How to fight the scourge of on-the-job injury? A number of established methods exist, from educating workers, to financially rewarding smart safety behavior, to furnishing workers with the right personal protective equipment.
Technology can also play a role—including digital and connected lighting technology. That doesn’t mean LED lighting alone, as important as it can be. It also means the smart lighting applications that go far beyond LED tech to function as platforms for the connected, data-generating, sensor-based technologies known collectively as the Internet of Things (IoT).
On the most basic level, LED tech simply provides better light than do the high-pressure sodium (HPS) fixtures that have traditionally been standard in industrial applications. HPS lamps are generally characterized by color rendering index (CRI) under 30, which accounts for their amber-tinged light—a light that not only flattens perspective but also can make it harder than it should be for workers to distinguish between different colors. But distinguishing between colors can be important in an industrial setting. Tools and equipment controls are often color-coded, as are electrical wires. Color plays a role in security-related signage and floor markings, too. LED luminaires, typically with CRI of 80 and above, provide a brightness and clarity that can save lives.
In the future, industry workplace designers might look to adapt recent advancements that have been made in human-centric lighting (HCL) for office spaces. HCL is lighting that not only maximizes vision but also supports effectiveness, health, comfort, and general well-being. Traditional lighting can itself be “human-centric,” but tunable LED makes it that much more effective and easy to deploy. Office workspace managers can program an LED lighting system so that it emits higher levels of the blue light that promotes alertness and wakefulness. They can run evidence-based light “recipes” that promote healthy circadian rhythms among workers, with the interior light spectrum transitioning throughout the day. In this way, HCL may promote better sleep patterns among workers, rendering them more alert when they’re on the job and happier in general.
LED lighting can also make life easier, and safer, for individual employees. Brighter light can be precisely targeted to the discrete workspace of an older employee whose vision might not be as strong as it once was. Workers might even personally customize the lighting that their workspaces receive, making those spaces maximally comfortable—and safer. Precision tasks could call for a different lighting treatment than non-specialized tasks do.
LED light promotes safety, too, by the mere fact of its being “instantly on.” An LED system blazes into full life as soon as you hit the “on” switch. By contrast, the high-pressure sodium lighting systems that used to represent the industrial standard can take minutes to reach full power. Accidents can happen as such systems gear up.