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Fundamentals of workplace lighting

Restoring mosaics, repairing jewellery or creating display panels for the next exhibition - different activities demand different levels of light, in order to support the visual task in accordance with standards: This can be between 500 and 1500 Lux, depending on how intricate the detail work is. DIN EN 12464-1 provides information about the recommended levels.

For workstations with difficult visual tasks, general workplace lighting is usually insufficient and additional individual workstation lighting must be used. Compact fluorescent tubes with electronic ballasts (EBs) offer an energy efficient solution.

In order to prevent visual acuity from being compromised, distracting reflections on tools and workpieces should be prevented. Lamps with reflector grids can provide focused, glare free lighting.

Visual task

The difficulty of the visual task is determined by lightness/darkness and colour contrast, by the minuteness of the details as well as by the speed and duration, at which the contrast is perceived. The more difficult the visual task is, the higher the level of lighting must be.

Compact fluorescent tubes without integrated electronic ballast

The plug base distinguishes the other sub-category of the family of compact fluorescent tubes, to which compact fluorescent tubes with integrated ballasts also belong. These short and compact lamps have become a popular alternative to rod shaped fluorescent lamps, particularly in commercial lighting applications. Unlike lamps with an integrated ballast, the ballast is placed inside these lamps.

The use of electronic ballasts (EBs), as compared to magnetic ballasts, has a more favourable energy balance. Electronic ballasts also come in a special, dimmable version; dimming is only possible with lamps with a 4-pin base.


  2-, 4- and 6-tube lamps Flat 4-tube lamp Flat 2-tube lamp
Power consumption (W) 5 - 42 18 - 36 18 - 55*)
Luminous flux (Lumens) 250 - 3,200 1,100 - 2,800 1,200 - 4,800
Luminous efficacy (Lumens/W) 50 - 76 61 - 78 67 - 88
Luminous colour warm white / daylight white (ww, dw)
Colour reproduction index (Ra) 80 - 90
Socket G23, G24, 2G7, GX24 2G10 2G11
*) 40 W and 55 W with EB only

Electronic ballasts for fluorescent lamps (standard)

Electronic ballasts (EBs) for fluorescent lamps stand for modern lighting technology, for cost and energy savings and for comfort. Dimmable EBs also make it possible to infinitely regulate brightness. Then there are magnetic ballasts. For compact fluorescent lamps with an integrated ballast (energy-saving lamps), the device is built-in to the light. With fluorescent lamps and compact fluorescent lamps without and integrated ballast, the ballast is actually a component of the bulb itself.

EBs have the best energy balance. Most notably, these lamps (lamps with EB) offer increased luminous and system efficacy. When powered with EBs, the effective operating life of the lamps is extended and decrease in luminous flux is reduced. It is seldom necessary to replace the bulbs, as the luminescent material and electrodes are subjected to less electrical stress.

EBs start lamps quickly, silently and without flickering. They offer consistent, even light and are largely resistant to fluctuations in voltage and frequency. As they can also be powered with direct current, EBs can be switched to battery operation and used for emergency lighting if power is cut. If an EB fails, it is automatically isolated.

Light as a factor in productivity

An investment in good lighting for production facilities is well worth the cost. Two studies by the Technical University of Ilmenau (1997 and 2000) document improved performance, less fatigue, fewer rejects and significantly fewer working accidents as the result of higher levels of light. Research reports and long-term studies have concluded: 600 Lux is the recommended level of illuminance for typical industrial workplaces.
Better lighting improves productivity for difficult visual tasks by more than 50 percent. The error rate is simultaneously reduced. In addition, the test subjects report feeling mentally fit for a longer period of time. The correlation between working accidents and lighting levels is also documented in statistics from government safety organisations: Two-thirds of all recorded workplace accidents occur at workplaces with light levels below 500 Lux.

General lighting

The varied requirements for lighting levels for different types of workstations in carpenter's workshops are fulfilled by workstation specific general lighting with a defined allocation of lights per workstation. When general lighting alone is configured to provide evenly distributed, high levels of light in the entire space for the flexible layout of workstations and alternative use of the room, this is an exception to the rule. However, modern, configurable lighting systems for workstation oriented lighting also offer flexible solutions for the relocation of machines and workbenches.
Lights should be mounted parallel to the plane of windows, respective to the incidence of daylight. This requires that machines and workbenches be set-up parallel to windows. Lateral incidence of light is important here. This is why lights must be installed at the sides of work surfaces. Tools and workpieces are more visible when the lighting creates minimum shadowing. Reflections off smooth machinery or charts in the worker's line of sight should not compromise visual tasks.

Workstation lighting

Fine detail and inspection work require high levels of light. Additional lights - suspended lamps, individual workstation lamps or machine lamps - are used at workstations with difficult visual tasks. These lamps supplement general lighting, and thus should only be switched on when needed. The use of compact fluorescent tubes with electronic ballasts (EBs) saves energy costs. Reflector grids ensure focused, glare free lighting.
Individual workstation lamps should not create distracting reflections on tools and workpieces.

Additional lamps in the carpenter's workshop are also necessary for the inspection of surfaces. Their light should be directed at a grazing angle and create heavy shadows. This enables scratches to be detected, even in matt finishes.

Safe lamps

Dust, sawdust and material fibres accumulate in every carpenter's workshop. Lamps are only protected from this if they have a type of protection equivalent to at least IP50 (dust protected). The internal generation of heat from the lamps must also be limited in order to prevent deposits of flammable materials from igniting. They are labelled with the fire protection symbol "D" in a triangle on the top. The use of these lamps is mandatory in rooms where dust is a hazard, so essentially in the entire workshop.
In rooms or areas in which paint, polishing agents and glue with liquid solvents are used, there is a risk of explosion. In such cases, the use of explosion protected ("Ex" in a circle) lamps is mandatory - for carpenter's workshops "zone 20-, 21- or 22-lamps".

General lighting in the workshop

Balanced general lighting is a prerequisite for good visual acuity and optimum visibility. It is primarily determined by the level of light. In every museum workshop - irrespective of the specific task - illuminance should be around 500 Lux.

General lighting is usually installed according to the specific nature of the workplace, and ideally with lateral incidence (light shining onto the workbench from the sides). Lights with fluorescent lamps are well suited for this, arranged in rows or as a light-band system in larger workshops or factories. Supplemental individual workstation lamps can be switched on to increase the level of brightness.
Is there falling dust, saw dust or material fibres in the workshop? Then operational safety is an important subject. It is generally recommended to use lighting with a higher level of protection: Lights with protection type IP54, for example, are protected from dust and splash water. In such cases, the internal generation of heat from the lamps must also be limited in order to prevent deposits of flammable materials from igniting. The fire protection symbol "D" located in a triangle on the top indicates this property.

Areas up to 6 metres high

For halls from four to six metres high, light ring systems fitted with fluorescent lamps or other lamps are the most economical solution for general lighting. It is important that bright light is distributed over a wide area. As precise as light distributing reflectors allow, use these lamps in halls up to six metres high as well, but with focused luminous intensity distribution at this height. A combination of these lamps and high intensity discharge lamps can be a practical alternative in halls of this height.
Operating the lamps with electronic ballasts (EBs) saves energy. With an annual usage of even 4000 hours - or a typical 2-shift operation - EBs save a more than a fourth of energy costs. The cost of a new system with EBs can be recovered in as little as two and a half years, even faster in 3-shift operations due to the longer operating hours. EBs save energy, because they reduce the connected load of the system (lamp plus ballast) to below that of the nominal output of the lamp: A 58 W fluorescent lamp with EB has a power consumption of only 50 W, the thermal dissipation loss of the EB is 5 W. So the system consumption is only 55 W.

Areas over 6 metres high

Hall heights above six metres require particularly bright light, and thus economical lamps: Metal halide lamps or high pressure sodium lamps with an output of 250 - 1000 W generate so much light, so that even from great heights an adequate level of brightness reaches the working level. Reflective hall lights have a rotationally symmetrical and far reaching luminous intensity distribution. If vertical high intensity illuminance for inclined surfaces is required, additional lights for fluorescent lamps must be used.
Metal halide lamps unify compact dimensions, high luminous flux, very high light output and good colour reproduction qualities with a longer operating life to provide a cost-effective source of lighting. High pressure sodium lamps also have very high light output, but are distinguished by even greater luminous efficacy - depending on specific lighting requirements with colour reproduction index Ra = 80 to 89, 60 to 69 or 20 to 39.

Warehouse lighting

In higher warehouses, there is always the danger of high-stacked goods or tall shelving units shadowing light from the ceiling and only allowing a small portion of the light to reach the aisles in between. This problem is resolved through the use of special reflectors in reflective hall lights for high intensity discharge lamps or in lights for high intensity fluorescent lamps with Ø of 16 mm (preferably ring light systems). The reflectors direct light into the aisles and also provide vertical high intensity illuminance, which makes it easier to perform the vertically oriented visual tasks (e.g. reading, locating goods) associated with managing inventory. Reflective hall lights for warehouses also have glare protection for when they are viewed from below.
If all of the areas of a high warehouse are not used uniformly, it is sensible to use energy saving switching options such as those for lower height storage areas.

Lighting for storage areas

Lights for fluorescent lamps, which are suspended in ring light systems at shelf unit height over the centre of the aisle. Energy can be saved if different, scenario-based supplemental switching options are provided:
  • With zone switching, lighting predominantly remains switched off for less frequented storage areas.
  • With two-stage lighting - the first stage switches on every second lamp, the second all lamps - lighting levels can be adapted to the type of work as needed. For example, if individual storage areas are only used as transport routes on some days and light is not needed for reading and locating items.
  • With the installation of proximity sensors (motion detectors) in individual storage areas. They automatically switch on the lights when they are needed. Flicker-free, instant-on light requires the use of lamps with electronic ballasts (EBs). The lights switch off when no motion has been detected for a pre-set period of time.

If the warehouse administration work area is in close proximity to the shelving units, it should be sufficiently screened. This is necessary in order to prevent the lighting from creating a glare on the computer screens of the administrative staff. Their workstations must be illuminated like other office areas.

For further information visit www.hse.gov.uk


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