The indispensable desklamp

According to Jan Glenvig, Chief Consultant at ArbejdsmiljøCentret, it's a mistake to get rid of task lights in the workplace.

Jan Glenvig is a chief consultant at ArbejdsmiljøCentret, which is one of the three largest authorised working environment advisory firms in Denmark. Glenvig has worked professionally with working environment issues, including lighting, for over 30 years. His task is to enhance lighting in Danish workplaces. According to Glenvig, Danish workers still have a long way to go before they are working to the best of their ability. This is due to the lack of understanding in how light affects us during the working day, and vague interpretations of regulations for lighting in the workplace.

Chief Consultant at ArbeidsmiljøCentret, Jan Glenvig.

Lux requirements covered by ceiling lighting

As with most of the other EU countries, lighting in workplaces is comprehensively regulated by national regulations from the Danish Working Environment Authority (DWEA), building regulations and the Danish version of the EU standard EN 12464-1 "Lighting of indoor workplaces", which provides a detailed description of the minimum requirements for the amount of light necessary for different types of workplaces and for diverse tasks. When new office environments are set up, architects and lighting designers ensure that the ceiling lighting for the upcoming workplaces meets the regulations. New LED luminaires are highly effective in ensuring that light reaches all nooks and crannies of the premises. There is an increasing frequency that such a high level of illumination is employed on the work surface, that the requirement of 500 lux for writing, reading and data processing can be met by the use of ceiling lighting alone.

The need for personal lighting

So employees move in. They are bathed in light from the ceiling luminaires, but lack the opportunity to make personal lighting adjustments."Remember that the current lighting requirements only minimum requirements. When workplaces are sited in relation to the desired formation, and the office environment is fitted out with partition walls, shelves and art on the walls, lighting conditions in the workplace may change, with some loss of lighting. Therefore, it is crucial to include organisation of tasks and interior design plans in the planning of the lighting. At the same time it is a fact that workers are getting older and are expected to keep working longer. A person like me who is in his fifties needs twice as much light as a twenty-year-old would to complete the same task," said Glenvig.With computer workstations a possible solution that is all too often overlooked, is the use of workplace lighting/desk lamps. The word(s) "workplace lighting” or "desk lamp” are not mentioned in the building regulations or in the DS / EN standard. Possibly that is exactly the reason why this form of lighting is not included in many new builds.

500 lux on the work surface is not enough. It is equally important to have lighting you can adjust yourself, especially as one grows older.

Cannot disregard task lights

"Many believe therefore that desktop lighting is no longer necessary, but if you delve deeper into the text and study the requirements, there's no getting away from the necessity of individually adjustable lighting on each desk or worktop. One should also keep in mind that ceiling lighting is mono-directional and can result in poorer contrast, disturbing shadows and irritating reflections in monitors, on work surfaces and within the field of vision if desk lamps are missing," said Glenvig. DWEA does not directly order the inclusion of desk lamps, but lends Glenvig credibility in that regardless of the lighting selected, it must be possible for the individual worker to adjust lighting conditions so that work can be carried out in a responsible manner with regard to safety, health and work position. In practice, this means the interpretation that there should be a desk lamp at all computer workstations is purely Glenvig's. DWEA does not wish to be as specific in its advice. "There are no specific working environment requirements for a task light, but I'm more than happy to help with setting up requirement specifications and always recommend a desk lamp with adjustable lighting. The light must be distributed asymmetrically, so that the work light falls precisely where it is needed without dazzling one's neighbour," said Glenvig. 

The working environment is also about lighting

However, correct lighting and lighting control isn't always sufficient. Both the environmental health officer and employees in general should be more concerned about lighting as an important part of their daily working environment."I've been in workplaces where the employees have worked for many years in an office landscape with inadequate lighting. The result was eyestrain, headaches and detrimental work positions. No one had figured out that ceiling lighting was dimmable and could be adjusted accordingly," said Glenvig."Unfortunately, all too often we see that desk lamps are used incorrectly. The vast majority do not relate to the lamps and very often we see that users don't know how the lamps work, or quite simply remove desk lamps because they are in the way," he added. 

Measures lighting and tests new lamps

When Glenvig visits businesses, often only a small percentage of workplaces have correct, well-functioning lighting. His approach then is to measure the lighting, and discuss possible solutions with the employees, and present a number of possible solutions. The solution is often a change in the placement of the workplace lighting or purchase of new lamps. In the latter instance, Glenvig finds products in the business' purchase agreements that can meet the requirements. Then the business is put in touch with a consultant from a lighting supplier, such as Glamox, who is always pleased to visit the client to demonstrate its products.Think lighting in the same way as temperature "Lighting has a tremendous impact on our working day and our needs change considerably in the course of a day and in the course of a professional life. At my own workplace, ArbeidsmijøCentret, we have for example luminaires in the ceiling that can easily be moved as needed. That creates a flexible, general lighting that can continually be adjusted according to changes in the furnishing layout. Sometimes we choose to work without ceiling lighting and perhaps instead have two task lights if we need a particular lighting scenario. This flexibility is important and provides some alternatives for adaptation that support the task and the working environment. Think for example how we adapt ourselves to the temperature in the course of a day. We can open a window; adjust the heating up and down, and put on more or have on less clothes. In a way this is how we should relate to lighting. Unfortunately, in far too many workplaces, one is forced to sit with the same intensity of light all day without the opportunity to make adjustments,” said Glenvig.