Dealing With Light Sensitivity Issues In The Workplace

  • Occupational Health
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“I have an employee who complains about being light sensitive. Is there anything we need to do for this employee, what provisions do we need to take?”

All artificial lighting is in fact non-ionising optical radiation and should comply with the Artificial Optical Radiations Regulations 2010. The regulations define safe exposure to such sources of artificial light in a series of complicated equations which relate to the power of the light source, distance from that source and the length of exposure. For general workplace lighting where nothing is out of the ordinary the good news is that exposure will be with in safe limits.

Health and safety implication only arise when the light source is very close to an individual and is out of the ordinary. Ultra violet lighting used to cure paints and in printing, intense pulsed light sources used in therapeutic treatments, high powered projection lamps and floodlights are particular examples but work in very close proximity to any light source for prolonged periods of time could be hazardous.

People who work at and use display screens on a regular basis can be affected by glare either from sunlight or from artificial lighting. In such cases it is the employer’s responsibility to take action to eliminate the glare. This can be achieved by adjusting or moving the screen until it becomes glare free. Sometimes it may be necessary to move a workstation to avoid glare from very strong sunlight.

Occasionally macular degeneration can lead to some employees becoming particularly sensitive to light, sometimes finding it difficult to work in a normally lit office. This is a disability issue rather than a health and safety problem. It is an issue that can usually be resolved with a little understanding, good-will and co-operation.

If bright sunlight is in issue a change of workstation, moving the employee away from direct sunlight, may be the simplest of solutions. Alternatively the provision of blinds or fitting solar shading film to the windows may help.

Sometimes an employee works directly under a light fitting. While light levels generally may not be excessive a small reduction in the output from that fitting may be all that is needed to resolve the problem.

Where the employee works at a display screen some relief might be found by paying very close attention (over and above that normally applied) to the adjustment of the workstation itself and both the intensity and contrast of the screen. Regular breaks on other work that does not involve use of the screen may also help.

None of these solutions have to be stand alone; they can be applied in combination. Should problems continue after these solutions have been tried you will need to take further advice from your occupational health adviser and act accordingly.

For any further information please call our 24 Hour Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.

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