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January 03, 2017
Is something shady going on in your workplace? Proper lighting can fix that!

What if an inexpensive, simple fix could improve productivity, control ergonomic hazards, enhance security, and reduce accidental injuries in your workplace? Would you look into that? Here’s some good news: Proper workplace illumination can accomplish all of those things, and chances are, much of what you need is probably already present in your workplace.

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Practice Tip

If you’re replacing existing lighting with LED lighting, make sure your LEDs are compatible with dimmers and that the fixtures are well ventilated, as overheating can reduce their life span.

Making light work

Is a “quick visual inspection” difficult to do in your workplace? Do you squint at signs or stub your toes on the steps? The problem could be that you need new glasses, but it could also be that the lighting in your facility is inadequate in some places.

The right light can make your workplace safer and more productive by:

  • Making hazards visible. Workers are more likely to see obstructions and tripping hazards and avoid collisions and falls when light levels are adequate. In addition, in an area such as a warehouse where bright light isn’t usually considered necessary, higher light levels can improve workers’ ability to perform tasks like equipment inspections or reading labels, thereby enhancing safety and productivity.

  • Improving alertness. Studies have shown that workers on third shift are more alert under bright lighting than dim, and alertness can reduce accidents, which are more likely to occur on third shift. You may need to provide more lighting for them than for workers on first or second shift.

  • Improving security. High quality security lighting can reduce the possibility of assault and reduce theft and vandalism.

  • Reducing eyestrain. For tasks requiring attention to detail, bright lighting is a must. Without it, workers will experience headaches, nausea, and other symptoms of eyestrain. The right lighting for this type of task also takes glare into account; glare, along with insufficient illumination, is a culprit in eyestrain.

  • Controlling physical hazards. In a flammable atmosphere, the wrong lighting can be a fire hazard. In a damp atmosphere, the wrong lighting can be an electocution hazard. If you have to light up potentially dangerous environments, choose your lighting with care.

Brighten your corners

To improve the lighting at your facility, you don’t necessarily need to install different fixtures or even different bulbs, although those are certainly among the options. Some simple, potentially lower cost options for improving lighting in your workplace include:

  • Cleaning fixtures. The cost is negligible, and the benefits can be enormous. Just cleaning your light fixtures can improve the light output from your existing bulbs.

  • Painting the walls and ceiling. Light-colored paint will reflect the light from your existing fixtures, improving illumination. Consider whether a lighter color on machinery and work surfaces could also improve overall visibility and illumination.

  • Letting the sun shine in. Do you have windows in your workplace that have been painted over or walled off? Open them back up! Consider replacing some of your roofing panels with skylights. Natural light is one of the best lighting sources for humans.

  • Installing dimmers. After dark, bright artificial light can help workers stay alert. To reduce artificial light when natural light is available and increase artificial light after the sun goes down, consider installing dimmers or installing new light fixtures exclusively for use by third-shift employees.

  • Installing task lighting. Light that would be too bright for comfort—and too expensive for the budget—if you tried to provide it everywhere may be ideal if focused on a small area, such as a worker’s desk. Arrange task lighting based on the job being performed:
    • Backlighting sets an object off from the background.
    • Overhead lighting that hits an object at an angle reveals detail and texture.
    • Front lighting that hits an object directly reveals details but can conceal texture.

  • Reducing shadows and glare. Blinds or curtains enable workers to control glare from windows. Flexible arms on task lights permit them to be moved so they provide the best light with the least glare. Matte paints in the workplace will allow light to be reflected but minimize glare.

  • Using motion sensors. For security purposes, the “right” lighting doesn’t always mean light that’s uniformly bright. In some applications, motion-sensing security lighting may be the better option. Make sure your security lighting is designed to address the specific security issues of your workplace.
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