What are the effects of fluorescent lighting in the office, especially when working around computers?


From: terrys@linkmsd.com (Terry Simpson)
Date: Mon, 28 Mar 1994 18:57:48 +0000

The fluorescent light debate is an important one, but is quite complex. One theory is that we are sensitive to light modulation frequencies above those that we can report. Another problem is that mixing high frequencies such as those from lights and from CRT's can produce lower frequencies.

In existing installations, often the easiest thing to do is to get the tubes properly maintained. Many firms leave tubes till they fail, by which time they not only flicker but consume more electricity. The cost argument is very persuasive and benefits employers as well as employees. A general recommendation is to replace tubes regardless of failure at 18 months.

You can modify installations and install high frequency designs, including better luminaires. You can even get rid of fluorescents altogether, but there may still be workplace factors to consider.

In Europe there are laws about IT in the workplace eg The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992. This has meant many companies calling on hf people to do evaluations for compliance. There is a lot that is done following such evaluations, but I haven't heard of a company refitting the lighting without other associated reasons such as reorganization.

A big name in this field is Arnold J Wilkins at the Medical Research Council Applied Psychology Unit in Cambridge, England. Try [reading] these:

Wilkins A J (1986) Why are some things unpleasant to look at? In Contemporary Ergonomics 1986. Editor Oborne D J (Taylor + Francis, London) pp 259-263.

Wilkins AJ and Nimmo-Smith I (1987) The clarity and comfort of printed text. Ergonomics no. 30 pp 1705-1720

Wilkins AJ, Nimmo-Smith I, Slater AI, and Bedocs L (1988) Fluorescent lighting, headaches and eye strain. National Lighting Conf 1988.

Wilkins AJ, Nimmo-Smith I, Tait A, McManus C, Della Salla S, Tilley A, Arnold K, Barrie M, and Scott S (1984) A neurological basis for visual discomfort. Brain no 107 pp 989-1017

Hope this goes some way to answering your direct enquiry. Indirectly, remember to tackle the whole task of workplace design, there is a lot you can do even [if] your employer doesn't share your views on fluorescent fittings.

From: Alan Asper <aasper@sbctri.sbc.com>
Date: 28 Mar 1994 14:52:22 GMT

The best list of references regarding lighting and job performance I've found is at the end of Cushman and Crist's chapter on illumination in the Handbook of Human Factors, edited by Gavriel Salvendy. There are at least 40 papers.

comp.human-factors faq WWW page: