Poor workplace illumination often gets overlooked by health and safety managers with more pressing concerns. However, improper lighting can cause a multitude of problems.  Safety issues can result, as misjudgment of position, shape or speed of an object can lead to accidents and injury. It can also affect work quality and productivity, especially in situations where precision is required. Less commonly considered is that employee health can be at risk. Eye strain, as well as itching, irritation, blurred or double vision and referred symptoms such as headaches, migraines, fatigue and dizziness can occur.  In some individuals who have epilepsy, a flickering light can cause seizures. When working in strained lighting conditions, employees may adopt unsuitable postures that lead to other forms of discomfort such as neck and backaches.  Some experts argue that employee morale is affected by working in a dark, dimly lit environment day after day.

What are Some of the Most Common Lighting Problems?

  • Insufficient light
  • Glare- too much light for the need, bright light source or reflection interferes with how you are seeing an object. When this occurs, it becomes harder to see the details in the darker areas of the work space.
  • Improper Contrast- in an industrial setting, moving and stationary machine parts are hard to distinguish if they have the same coloring.
  • Poorly distributed light
  • Flicker- modulation occurs because electricity is delivered to LED fittings through AC Current. It can be equated to someone turning on and off the lights about 100 times per second. It is often imperceptible without some type of measurement. Manufacturers are starting to implement IEEE Best Practices to list % flicker ratings and a flicker Index.

How can Lighting Issues be Solved?

Employee Engagement– It is important that employers take into account the needs of individuals when assessing their lighting requirements. This should improve employee comfort and well-being. For example, some people may prefer to work with little artificial lighting or low levels of luminance; various lamps have adjustable fittings and controls that can accommodate these needs. If employees are complaining of eye strain, or feeling dizzy, investigation as to whether it is light related needs to be considered.

Housekeeping– Replace bulbs on a regular schedule by following manufacturer’s instructions, Clean light fixtures regularly. Dirt and dust on light fixtures reduces the amount of light given off. Paint walls and ceilings light colors so light can be reflected. Use more reflected light and local lighting to eliminate shadows. Do not position work station with light fixture directly behind the worker. Add more fixtures where needed. Determine Flicker rate of the bulbs and try to purchase the most suitable lights. For additional information, Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety has the following useful links: Lighting Checklist https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/ergonomics/lighting_checklist.html , Light Flicker Fact Sheet http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/ergonomics/lighting_flicker.html and a chart showing recommended light levels along with ways to assess lighting issues http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/ergonomics/lighting_survey.html