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What can I do as an employer?

Workplace Lighting

Workplace sleepiness is a known risk factor for accidents and injuries, at any time of day but particularly during the night shift. On-the-job sleepiness also reduces productivity.

We can use better lighting to optimise its alerting effects and improve the alertness, safety and productivity of the workforce. As an added bonus, we can also take advantage of more modern energy-efficient lighting to reduce energy costs - about a quarter of which are due to lighting. Recent scientific and technological advances now make this combination possible.

So what can you actually do?

The simple answer is to change the light globes. But, here are the reasons why.

The simple answer is to change the light globes. But, here are the reasons why.

Increase the intensity of workplace lighting

Often, intensity can be increased simply by using more efficient light bulbs which emit more light per unit energy – your facilities staff or lighting consultants can help decide how best to do that.

Increase the blue-content of workplace lighting

A first step to changing the blue-content of the light can be quite straightforward. While not the most accurate way to assess the blue-content of light, the Correlated Colour Temperature (CCT) of the light in Kelvins (K) is a useful measure. You can find this information in the globe specifications, or on the box that the globe comes in. In general, higher CCT white light (e.g. 5,000-6,500K) will emit more blue wavelengths than lower CCT light (e.g. 2,700-4,000K). When replacing your lights, choose a higher CCT light for the workplace to provide a greater alerting response. If you switch from fluorescent lights to LED lights as well you can achieve both improved alertness and substantial energy savings all in one go.

Bring in the experts

Not all blue-enriched white lights are the same. The goal is to increase the amount of blue light in a specific part of the blue light spectrum, but most standard higher CCT lights increase in a slightly different part of that spectrum and will not give you the biggest impact possible on alertness, safety and productivity. A lighting designer can review the Spectral Power Distribution. They can also more formally evaluate way in which the human eye will respond by calculating the ‘melanopic lux’ of the light - a higher melanopic lux will have a greater alerting effect. This can provide a very accurate assessment of the alerting effects of the proposed design.

For those in the know, there is a free toolbox to calculate this number, available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4699304/.

Please note that all of the above advice applies to white light only – we would not suggest the use of coloured light at work, as visual function would be impaired.

Need an expert?

Next time your plan a lighting change, the CRC for Alertness, Safety and Productivity, along with its expert lighting partners, can work with you and your facilities departmentyour organisation or lighting designers to work out which lights will deliver the best alertness and best energy efficiency for your environment.