Human beings have a great capacity to adapt to different lighting qualities, but a deficiency in workplace lighting can cause errors and accidents due to lack of visibility and glare, in addition to causing the appearance of fatigue and visual disturbances. At UNIR, we address the importance of correct lighting at work , what we must take into account and what are the appropriate lighting levels.
Lighting conditioning according to each job is important, carrying out an analysis of the characteristics that the different systems must have, adapting the tasks to be carried out and taking individual characteristics into account . The illuminance or lighting level is defined as the luminous flux that falls on a surface and its unit of measurement is the lux.
The lighting regulations in offices and workplaces in Spain are determined by Royal Decree 486/1997 , of April 14, 1997. This legislation refers to the minimum levels of lighting in workplaces, specifically in Annex IV of said regulations. The lighting levels must be distributed uniformly and minimum values are established that vary depending on the place and the visual demands of the tasks performed. On the other hand, the lighting characteristics must avoid sudden variations in illuminance in the area of operation.
Consequences of inadequate lighting at work
Inadequate lighting can cause numerous health risks for workers ; among them:
- Eye discomfort, heaviness in the eyes and visual disturbances.
- Mental fatigue.
- Muscle fatigue from holding awkward postures.
- Headaches, dizziness and anxiety.
- Mood effects, such as lack of concentration, productivity, low attention and discouragement.
In order to prevent these problems, it is important to adopt preventive measures:
- Increase natural light if possible, since it has better qualities than artificial light.
- Use light colors for walls and ceilings when a higher level of lighting is required.
- Lighting stairs, walkways, ramps, corridors and common areas.
- Eliminate shiny surfaces, direct glare, and prevent sunlight from shining directly onto work surfaces.
- Use artificial lighting when natural lighting is not possible and to supplement the insufficient lighting level provided by daylight.
- Carry out periodic maintenance of the luminaires: cleaning them and replacing the lamps out of service.
- Use blinds, blinds, curtains or awnings designed to control direct solar radiation.
What are the proper light levels?
To develop a work activity in optimal health conditions, it is necessary to take into account both light and vision, but how do you know what those levels are to determine if they are deficient or not? One of the most accurate methods to do this is by using a light meter. It is an instrument to measure the actual lighting level of an environment (sometimes the subjective perception does not correspond to reality). The luxmeter measures the intensity of light by luxes (lx), the unit derived from the International System of Units for illuminance or illumination level.
Of course, there is no universal lighting level, but this level will depend on the type of room and work . Thus, for example, the minimum levels of artificial lighting are reflected in the Technical Guide for Energy Efficiency in Office Lighting of the Spanish Lighting Committee (CEI), which recommends, in the case of general lighting, that the average minimum illuminance ratio should be greater than 0.8, only in the area concerning the task. In the cases of localized general lighting or local general lighting, the average illuminance level in the areas where work is carried out can be 50% of the level of the work areas, with a minimum value of around 350 lux.
The minimum levels of lighting in workplaces are included in the section ‘Lighting in workplaces’ of Annex IV of the Royal Decree mentioned above.
Depending on the job:
- Posts with low visual demands: 100 lux minimum.
- Posts with moderate visual demands: 200 lux minimum.
- Stations with high visual demands: 500 lux minimum.
- Posts with very high visual demands: 1,000 lux minimum.
In conclusion, lighting is a key element at work, since it directly affects our activity, performance and health. Adequate lighting conditions will reduce accidents, discomfort and health problems for workers.