Modern factories—with their often-automated machinery, forklifts moving materials to necessary stations and loud mechanical noise levels that often prevent vocal warnings—are among the most potentially injurious places to work. According to a standard text on the topic, “Industrial Safety & Environment” by Amit Gupta, factory lighting is the single most important environmental variable effecting employees’ safety, comfort, satisfaction, efficiency and productivity.
Minimum OSHA Illumination Requirements in Machine Shops & Assembly Areas
Indeed, lighting in such industrial areas is so important as to be regulated by the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA). The organization mandates minimum levels of lighting in areas depending upon the complexity of bench and machine work in the area. Simple or rough assembly requires 20 to 50 foot-candles of illumination, moderate bench work needs 50 to 100 foot-candles, difficulty assembly work demands 100 to 200 foot-candles of lighting while very fine precision bench work requires 200 to 500 foot-candles to safely and properly perform the job.
Types of Illumination
There are three major types of lighting required by OSHA to be available in the workplace. These include:
· General Lighting
Although experts in the field report that natural light is less stressful to the eye, it’s not an option for factories usually constructed over a large area that precludes natural light from reaching the interior of the workspace. Even if skylights are provided in a one-story factory to provide natural illumination, weather conditions can’t be controlled to ensure that the minimum degree of illumination required by OSHA is required.
For the typical factory, general lighting is that illumination provided by evenly spaced overhead light fixtures attached to the ceilings. Usually fluorescent, this lighting provides a consistent degree of illumination that can be measured by a light meter to ensure compliance with governmental regulations. The care and maintenance of this equipment is usually the responsibility of the plant maintenance department due to the equipment necessary to reach the lighting equipment.
· Task Lighting
Task lighting is illumination provided to spotlight aspects of workers’ specific job functions and is the most important type of lighting in terms of safety and injury prevention. This type of illumination can be provided by a number of different lamps, often attached to workbenches and moveable to allow employees to specifically adjust the light to their needs. Because of the strong association between adequate task lighting and injury prevention, replacement bulbs for these types of lamps or moveable bench lights need to be readily accessible to workers or floor supervisors in the event that a bulb expires during a worker’s shift.
· Emergency Lighting
Emergency lighting refers to illumination devices designed to turn on automatically in the event of a power failure or other emergency where workers’ vision can be challenged. These lights consist of illuminated emergency doors and may include lights along evacuation routes to the emergency doors.
Other Benefits to Proper Lighting
Benefits to the factory owner from provision of adequate lighting include fewer injuries, fewer loss days due to injury and increased productivity. The degree of improved efficiency and safety combined with the greater production output is said to offset the cost of providing proper illumination throughout the facility.
Sent by Maire Hunter.