In the second of a two-part article on eye health in the workplace, Chris Peters, our chief design manager, looks at sick building syndrome and what the regulations say.
In the first part of this article, I looked at how the modern office has changed.
How, in particular, we no longer work on a horizontal desk.
Instead, we work on a vertical computer screen. That has implications for how we should light our offices.
It’s an important issue because eyestrain is a common complaint. It can cause illness and, at the very least, affect productivity.
Modern regulations say that the employer has a responsibility to provide “satisfactory light conditions and an appropriate contrast between the screen and background, taking into account the type of work and the vision requirements of the user.
“Furthermore, possible glare and reflection on the screen shall be prevented by co-ordinating workplace and workstation layout with the positioning of the artificial light sources.”
Getting lighting wrong is part of what become known as sick building syndrome (SBS). It’s a catch-all phrase to describe illnesses brought on by the buildings we work in.
The National Health Service says: “Anyone can be affected by SBS, but office workers in modern buildings without opening windows and with mechanical ventilation or air conditioning systems are most at risk.
“The likelihood of experiencing SBS symptoms can be higher if you’re employed in routine work that involves using display screen equipment.”
Importantly, there is a correlation between light and Sick Building Syndrome, because a lack of daylight is regarded as one of the most important contributors to it.
Making better use of daylight is the obvious solution, particularly when it comes to designing new buildings or refurbishment projects.
Simply, daylighting is dynamic and changes throughout the day, providing natural variation and connecting us to the outside world.
Most building designers now understand the properties of light, and how a well-designed working environment can boost productivity and morale.
But the advantages of using glass in the building environment go further: from reducing heating costs to solar control. Or using photovoltaic (PV) cells to convert photons into electrons and, therefore, generating electricity.
Modern glazing systems, with their optical brilliance and safety characteristics, have become fundamental to good building design.
In the same way as light has always been fundamental to life. After all, it’s why God created it first.
A Health and Safety guide to Display Screen Equipment (DSE) can be found here.
Picture: Modern glazing systems allow light to flood in.