How poor lighting is putting your health at risk

How poor lighting is putting your health at risk

Steve Gardner, Managing Director of EcolightingUK, explains how bad lighting in the workplace can cost more than a hefty electricity bill.

The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) recorded an estimated 71,062 employee non-fatal injuries, as reported by employers in 2017/18.

The two biggest problems highlighted in the report for workplace injuries were slipping, tripping and falling, followed by handling, lifting and carrying.

There are many procedures employers are required to enforce in order to prevent accidents from happening, but bad lighting is often not acknowledged as a workplace hazard.

Ineffective lighting in the workplace is associated with a range of health issues from eye strain and posture to lethargy and attention problems.

However, in environments such as factories, warehouses and distribution centres, a dark or dimly lit facility can lead to injuries and even fatalities.

In busy warehouses, poor illumination can have serious consequences and should be treated as a significant health and safety issue, with many customers only contacting companies on the back of a serious health and safety branch.

It is important that employers regularly review lighting to highlight any light-related issues that may cause harm or injury.

Lighting hazards in the workplace are often the result of incorrect lighting design as companies often buy or lease an empty building where the lighting is just about adequate.

However, once obstacles like racking or machinery are installed, light levels will drop dramatically.

Ecolighting believes too many companies give very little thought to designing a lighting system and, as a result, end up with inadequate lighting that burns more energy than necessary.

When designing a lighting system – for a new building or as an upgrade within an existing facility – it is important to:

  • Design for a uniform level of lighting, preventing eye strain,
  • Use accurate reflectancy levels,
  • Design to levels equal to or above CIBSE guidelines,
  • Use a colour rendering that promotes the feeling of wellbeing and productivity,
  • Ensure adequate emergency lighting is designed for,
  • Position fixtures in relevant places, relative to activity and walkways,
  • Pay particular attention to hazardous areas,
  • Ensure the lighting is high enough to avoid collisions with workers/machinery.

There are currently no statutory workplace lighting levels in the UK.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations simply require that lighting at work is ‘suitable and sufficient’ and that, ‘where reasonably practicable’, workplaces are lit by natural light.

Guidelines for these levels can be found from CIBSE (Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers) and they have been generally adopted as best practice across the industry.

Employers have responsibilities for the health and safety of their workers and, since badly specified, sited or maintained lighting can lead to accidents as well as underperforming staff, workplace illumination should never be overlooked.

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