Lighting: Code vs. Common Sense: Adding Photoluminescent Lighting in Commercial Buildings Can Pay Huge Safety Dividends

By Rustin, Daniel | Occupational Hazards, March 2007 | Go to article overview

Lighting: Code vs. Common Sense: Adding Photoluminescent Lighting in Commercial Buildings Can Pay Huge Safety Dividends


Rustin, Daniel, Occupational Hazards


When thinking about ways to make your facility safer--improved maintenance of equipment, better ventilation, stronger safety process and programs, increased training for employees--consider photoluminescent lighting.

The power failure in 2003 that affected most of the Northern Seaboard as well as eastern Canada illustrates this point. Thousands of people found themselves in darkness in places that did not necessarily have an emergency egress area--classrooms, conference rooms, bathrooms and hotel rooms (a particularly touchy situation, since the hotel guest is usually in unfamiliar surroundings). While lives were not lost as a result, many people skinned knees, bumped heads and generally felt uneasy about what was happening.

While some facilities have backup lighting systems and generators, the New York City Department of Buildings reported that during that particular power outage, an estimated 30 percent of all the backup systems under their jurisdiction failed to perform. When extended to other high-population areas, that number likely was closer to 50 to 70 percent.

Reasons to Install Lighting

The concept behind photoluminescent lighting is to provide illumination without backup power sources during a power outage, or to extend the period of illumination once battery backup fails. It is inexpensive and can come in the form of non-powered lighting panels or even simple photoluminescent paint. The addition of photoluminescent lighting offers the potential for a sizeable payback by:

Attracting tenants or employees--Tenants who are concerned about their employees' safety and comfort perceive photoluminescent lighting as a building benefit. Employees perceive it as one more step taken by their employer to protect their safety.

Reducing the effects of or avoiding litigation--Given a "blackout" emergency situation in two different buildings, the building owner who has installed photoluminescent lighting is more likely to avoid--or at least financially survive--a lawsuit brought by an injured employee than the one who has not.

Protecting property--While the protection of people is a top priority for most building owners, the need to protect property should not be minimized. …

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