Here we extol the virtues of a properly lit workplace, citing the many benefits plus the pitfalls of getting it wrong.

It’s hard to overestimate the importance of good lighting in the work place. Insufficient lighting has long been linked to a variety of problems, such as eye strain, headaches, increased human-error and reductions in mental alertness and productivity. All of which can obviously have a markedly negative impact on business and as well as the aforementioned specific issues, it’s easy to see why there’s also a direct correlation between poor lighting and a general lack of staff morale.

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In the vast majority of environments, whether at home or in the workplace, brain and eye functions respond better to natural light, so it stands to reason that people will both feel and perform better under these conditions. Lighting affects an employee’s subjective impression of their working environment, which in turn has an effect on their job satisfaction, behaviour and performance.

Energy levels under increased natural light

On an individual level, it’s widely held that many workers, both white and blue collar, experience a decline in energy levels that starts after lunchtime and typically lasts until mid-afternoon. To counter this, one of the best ways to circumvent the ‘Great British afternoon energy crash’ and preserve steady productivity levels throughout the day, is to make sure as many employees as possible have a naturally lit environment to work in. If it’s a warehouse, then this means an sufficient number of well maintained, high-quality skylights, such as the glass-reinforced polyester resin (GRP) roof lights supplied by JRB Roofing.

Responsibility of employers

As well as psychological and safety issues, bad lighting may also cause employees to assume awkward body postures, which may contribute to the development of potentially serious cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs) including carpal tunnel syndrome, and no employer wants to be in a position where they could be help culpable for such problems in their workforce. Whilst there are no statutory workplace lighting levels in the UK, Regulation 8 of the Workplace Health, Safety and Welfare (WHSW) Regulations requires that: “Every workplace shall have suitable and sufficient lighting.” Furthermore, the recently updated Document L of the Building Regulations now considers the primary benefits of natural light and how well installed and maintained skylights and roof windows can be very effective in this regard.

Links with Seasonal Affective Disorder

In the UK we are by now familiar with the acronym SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, a clinically diagnosed condition whereby the lack of sunlight in winter actually makes people ill, with a lack of sunlight and a problem with certain brain chemicals stopping the hypothalamus working properly. The lack of light is thought to affect the body’s circadian rhythm (the body’s internal clock, which regulates biological processes over a 24-hour period). Natural light helps people to feel better as well as aiding the healing process and in hospitals, studies have shown that the patients’ recovery is accelerated when levels of natural light are increased. Subsyndromal Seasonal Affective Disorder (a milder form) can be apparent in people outside of winter, especially where workers are forced to work in windowless environments or places with very little natural light for extended periods.

Economic benefits of natural rooflights

If you’re the proprietor of business that utilises warehouses, natural roof lighting could save you a considerable amount on your overall lighting costs. Increasing energy bills are not just the bane of households in 2014 – businesses are also feeling the bite, and anything that can be done to reduce costs (especially when it can also boost the bottom line through increased productivity) should be thoroughly explored. Installing skylights or updating old, discoloured ones can be combined with replacing essential lamps with lights that have a lower lumen output to reduce energy costs further. A considered ‘audit’ of your business property’s entire lighting infrastructure may also highlight areas where there is actually too much lighting and unnecessary lamps that can simply be removed, cutting costs and reducing the carbon footprint of your business.

After dark

As well as contributing to problems of workforce morale and long-term health problems, in industrial settings, the problems associated with lack of sufficient light can be more immediate and more costly, and once the sun goes down, roof lights obviously cease to be of any benefit. In 2008, hauliers Harris Transport received fines and legal costs of more than 42,000 after a worker was left permanently disabled when a forklift truck ran over his legs in a dark transport yard. The HSE inspector assigned to the case stated that the main contributing factor to the accident was insufficient lighting. HSE guidance suggests a general light level for loading bays of 50 lux and no lower than 20 lux (to give you a frame of reference, daylight without direct sun typically measures between 10,000 lux and 25,000 lux).

Poor lighting is a causative factor in many industrial accidents; warehousing in particular. The advice from the HSE is to read HSG 38, get a reliable light meter and measure levels, then, using the information from HSG 38, determine what you action you should take in each of your different working areas at different times of day. Our advice at JDB Roofing: don’t just aim for the bare minimum – best practice should always be to try and exceed requirements to create a safe and productive working environment.

Using the latest installation techniques and selected materials, our experienced contractors at JDB Roofing can boost the natural light in your building, eliminate glare and cut your energy bills by replacing or remedying discoloured and damaged roof lights. If you’re looking to resolve your roof light issues, contact JDB today on 01536 416537 to discuss your requirements and request a free site survey and quotation.