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Making Light Of Poor Light At Work – It’s Not So Bright!

17th December 2013
A flickering fluorescent tube, light bulb missing or fixture broken. There is always likely to be one office, warehouse / workshop space, corridor or stairwell in a business premises with one or more of the above faults. Often left for weeks or even months at a time, everyone might just ignore what is considered little more than an irritation - until an accident takes place, which could lead to a claim for injury compensation.

The issue of sufficient lighting in the workplace is subject to the Management of Health and Safety at Work 1992 (MHSW) regulations, which requires employers to have arrangements in place to cover health and safety, including suitable and adequate lighting to meet the requirements of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), "Good lighting is needed so that obstructions and stairs can be seen," and that problems in the workplace could be caused by "dim light, shadow" and "flickering light". Inadequate illumination of large warehouse spaces is not uncommon with reduced visibility in corner areas, for example, and the ever-present likelihood of accidents occurring during loading /unloading procedures, using forklifts, etc

Poor lighting design is often exemplified by a generalised lighting scheme unsupported by localised lighting where required in specific locations.

Yet the presence of poor or incorrect lighting is also associated with ill-health effects, including not only eye strain, headaches or fatigue but also postural problems and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Increasingly, more people are working longer hours in office or warehouse environments illuminated by artificial lighting.

Medical research has found growing evidence that too little natural light is exerting negative effects on the body's natural rhythms, reducing alertness and contributing to depressive conditions such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Even new and refurbished buildings have been linked to “Sick Building Syndrome” with symptoms including headaches, lethargy, irritability and poor concentration.

Any statutory Risk Assessment of lighting adequacy must also take into account visual disturbance, such as:

• Uneven lighting across ceiling and walls
• Excessive illumination hotspots
• Intrusive reflected light
• Reduced contrast due to veiled reflections
• Strong shadows
• Flicker