Philips Lighting has issued a challenge to the regulatory bodies that specify light levels for various commercial-workplace scenarios to reconsider specifications given the broad age range in the workforce. In office scenarios, for instance, Philips said the 500-lx (50-fc) level that’s typically specified for office task lighting is insufficient for workers of age 45 and above. Moreover, Philips has released a widget using Facebook that allows office workers to test the light level in their own office setting.
Philips specifically targeted the European market in the light-level initiative, but the message is easily applicable to North American and other regions. The company said that 500 lx is specified for office workers typing and reading documents by the European lighting standard — EN12464-1:2011: “Light and lighting – Lighting of work places – Part 1: Indoor work places.” The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends 50 fc or even 75 fc for workers using LCDs in its own lighting standards.
The levels mentioned above may be sufficient for younger workers, but not for older workers. Philips noted research that documents a deterioration of near-sight vision that typically begins at age 45. The company said that a 45-year-old worker may need almost double the light level of a 20-year-old. And a 60-year-old may need five times as much light.
“People often call off sick due to headaches and fatigue. These symptoms may have many underlying causes but perhaps one of these could be the result of prolonged eye-strain due to poor lighting conditions in their working lives,” said Dr. Bianca van der Zande, principal scientist at Philips Lighting. “Inadequate lighting can lead to visual discomfort, neck pain, headaches, fatigue, and perhaps eventually sick leave.”
Realize, however, that Philips isn’t suggesting that regulatory bodies increase recommended levels across the board. Doing so could needlessly waste energy. Instead, the company said employees need to be given the freedom to set light levels in their own workspaces.
Philips cites a study that it conducted in 2013 involving a desk lamp that allowed workers to set light levels and adjust color temperature for visual comfort. The study revealed that 90% of workers reported sharper vision and improved eye comfort.
The required range in office lighting can be significant, according to Philips. The company cited yet another lighting standards study indicating that 1000 lx was needed for tasks involving intense focus. But the same study indicates that workers in creative phases are more productive in low light levels. Individually-controlled light levels ensure that adjacent workers each can enjoy optimum conditions for the task at hand.
“Regulatory bodies should take these findings into account for the wellbeing and productivity of today’s workforce,” said van der Zande. “People spend 80-90% of their time indoors from which around 20% is spent at work, so the indoor environment determines to a large extent the comfort and wellbeing of the office employee, influencing their performance. It is important that human-centric lighting becomes a part of the regulatory standards, allowing architects and building designers to advise for the best solutions – not only for offices, but for all building environments.”
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