How Can Poor Lighting Effect Control Room Operations

June 17, 2016

Over the past year I have spent the majority of my time conducting numerous conversations with professionals in the Data Center/IT and Control Room community.  What I have found is there has been an ever diminishing middle ground between vendors and the service providers we all target. Everyone in Business Development will hate me for saying this, but they are the main culprit for this trend. Mass Content Emailing has taken on a new perception that resembles the stigma of Cold Calling.  I am finding many are checking their emails less and less as they are being bombarded by individuals trying to hit their monthly quotas last minute

 

What happened to retaining a relationship based model providing content, solutions, and information that can be beneficial for all.  I also realize that there is a certain stigma to the Millennial generation.  But if there is one area where they are truly passionate, it is through collaboration and leading a new charge of throwing out the old playbook and creating something new. 

 

For that reason, I will continue to post content I believe to be of value for anyone in the Mission Critical environment. To follow on our series of flaws in the design process of a Control Room or Command Center, we will be reviewing how poor lighting can effect operations within a Control Room.

 

Why Does Light Matter in Control Room?

 

 The first factor to mention above all else, is Command Centers are not like any other room in your facility. Control Rooms are Mission Critical, Time Sensitive, and in no way forgiving of errors.  As such, they must be treated in the same manner on every level of design.  The question then shifts to, why is lighting in a Command Center often worse than office lighting.  In a centralized location that is imperative to operations, every element must be taken into account. Real time mistakes, frayed nerves over time, eye fatigue and others are all possible consequences to poor lighting.

 

Of course the short term problems are always more apparent. A few real life examples taken directly from our partner at Design Matters after conducting numerous case studies: 

  • Glare: Causing one to miss or misinterpret information displayed.

  • Low Lighting: Making it difficult to read and write notes during a shift.  As a consequence, causing the individual to adjust to different lighting levels.  Imagine how this would affect an operator in critical moments.  Not only would it increase the likelihood of missing critical information, but now the operator is put in a stressful environment where they are frantically trying to resolve the issue…and that is when mistakes happen.

  • Real Life Example:  Imagine a scenario where sunlight coming into the Control Room was not taken into consideration during the design process.  Well, in one scenario the sunlight made an “8” look like a “0” on the overhead screen and caused the operator to assume a tank had not yet begun filling, when in actuality it was almost full.

As the undisputed quote from my favorite film, Dumb and Dumber, goes: “You know, you really have nothing to worry about Mary.  Statistically speaking you are more likely to get in a car crash on the way to the airport than being in a plane crash.” The same can be said about lighting in a Control Room.  Most of the time these mistakes will be caught, but imagine the consequences to a facility that falls victim. 

 

How to Combat Poor Lighting in a Control Room

 

Fortunately, there are solutions for quick immediate fixes even when lighting was not a factor taken into consideration during the design process.  Desk lamps, adjusting monitor positioning, and others are all ways to combat poor lighting.  However, that still does not resolve the core issue in the long run and consequentially can introduce a new problem.  Fatigue. 

 

Working the night shift with low levels of lighting not only imposes fatigue on the body, but your body’s natural circadian rhythms.  They will imply that it is time to sleep, causing mental fatigue in addition to body fatigue.  A desk lamp will help illuminate poor lit areas, but it can also strain your eyes as they dilate back and forth from poor to well-lit areas.  A side effect can be, slowing the reading and response time of an operator.  Additionally, if an operator had to move their monitor to reduce glare, it is likely they shifted the equipment to a poor viewing angle putting themselves back at square one. 

 

Properly correcting lighting issues is not a complex project.  Ideally this should be done during the designs phase.  However, should you be in a situation where you need to buy a new fixture for an immediate fix; Identifying the correct fixture is easier said than done. LED light is generally considered a better, brighter more consistent light source than florescent technology.  However, neither LED nor florescent address the potential health issues associated with the nighttime exposure to blue wavelength which can affect circadian rhythms and the secretion of melatonin.  There is a light being beta tested currently that would address these potential side effects, thus making it a possible ideal fit for 24/7 control rooms. 

 

This is only the beginning steps to resolving the root issue.  Should you ever find yourself wanting to learn more, we are happy to have a conversation around the design phase.  You can either visit our website or reach out directly to Cwilson@LegacyDenver.com.  As mentioned numerous times, we also partner with Design Matters who is also available and has conducted various national studies around these concepts.  They are also more than willing to help.  Their website can be found here.

 

 

 

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