New regulations requiring employers to control the exposure of their workforce to artificial optical radiation recently came into force. The ‘Control of Artificial Optical Radiation at Work Regulations 2010’, which came into force at the end of April, implements the ‘EU Optical Radiation Directive of 2006’.
Put simply, the objective of the regulations is to protect workers from exposure to intense sources of artificial light.
The vast majority of light sources used in the workplace are intrinsically safe and will not be covered by the new regulations. Safe light sources include:
• All forms of ceiling-mounted lighting used in offices etc with diffusers over the bulb. These include compact fluorescent floodlighting, ceiling-mounted tungsten halogen spotlights and ceiling-mounted tungsten lamps.
• Compact fluorescent lamps and tungsten halogen lamps when situated at distances more than 60cm from the user.
• All forms of task lighting, including desk lamps.
• Computer or similar display equipment, including personal digital assistants.
• Photographic flash-lamps.
• Gas-fired overhead heaters.
• Vehicle indicator, brake reversing and fog lamps.
Some more intensive light sources could be a problem if they are in very close proximity to workers or stared at for long periods. These include:
• Ceiling-mounted fluorescent lighting without diffusers.
• High-pressure mercury floodlighting.
• Desktop projectors.
• Interactive whiteboard presentation equipment.
• Vehicle headlights.
• Non-laser medical applications such as: operating theatre and precision task lighting; diagnostic lighting such as foetal trans-illuminators and X-ray viewing boxes.
• Ultra violet insect traps.
• Art and entertainment applications such as spotlights, effect lights and flash-lamps.
• Any Class 1, 1M, 2, 2M & 3R laser devices not used in combination with magnifying aids. Examples include laser printers; CD/DVD recorders;
materials processing lasers; disconnected fibre-optic systems; bar code scanners; level and alignment devices in civil engineering and surveying; and laser pointers.
Our natural instinct is to look away from these intense light sources before becoming harmful and they are normally used at a safe distance from workers. If this is the case they will not have any effect on the health of workers and no additional action is required.
Intense and hazardous sources of light that the regulations are intended to cover include:
• Welding (both arc and oxy-fuel) and plasma cutting – mainly eye damage.
• Pharmaceutical and research activities where ultra violet fluorescence and sterilisation systems can cause skin burn.
• Hot industries where furnaces cause eye and skin damage.
• Ultra violet curing of inks in the printing industry.
• Ultra violet curing of paints during motor vehicle repairs.
• Laser surgery, blue light and ultra violet therapies in the medical and cosmetic treatment sector can lead to eye and skin damage.
• Class 3B and Class 4 lasers used in research and education which have the potential to cause permanent eye and skin damage.
• Manufacture and repair of equipment containing lasers that would otherwise be hidden.
These very intense lights pose a potential risk of harming eyes and skin. The hazard has long been recognised. Most employers who use these hazardous sources of optical radiation are already taking sensible control measures to protect their workers by preventing their exposure to the light source. This is usually achieved through the use of engineered measures such as remote controls, interlocked screens and covers, preventing close approach to the source and by clamping (rather than holding) work pieces. In some cases, where other measures are not reasonably practicable they resort to the use of personal protective equipment.
We will shortly be adding a detailed Guidance Note to our Health and Safety Management System which can be used by clients to check their compliance with these new regulations. In the meantime should you require advice or information contact our Health and Safety Advisers by phone on our 24 Hour Advice Service or by e-mail using the ‘Request Advice’ tabs in BusinessWise.
For more information on how the new regulations could affect your workplace, or for general health and safety advice call our Advice Line on 0844 892 2785
Artificial Optical Radiation BRIGHT LIGHTS
July 16 2010