Some of the most significant threats to employee safety in the workplace – especially industrial and manufacturing workplaces – are as a result of a phenomenon called the stroboscopic effect.
The more traditional form of lighting used by British businesses – the fluorescent tube – has long been identified by employees as providing unsatisfactory internal lighting leading to a variety of different staff health and productivity issues. In addition, the way that fluorescent lights work (particularly their connection to alternating circuit electricity supplies) increases the severity of the stroboscopic effect as the lights near the end of their working lives.
In this article, Airius covers:
Our brains can only process movement or change at a particular speed. If there are competing levels of movement or change within our field of vision, our brains naturally smooth out the visual input we’re receiving.
For example, did you know that if you watch a 12-spoke car wheel turning at 24 revolutions per second on a standard British TV, it will appear to your eyes like the tyres are motionless? In other words, the car would be moving but the spokes on the tyre would appear like they were stationery.
This is a phenomenon known as the stroboscopic effect.
When you switch a fluorescent light on, electrical current passes through a gas-discharge lamp containing mercury vapour. The electrical current excites the mercury vapour within the tube resulting in the production of ultraviolet and short wave light.
In the UK, fluorescent tube lamps work from the 50Hz electrical supply provided by the National Grid. This means that the tubes are “switched on” 100 times a second. We can’t process 100 visual images within a second and this is why we don’t perceive the light as flickering.
There are two major health and safety issues connected to the 100 times a fluorescent tube light activations every second.
If workplace machinery or equipment is rotating above or below 100 times a second in the UK workplace, a staff member’s perception of the actual rotation of the machinery or equipment will be affect if their workspace is illuminated by alternating current fluorescent tubes.
Because your staff member is not able to accurate see the motion of the machine they’re operating, they’re in more danger of being injured by its moving parts.
Fluorescent lamp lighting may cause health issues for people suffering from light sensitivity, vertigo, Lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus, epilepsy, and autism.
As AC-powered fluorescent lamps age, their performance starts to worsen meaning that, if any of the lamps in your workplace deteriorate to a certain extent, that they can bring on epileptic seizures in staff.
Staff members’ dislike of fluorescent lighting within your premises is probably not a matter of personal judgement.
Although no artificial lighting can truly replicate daylight (modern LED lighting solutions do come very close though), artificial lighting:
If your fluorescent lighting currently runs off a 230 volt single phase current, you should be able to connect a second light to the side of the existing light with both lights in parallel with the electricity supply.
For businesses with three-phase requirement, the lights you place next to each other should be powered on different phases. This is especially important for lamps used to illuminate moving or rotating machinery as failure to do this will likely impair how visible moving parts are to the employee and increase the risk of industrial accident.
You may also wish to investigate fluorescent light covers as a solution.
Although, in some circumstances, LED lighting can produce a flicker or stroboscopic effect, the fact that it relies on a direct current to operate instead of an alternating current makes the chances of it happening much less likely.
Fluorescent tube and illumination also uses dated and less sophisticated technology than LED lighting meaning that the light they provide to the rooms within your premises is crudely scattered leaving some areas too dark for staff to comfortably work in. In comparison, LED sends light evenly in every direction as well as offering the ability to dim if the light produced is too bright for certain colleagues.
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