By : Shahana Raza (M.phil OHS)
Office managers and company officials of assorted ranks are often faced with making decisions regarding lighting in the office space. Lots of opinions are bounced around, but frequently decisions are made based on misinformation or even just someone’s opinions because he or she happens to be the one in charge. In light of recent events in this author’s experience, reasons were given for imposing a policy that insisted all lights in the office be turned on that included OSHA as a primary justification, and that “bright lights will make everyone happier and more productive.” This decision was obviously meant to be in the best interest of the company, but it met with many complaints, and even a few instances of very intense emotional opposition.
One person was so upset she didn’t even come to work the next day. Some people were happy with the decision and even called those who favor a much darker workspace “cave dwellers.” It seems very likely many companies have had lighting issues with their personnel about which decisions are made with the justification of OSHA regulations and improved productivity beneath brighter lights. What follows is an analysis of these two concepts compiled after careful reading from numerous academic, governmental and industry sources including a detailed lighting experiment carried out by the Light Right Consortium, managed by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and contracted by the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lighting Research Center and the National Research Council of Canada Institute for Research in Construction (NRC-IRC), along with several other academic inquiries involved with lighting, its effects on productivity, psychology and mood. In addition, the actual documentation from OSHA has been carefully reviewed. The findings of this research have come to the following three conclusions: 1) OSHA does have a minimum standard for office environment and lowers it even further for workstations. 2) There is no uniform lighting level to optimize productivity, and while lighting levels do correspond to individual productivity, they do so on a highly variable and individual basis. 3) Non-daylight lighting can have negative impacts on business in three key areas including emotional/psychological issues involved with human neuro-biology and physiology; financial implications due to heat generation as well as energy consumption and environmental factors; and productivity/profit. OSHA on Office and Workplace Lighting to begin, OSHA has set forth a standard of thirty (30) foot-candles as a minimum lighting requirement for “office” space (United States, Illumination)
Other Benefits of Lighting the Workplace Right Positive impact on the satisfaction and mood of workers is not only advantageous to the workers. The organization benefits as well. Offices wherein lighting is not perceived as being unfavorable by workers are more productive; have higher levels of customer satisfaction from their clientele; and have less employee turnover. This reduction in turnover and improved productivity is not the only benefit of workers being satisfied that an organization will enjoy.
Now it is not the intent of this article to propose investment in lighting controls for all companies, but it is the intent of the document to suggest that mandatory maximum lighting may not be in the interest of maximum productivity. The evidence supports allowing individuals to control their light-spaces as much as possible to accommodate the highly divergent nature of personal preference, which translates to individual productivity. . According to OSHA, “A standard florescent light fixture on a nine-foot ceiling with four, 40-watt bulbs will produce approximately 50 foot-candles of light at the desktop level”