Optimize Lighting and Reduce Injuries in the Workplace

By Jeremy Bonino – AVP, Risk Control August 24th, 2023

In recent years, workplace lighting has received increasing attention in the field of ergonomics. During the August Captive Resources Risk Control Webinar, lighting expert Rodney Heller, managing partner of Energy Performance Lighting, explained that lighting can be a deciding factor in injury prevention. Heller showed attendees from group captive member-companies how to optimize their workplace lighting and maximize their employees’ physical and mental workday readiness — making them less accident-prone.

How Blue Light Impacts Worker Safety

Heller, who has 13 years of lighting ergonomics research experience, indicated that modern indoor lighting presents human physiological challenges. He pointed out that humans evolved under a blue sky’s full-color spectrum outdoors for thousands of years but now mainly live and work indoors. Fluorescent lighting in most work settings provides much less light from the blue spectrum — which is essential in setting our Circadian Rhythms, i.e., “body clocks” — compared with the amount sunlight emits naturally.

Heller described the characteristics of workers with out-of-sync Circadian Rhythms that result from factors including work environments with low blue light levels, which make them more likely to make errors or cause accidents:

  • Low alertness
  • Poor coordination
  • Depressed mood

The costs of a workforce with a largely out-of-sync Circadian Rhythm are substantial. According to studies Heller cited:

  • These workers have an increased risk of accidents and injuries.
  • The annual excess costs of non-optimized extended work hours operations in the United States from lost productivity, turnover, absenteeism, accidents, and medical care total nearly $390 billion (adjusted for inflation from a 2005 study).
  • Besides being potentially unsafe on the job, third-shift workers are a vulnerable population with increased sleep problems and a higher likelihood of health issues like obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Syncing Circadian Rhythms and Work Shifts

Fortunately, it’s possible to sync up the work environment with workers’ natural Circadian Rhythms and decrease the odds of accidents and injuries, Heller said. Employers can use lighting to achieve this. He recommended installing lights with a minimum 5,000 Kelvin (k) rating, with 6,500k optimal. The higher a light’s k rating, the more blue light it emits. For third-shift workers, such lighting adjustments turn “their day into ‘a day,’” he said.

He cited a couple of studies indicating that increasing blue light in work environments can help improve workers’ ability to perform at a high level:

  • According to a study in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health, more blue light increased alertness and performance; improved nocturnal sleep, positive mood, and concentration; and decreased irritability, eye discomfort, fatigue, and daytime sleepiness among workers.
  • A study in the Journal of Circadian Rhythms indicated that “high correlated color temperature office lighting” decreased fatigue by 26.9% and daytime sleepiness by 51% while improving vitality (28.4%), alertness (28.2%), work performance (19.4%), and mental health (13.9%).

About the Webinar

This presentation was part of Captive Resources’ Risk Control Webinar Series — regular installments of webinars to educate the group captive members we work with on topics like workplace safety, organizational leadership, and company performance. The thoughts and opinions expressed in these webinars are those of the presenters and do not necessarily reflect Captive Resources’ positions on any of the above topics.

Share this article