How lighting can affect workers

Lighting is something that is typically taken for granted. Further, most people probably give even less thought to the kind of lighting that they are subject to at work, at home and outdoors. Yet, the kind of lighting can have a great impact on our overall health and well-being.

Engineering Technology Professors William Mills, Ph.D. and Kevin Martin, Ph.D., along with co-researcher Justin Cathey studied lighting and published their findings in an article entitled “Light and Lighting for OSH Professionals” in the July 2020 issue of Professional Safety, the American Society of Safety Professionals’ journal that reviews the latest trends in safety management and injury prevention.

Their research focused primarily on LED lighting in the workplace, and its effects on humans. LED lighting has become increasingly popular for its low energy use and low cost.

“Lighting was of interest because it bridges the health and safety ( blue light hazard, circadian rhythm disruption, productivity) and environmental (light pollution and energy efficiency),” said Professor Mills. “There was a growing body of medical and psychological literature showing impacts, at the same time as there was the increasing adoption of LED lighting, with the potential at least, for negative and positive impacts.”

They found that lighting affects productivity, well-being, and alertness in workers. One of their research conclusions encourages employers to use dynamic lighting systems that can change the LED spectrum based on many factors including the needs of the workers. For example, to help night-shift workers stay awake during their shift, the lighting would switch to a blue light spectrum that mimics daylight. The study also looked at how the effects of bad lighting, such as glaring or flickering, can cause headaches and fatigue.

Martin said the outcome of the paper was to inform safety professionals that traditional light measurement metrics are not sufficient to assess today’s luminaries. He added, “the impacts from light can be very specific to the environment and circumstances where the artificial light is used.”

As early as their freshman year, CEET students have the opportunity to work on research such as this one conducted by the Department of Engineering Technology’s Building Energy Efficiency, Ergonomics and Management (BEEEAM) Laboratory at Still Gym.

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