have shown that certain light colors can help improve productivity, while others can cause eyestrain and headaches. For example, blue light has been shown to boost alertness and energy levels, while yellow light can help reduce stress levels.
Factors To Consider When Providing Workplace Lighting
Following are the Factors to consider when providing workplace lighting:
- Minimum light levels (lux levels) should be achieved, normally indicated by the local code of practice or guidance.
- Natural light should be used in preference to artificial light.
- Light levels should be adjusted to suit the level of detail required and the visual acuity of the workers.
- Local lighting, such as spotlights positioned above machinery, might be required to give higher light levels to critical areas.
- Lighting must be arranged to avoid reflections and glare that might dazzle or temporarily disable workers.
- Lighting must be arranged to avoid creating shadows that might obscure areas and create risk.
- Flickering should be avoided to prevent nuisance, particularly the “stroboscope effect.”
- Lighting must be suitable for the environment (e.g., intrinsically safe lighting used in a flammable atmosphere).
- Emergency lighting should be provided to ensure safety during mains supply failure.
Lighting is used for many different purposes: to ensure visual work can be done accurately, safely, and in comfort; to increase timely production; to enhance security and to promote the health and wellbeing of workers; to make the workplace attractive and pleasant environment.
Appropriate lighting and lighting controls, including the provision of emergency lighting, are crucial to enable the workforce to perform its activities and move around safely. Inadequate lighting can make it difficult to see clearly and may contribute to hazards such as slips, trips, and falls. In contrast, excessive lighting can cause discomfort and may mask otherwise obvious hazards by dazzling workers.
The primary purpose of adequate lighting is to ensure that visual tasks are carried out quickly, safely, and accurately. Providing appropriate and sufficient light levels and contrasts in the workplace helps reduce negative health symptoms and aids in perceiving potential hazards. Improvements in lighting conditions can result in as much as 10% productivity gains and a 30% reduction in errors.
Lighting at Construction Sites
Adequate lighting on construction sites is vital for the workers’ safety, productivity, and quality of the work. Construction sites challenge contractors to provide adequate lighting because of the changing nature of the build process. Unlike finished buildings, evacuation routes on construction sites often contain construction materials, portable equipment, and other obstacles.
Through their principal contractor, the client should make electrical contractors aware of the project’s lighting requirements during the construction tendering process. These requirements should consider various phases of the construction project where lighting may need to be relocated. The impact of the lighting on the surrounding environment should also be considered. Light pollution has an adverse effect on wildlife and can be a nuisance to local residents, especially at night.
Employers must ensure that any artificial lighting provided does not change the apparent color or visibility of any safety signs or other safety-related items such as fire extinguishers. Temporary lighting should be equipped with heavy-duty electric cords with connections and insulation maintained in a safe condition. Temporary lights may not be suspended by their electric cords unless cords and lights are designed for this means of suspension. Splices shall have insulation equal to that of a cable.
Lighting in Confined Space
Adequate and suitable lighting is essential for entry and work in a confined space. Confined spaces generally have poor natural lighting available, requiring artificial lighting. Portable lighting and personal work lights used in confined spaces require special consideration due to the nature of the hazards and must meet the required industry standards to avoid potential risks. Non-sparking tools and specially protected lighting are essential where flammable or potentially explosive atmospheres are likely. There are different standards used for hazardous areas and electrical equipment designed for use in those environments, depending upon where in the world they are to be used.
Access and passage into a confined space should be provided with the illumination of not less than 50 lux. All portable hand-held lighting provided in confined spaces should be operated at a voltage not exceeding 55 volts (AC) between the conductor and earth or 110 volts (DC).
Lighting and Health
Both natural and artificial (local) lighting influence our health and wellbeing. It directly affects our mood and alertness. The effect of lighting on vision is the most obvious impact on the workforce. The result can be either comfortable or uncomfortable, depending on how the illuminance is delivered. Visual problems and discomfort occur when the lighting makes it difficult for workers to see what they are supposed to see while performing their jobs, which in turn can affect their performance negatively. Aspects of lighting that can commonly cause visual discomfort are insufficient or excessive lighting, shadows, veiling reflections, glare, and flicker.
Poor lighting, particularly lighting that causes glare, can present visual discomfort which may result in headaches, sore eyes, and aches and pains associated with poor body posture. The likely consequences of prolonged exposure to uncomfortable lighting conditions include eyestrain and related problems. The symptoms of eyestrain vary from one worker to another, but burning or itchy eyes, headache, blurred vision, dry or watery eyes, and tensed muscles are very common. In addition to this, poor lighting also affects the endocrine system. Working in ‘darker’ workplaces triggers the release of the sleep hormone melatonin, which in turn reduces alertness, and increases the chances of error and accident risks.
This further leads to lower productivity and poor quality work. In order to tackle such issues, there must be ‘suitable and sufficient lighting. Natural (day) light should be utilized so far as is reasonably practicable. Natural light is often found to positively influence human health and well-being (Boyce et al, 2003). Several research studies have demonstrated that natural light has tremendous physiological and psychological benefits.
Implications of Inadequate Lighting
Poor lighting can affect the quality of work, specifically in situations where precision is required and overall productivity. Inadequate lighting not only affects workers’ health, causing symptoms like eyestrain, migraine, and headaches but is also linked with a condition called ‘Sick Building Syndrome. Symptoms of this condition include headaches, lethargy, irritability, and poor concentration. In addition, inadequate lighting within workplaces can also contribute to a significant cost to the business in the form of:
- Product damage due to an accident
- Production lost time as a result of accidents
- Time off work due to personal injuries
- Reduced workers’ efficiency
To maintain a productive, safe and healthy workplace, the following lighting conditions should be avoided:
- Inappropriate and insufficient light at the point of work activity
- Uneven or flickering lighting within the workplace
- Veiling reflections and shadows on the task
- Natural light openings too bright and bright reflected images adjacent to the task
- Excessive range of brightness and stroboscopic effects
Natural and Artificial Lighting
Most people prefer to work in natural daylight; therefore, it is essential to make full use of it. There are many studies concerning natural daylight and its positive effects on human physical and mental health such as stress and mood. However, natural light alone does not usually provide sufficient illuminance throughout the working area or for the entire working day; in most circumstances, sufficient and suitable lighting can be provided by a combination of natural and artificial (local) lighting.
However, due to their architectural design, some workplaces lack the benefits of available natural light and, in these cases, suitable local lighting needs to be introduced so that tasks can be performed safely and efficiently.
The precise levels of natural and/or artificial lighting required will depend on the activities taking place, as different tasks require different levels of illuminance. Various international lighting standards and codes use ‘illuminance’ as the main quantitative criterion for lighting provision in the workplace and contain range of recommendations for maintaining illuminance in various indoor and outdoor areas depending on activity and area types.
Workers with visual impairment may require more light in order to perform a task than their colleagues. Furthermore, a 70-year-old worker may need three times as much illuminance than the level of illuminance required by a 20-year-old (Weale, 1983).
The amount of light required within a workplace depends on the task being undertaken. The fabric and design of a building also influence the level of local lighting requirements. The amount of light falling on a surface is measured in units called lux. Typical illuminance levels within workplaces are usually between 500 and 1,000 lux when measured 76 cm (30 inches) above the floor.
Depending on how much detail needs to be perceived, lighting standards and codes provide detailed lighting recommendations for a variety of tasks or activities. The table below provides some recommended average illuminances for different work settings.
The recommended illuminances for different work settings can be obtained from industry codes of practice such as BS EN 12464-1 (2011) and SLL Code for lighting (2012). Depending on how much detail needs to be perceived, lighting standards and codes provide detailed lighting recommendations for a variety of tasks or activities.
Lighting and Performance
Poor lighting is a safety hazard – misjudgment of the position, shape or speed of an object can lead to accidents and injury. The extent to which various lighting levels affect workers’ performance depends on the proportion of the visual component within the visual task.
Interior Design and Color Rendering
Limitations imposed by the layout and design of the workplace may result in the employer choosing a particular lighting scheme. For example, a large warehouse with no windows will have different lighting requirements to a small open-plan office with several large windows. Large and bulky storage shelves and machinery in the warehouse may cause excessive differences in the illuminance between areas. Lighting schemes need to consider such factors, especially in areas where illuminance may be inadequate to perform a task safely.
Although various light patterns and shadows have the tendency to make workplaces more ‘sparkling’, animated, and dynamic, color rendering also plays an essential role, as it defines the ability of a light source to render object colors precisely. Good and appropriate color rendering helps to reduce incidents as it allows workers to see colored objects more clearly. Research has demonstrated that around 4% – 5% of the working population has defects in its color vision, the most common type being red/green colorblindness.
Some people may say that the term color blind is misleading, as such color vision deficiencies vary from practically normal levels of color sensitivity to very severe loss (Rodriguez-Carmona et al, 2012). Increasing lighting levels may be the most obvious solution in this matter; however, increasing the contrast between the tasks and their backgrounds, improving the reflectance of walls and ceilings, etc. can further improve the visibility.
Having adequate lighting with very appropriate color rendering is vitally crucial for workers with color vision deficiencies, as it can help them to differentiate between colors that would not be visible at poor light levels or under a different light spectrum (Jennings and Barbur, 2010).
For example, our ability to distinguish between different colors is impaired in dark environments. At low light levels, receptors in our eyes called rods that provide peripheral vision and movement detection become dominant over cones, which are sensitive to color, detail, and contrast in the central field of view, and operate in well-lit environments. Ensuring adequate illumination to stimulate the cones is therefore important for tasks requiring color discrimination.
Emergency lighting is of paramount importance in workplaces as it enables safe evacuation or safe continuation of essential processes. When normal lighting fails, emergency lighting must be triggered for as long as potential hazards exist or until normal lighting is resumed. Emergency lighting can take several different forms depending on its purpose and must be provided from a source independent of that supplying the normal workplace lighting.
Several requirements apply to emergency lighting. For example, BS EN 1838:2013 recommends a minimum horizontal illuminance of 1 lux at floor level, along the center line of an escape path, while 0.5 lux on the empty floor in open spaces, with a minimum CRI of 40 to make possible identification of safety colors. For high-risk working areas, the minimum maintained illuminance on the working plane needs to be 10 percent of the required task illuminance, but at least 15 lux.
Lighting and Vehicle Movements
Inadequate lighting is one of the major causes of accidents involving moving vehicles. Poor lighting conditions, risk increases for vehicular collisions and pedestrian trips and falls. There should be adequate lighting of site locations at all times to enable all workers to work safely. For transport safety, all roads, maneuvering areas, and vehicle yards must be sufficiently lit. Adequate lighting should be provided to all areas where vehicle movements take place, especially to those areas used in darker hours. Particular attention should be paid to areas where loading/unloading takes place.
As a minimum, lighting should be provided for junctions, around plants, buildings, and pedestrian routes. Measures should also be placed in order to avoid a strong change in the amount of light between the inside and outside of buildings. Steep differences in light levels between work areas increase the risks of accidents. Moving from a bright to a dark environment can result in temporary blindness lasting up to 30 minutes as the visual system adapts. Workers operating close to vehicle access routes in transitional environments should wear high-visibility clothing.
Another important factor is the presence of clearly visible hazard warning signage. All signs must be illuminated for night-time visibility and in adverse weather conditions. All vehicles on site use lights/beacons in poor visibility conditions to aid detection by other vehicles. Further guidance for road lighting can be found in BS 5489 ‘Road Lighting’.
Design and Installation Considerations
It is vitally important that businesses consider the working conditions in which lighting is used. Activities that create flammable, dusty, and explosive atmospheres may necessitate the need for a lighting design that protects against dust ingress and which does not ignite. Care should be taken to keep flammable materials away from lights that operate at high temperatures.
The type and strength of the lighting in workplaces depends on:
- Its suitability for use
- The area it intends to cover
- The design and layout of the area
- The purpose for which it will be used
Lighting can increase productivity, especially when worker-controlled lighting is provided. A research study reported a 4.5% increase in productivity by enabling individual control over lighting (Juslén et al. 2007).
Lighting control systems
A lighting control system is a mechanism of lighting controls that allows employers to have control of the lights in their workplaces. It can be anything from a simple mechanical switch to a complicated automatic control system capable of responding to the amount of light present. The benefit of a lighting control system over stand-alone lighting controls is the ability to control individual lights or groups of lights from a single user interface device.
Employers need to ensure they do not place manually operated switches in a position where workers have to reach past machinery or cross a dark area to operate them. Lighting installations with lighting control systems should set up a ‘fail safe’ feature so that if the control system fails, work areas will not be plunged into darkness. It is also advisable to have a manual override system on top of automatic control systems, which can be used if the automatic system fails.
Maintenance of Lighting
It is very important to keep the installed lighting systems in effective working order. The output of light decreases with the age of the light source. The common reasons for the decreased outputs are:
- General wear of the light sources
- Accumulation of dirt on the fixture
- Dirty reflectors
- Dusty anti-glare devices
Dirt on light fixtures is the major factor in the loss of lighting. Like everything else, lighting devices also grow old over time. After a period of time, they start emitting less light. It is therefore important that they should be replaced rather than waiting until they burn out. Ordinary light bulbs usually have the shortest lifespan and provide the least light. They normally last about 1,000 hours compared to modern fluorescent tubes, which last over 10,000 hours.
The type of work activity within a workplace determines how quickly the light fixture becomes dirty. The required standard of lighting is more easily maintained if the light fixtures are cleaned and changed regularly. By regularly cleaning windows and skylights businesses can reduce the need for artificial light and ultimately, the costs of lighting. Cleaning the fixtures that enclose lamps, known as luminaires, will improve their performance.
It is vital to provide good quality lighting within workplaces that are designed to match the tasks being undertaken. The right levels and the quality of light have been shown to affect alertness and accuracy at work. The most important objective with lighting of a workplace is to satisfy the needs of the workers by offering them a comfortable and productive workspace. By getting the lighting right, workers will be more comfortable in their working environment and become more productive with fewer accidents.