A Guest Post by Megan Ray Nichols
Despite advancements in industrial safety technology and new regulations, accidents remain a big problem for the American industry. In 2018, there were nearly 3 million reported workplace injuries, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
At the same time, industrial regulators agree that good lighting can make workplaces safer. OSHA regulates industrial lighting, and poor lighting has been identified as a potential safety hazard by a few different regulatory bodies, like the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.
As a result, adequate lighting systems remain extremely important for workplaces that want to keep their employees safe.
Here are some of the safety benefits of adequate lighting, and how you can tell whether or not your workplace has the right lighting setup.
How Lighting Can Improve Safety in Industrial Workplaces
Poor lighting — which can be too dim, too bright or inconsistent — can make factory floors harder to navigate. It can increase the difficulty of operating complex or dangerous machinery, put workers at greater risk of accidents or collisions, and make it difficult to perform any kind of work that requires sustained attention to detail. Over time, lighting that is too dim or too intense can also tire out workers’ eyes more quickly, leading to eye strain, headaches, and short-term vision difficulties.
Even if the lighting doesn’t seem like it could have that much of an impact on workplace safety, many studies have established that even modest improvements can significantly reduce the risk of injury.
For example, one study found that having the right lighting in place can significantly reduce workplace injuries. The study also found that quality lighting can also provide other benefits for factory and warehouse managers, like boosted productivity, along with improved employee attentiveness and health.
These findings are backed up by just about every piece of research on industrial lighting. A review of the literature written on proper workplace lighting found that, in general, it reduced accidents, improved worker accuracy and boosted employee morale. The report also found that the costs of installing new lighting were often less than what employers were already paying as a result of inadequate illumination.
If you are unsure whether or not your current lighting system is the right fit for your workplace, there are a few different ways to estimate its effectiveness.
Simple methods of investigation can reveal a lot about lighting conditions. Consider asking workers whether or not they experience eye strain, must squint to see in certain areas or if they’ve ever been forced to work by touch instead of sight due to lack of lighting. You can also look for shadows, especially if they fall over heavy-traffic walkways or workspaces.
If possible, you should investigate as much of your workplace as possible. Just because the lighting is effective in one part of a factory or warehouse doesn’t mean it’s adequate throughout the site.
It’s also possible to measure the illumination in a workplace using a light meter and compare current levels to industrial lighting recommendations.
Safety Advantages of LED Lighting
Certain light types — like LED lights — can also provide lighting that’s safer in certain situations.
LED lights can provide stronger and more consistent lighting using the same amount of energy as a dimmer fluorescent bulb. This can be especially beneficial for workers who need to perform tasks that require visual precision over a long period, like quality assurance work on extremely small parts or hand alterations to minuscule and sensitive electronic components.
However, LED lights do have some disadvantages that will need to be considered if you want to use them for safe industrial lighting. Because LEDs contain sensitive electronics, they can be more vulnerable to damage from power surges and dirty power — subtle variations in energy flow that is not uncommon in industrial workplaces.
As a result, factory managers who install LED lights will also likely need to source some kind of power surge protector for their LED lights, like ballasts. These products control, regulate and stabilize the bulb’s output. You should also consider other surge protection devices, which use protective components like metal oxide varistors (or MOVs) to suppress fluctuations in voltage and prevent surge-related damage.
Even considering this disadvantage, the benefits of LED lighting — lower costs and better illumination with less energy — can easily make them a safer alternative in the right situation.
Adequate Lighting Can Make Industrial Workplaces Safer
Workplace safety has advanced significantly over the past few decades. However, inadequate lighting is still causing injuries in American workplaces. Luckily, it’s possible to identify lighting issues and invest in systems that improve worker safety. These systems also provide several benefits for employers — like increased employee productivity and less downtime.
Depending on a given worksite’s needs, certain lighting types — like LEDs — may be more cost-effective and generally a better lighting solution. Once you determine where improvements can be made, you can make the switch and reap the benefits.