Many variables must be considered when establishing a productive, safe and comfortable workplace. One of them is lighting. For those who work in assembly, fastening and inspection, good workplace lighting is critical for individual safety and productivity. Many people simply adjust their work posture to the available lighting. Unfortunately, this offers only temporary relief from eyestrain, fatigue, headaches and back pain, all of which ultimately affect productivity.
Proper workplace lighting also benefits the employer. Poor illumination results in production downtime, delays and reduced quality. To avoid these setbacks, regard workplace lighting as a long-term investment that will pay for itself in greater employee productivity and morale.
Lighting problems and properties
Consider these five variables when determining proper illumination: glare, contrast, uniformity of illuminance, positioning and color rendering. Each has a direct effect on the work environment.
Glare is any uncomfortable bright light that appears within an individual’s field of vision. To compensate for it, employees often change their positions or shift the work piece.
Contrast is the relationship between the luminance within a work area and the background lighting. Higher contrast generally results in better visibility; however, too much contrast can cause glare. Back and forth glances from a lit workstation to surroundings of higher or lower luminance cause eye fatigue. If there is a significant difference in brightness, eyes take a moment to re-adjust and vision is affected.
Uniformity of illuminance is the consistency of lighting within the immediate work area. Inadequately and brightly lit areas cause visual discomfort when eyes frequently shift between them.
If done incorrectly, lighting position results in many problems, including glare. If incorrect bulb wattage or an inflexible lamp is used, the work area does not receive adequate illumination, which can cause eyestrain and back fatigue.
The Color-rendering index (CRI) is often used to indicate the relative ability of a light source to reflect colors accurately. In daylight, colors are perceived as being natural; however, light sources such as fluorescent and halogen produce different results in perceived color. CRI is based on a scale of 0 to100 and, for workplace areas, a CRI of 65 or above is recommended.
Achieving a balance between these lighting factors requires careful planning. Examine the work environment and analyze the specific tasks being performed to ensure the best light source is selected.
Several options are available for workplace illumination. However, the most frequently used and most effective option uses both fluorescent and halogen lighting.
Fluorescent lighting is used in workplaces because of its illuminating power and energy efficiency. Fluorescent tubes have a high output with minimal heat generation. Fluorescent lighting can illuminate large areas and is effective for ambient, overhead light. Another key benefit that it is flicker free, allowing employees to work many hours without suffering from eye strain or loss of concentration. The average lifetime of a fluorescent light is approximately 10,000 hours and, because it is a large bulb, it offers an even light path. Fluorescent bulbs last 10 times longer than the older, less reliable incandescent lighting, making them ideal for use as a workplace overhead light.
In addition to quality overhead lighting, workplaces also need efficient direct lighting for employees. The lighting combination should be appropriate for the entire workspace, as well as accommodate specific tasks.
For applications requiring light in concentrated areas such as task or inspection, individual halogen lamps are generally the most effective because of their ability to generate significant illumination from a small source. In addition, halogen produces near-daylight color rendition. It offers double the intensity of alternative illumination options such as incandescent or glow light, with greater efficiency at a lower cost. When comparing halogen with the old glow wire, it offers approximately double the lighting efficiency. Halogen lamps produce less heat than other systems, which reduces the energy consumed cooling the building. Halogen lighting is effective for applications in which space constraints are a factor because even small halogen lamps produce bright and efficient light.
While a fluorescent and halogen system is the most effective for ergonomics and productivity, it’s also important to consider lights that can be re-positioned to accommodate different requirements. It is crucial to have lighting that is easily adjustable, particularly if many people share the same workspace.
When choosing lighting, also consider the quality of the fixture. The fixtures used for assembly areas should be durable and rugged, with arms that can maintain a steady position despite frequent adjustments.
Achieving the right lighting balance can be difficult and requires serious attention. However, once achieved, proper lighting will improve safety and production and make for a better work environment for both employees and employers. In the workplace, employees and the company both gain from seeing things in the best possible light.
Patricia Morrison is a product manager at Sunnex. She can be reached at 800-445-7869.