COVID-19 has been the most acute workplace safety issue in recent history, but it's not the only one. Safety is crucial in industrial settings, and worker well-being has been an issue in industry for years before the health crisis descended in early 2020. Simply put, reducing the number and severity of accidents is among the most important responsibilities that warehouse management faces.
Lighting has a key role to play in safeguarding warehouse safety under normal operational conditions—day after day, month after month, year after year. Not incidentally, the attributes of lighting that promote safety also make workers more productive—and being productive in turn contributes to happiness and satisfaction of staff members.
The most obvious key attribute of lighting is sufficiency of illumination, but other important attributes include uniformity, which minimizes shadowing and potentially confusing variations in perceived brightness; a lack of glare or flicker, both of which can cause eye strain, headaches, and other ill effects after long exposure; and high color rendering, which is especially important in warehouses that use color-coding or other color-based schemes to organize inventory.
Boosting light levels by 200 lux (a little less than 19 fc) on the floor reduced accidents by 14% for one international logistics company. Another company cut accidents by 60% by deploying LED lighting that made hazards more visible. That same company also benefited from a 6% increase in task performance due to higher employee alertness.
These are some of the safety- and well-being-related advantages that a well-designed lighting system can deliver without even deploying smart capabilities, but smart, software-based controls make it that much easier to adjust light levels in areas where the data indicates an insufficient level of light. Additionally, historical data collected via a connected lighting system on both the illuminated space and the system operations themselves can give warehouse managers valuable information on how lighting correlates with performance and safety, providing the insight needed to make important improvements in operations and employee well-being.
Bio-adaptive, or circadian, lighting takes the well-being of workers one step further. Bio-adaptive lighting uses evidence-based lighting shows or “recipes” to support the proper functioning of the human circadian cycle—the innate biological “clock” that regulates the sleep/wake cycle and that has a profound effect on mood, alertness, relaxation, and other important elements of human health.
A bio-adaptive lighting system can be programmed to provide more blue light early in the morning or at the beginning of a shift, for example, to promote maximum alertness among workers. It can then scale down blue light levels as afternoon turns to evening or toward the end of a shift, helping to transition to a more restful state conducive to relaxation and a good night’s sleep.
Such bio-adaptive lighting has obvious applications in warehouse environments that receive no natural daylight, keeping workers attuned to circadian rhythms that are essential to high performance at work and sufficient rest at home. Smart lighting systems can also adapt to other conditions, supporting productivity and health in other ways.
For example, in a warehouse with skylighting or other natural light sources, a smart lighting system can use daylight sensors to boost light levels to compensate for cloud cover. Or it could provide different light levels or color temperatures for different types of tasks in different situations—to support workers in different age groups or differing physical capacities, for example.
Smart lighting systems can also automatically adjust to specific situations in the facility itself. A mostly empty warehouse aisle may require more light to illuminate its shadowy racks and bays than the aisle does when it is full of merchandise. A small detail, to be sure, but many such small details together can have a measurable effect on worker comfort and safety.