Bright Office Lights
July 10, 2018 12:26 PM   Subscribe

They have installed new LED overhead lights in our office. They are very bright. I'm not the only one complaining but I think I am affected more than most...

... I think this is due to the physiology of my eyes (they are very light blue and have large pupils). I have a note from my doctor stating that these lights cause me to have headaches. I am a software developer and have been staring at screens for 20 years, so it's not the screens.

I work in a hostile office environment (for a state government). My supervisor tells me that if I go to HR with my doctor's note, that upper management will say "Oh you've always had sensitive eyes?", then you're fired because you lied to us when you accepted this job because you said that you could work in an office environment and these lights are OSHA standard.

What can I do?
posted by falsedmitri to Work & Money (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you have a cubicle? Would management tolerate some sort of canopy like this?
posted by adiabatic at 12:35 PM on July 10, 2018 [5 favorites]

Are you allowed to wear a hat with a brim?
posted by acidnova at 12:37 PM on July 10, 2018 [6 favorites]

you're fired because you lied to us when you accepted this job because you said that you could work in an office environment and these lights are OSHA standard

That's not at all what the ADA says or requires but the manager can probably try to make your life miserable if you push the issue if they want to.

If you want to do so, you have the law on your side - whether or not the previous lights caused you problems is immaterial. Something can be OSHA standard and not suitable for all people. For example, a non-adjustable standing desk might be compliant but obviously someone in a wheelchair is not going to be able to use it. In my experience, state governments are very, very gunshy about firing anyone, especially for anything disability related.

Your best political move is probably to make it the entire team (or a substantial portion thereof) making the request for less or different lights together, so it's not just you painting a target on your back. You can also try talking with the facilities manager to see if they can help you by changing out the bulbs or leaving some empty. I've been in offices where we had really bright lights and just requested that only every other socket actually be used.

If you want to try to adjust, you can see if the yellow or blue filtering glasses help enough to let you endure it or do something like what adiabatic suggested with creating shade from the light.
posted by Candleman at 12:37 PM on July 10, 2018 [9 favorites]

I came in to recommend slightly tinted glasses - preferably with blue-filter. If you wear glasses, get this kind for your next pair.
posted by jillithd at 12:47 PM on July 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Is it the brightness or the color? Certainly can be both, but the color temperature really affects how annoying a light is for me. If they're the bluer ones, which I call "prison-colored," I'd request getting some warmer ones. If the issue is the wattage (lumens actually), did they give a rationale for this?
posted by rhizome at 12:49 PM on July 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

Vintage green accountant's visor?

It also works as a passive-aggressive reminder to your boss that you're unhappy.
posted by eotvos at 12:50 PM on July 10, 2018 [6 favorites]

Your boss' response is ignorant and maybe even worthy of a harassment complaint. Got a union? Talk to them.

Is there any part of the building with the old lights? In an unrelated episode, an architect brought a lumen meter - not sure if it's the same as a light meter for photography, but at a hearing, she measured the light in the room, then said The (proposed thing) would be X lumens, and it was incredibly effective. Measure coffee shops, other offices, boss' office, get OSHA standards. LED lights have a difference; I'm okay with them but I don't enjoy very bright indoor light.

My office got new lighting and it was bright. I work with computers, which supply light, and the super-brightness was unpleasant and unnecessary. Maintenance came and loosened a light bar or 2 above my cubicle, and life was better. They did this for numbers of people. I would also maybe consider a deck or beach umbrella. Tinted visor, big hat, sunglasses, are all options.
posted by theora55 at 1:09 PM on July 10, 2018 [8 favorites]

Can you go in early and unscrew the bulb closest to your workspace?
posted by MadMadam at 1:15 PM on July 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

I am literally suffering from this problem now. It's not the brightness (I know, because after 8 months in exile, the lights have been replaced with dim yellow ones, and I tried to stick it out for a morning and couldn't)

The problem is the flicker. They'll have a very strong flicker at 120Hz. I did ask a question here on my sockpuppet account, and people concentrated on the logistics of asserting that I had a problem.

I would far rather they'd have focused on how to measure and quantify the issue, because it's just below the perceptive threshold.

IEEE 1789 is the standard they should meet, but it's only been ratified in California.
posted by ambrosen at 1:32 PM on July 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

You can buy non-prescription blue-light-filtering glasses that may or may not help, but are worth a try. I have a cheapie pair from amazon (unfortunately they don't sell that model anymore) and they've helped tremendously at times when I've had glare from a window on my computer that gave me mild eye strain and headaches.
posted by mosst at 1:33 PM on July 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think LED lights are often installed with the understanding they will lose brightness over time. So to counteract that they are sometimes installed dimmed, with the intent that by the time they age and get less bright they will turned it up. Find out the manufacturer, then find out if maybe the lights were supposed to be dimmed and just were installed and never dimmed/tuned properly.
posted by KMoney at 2:42 PM on July 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

You can install, or get installed as an accommodation, a parasol type shade at your desk.
posted by zippy at 4:31 PM on July 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Also, your manager is full of shit.
posted by zippy at 4:32 PM on July 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

I get migraines from certain lights and wear prescription glasses. In one office prescription sunglasses were the fucking bomb. Wearing them made the world a cool calm place again visually. These were big filmstar running from paparazzi type shades, perfect.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 5:21 PM on July 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Back in grad school, basically living in a shared office with other grad students who somehow loved to work with the overhead fluorescents on full blast all day, I eventually got a novelty green tinted visor and wore it often. It was extremely helpful. As for how it was perceived, mostly it just reinforced people's ideas of me as "eccentric".
posted by traveler_ at 8:00 PM on July 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

What type of lights were in there previously? It's probably a more pronounced flicker at 120hz as ambrosen mentioned. I don't get headaches from this effect, but I notice it and don't like it. I can't stand the 240hz "smooth motion" modes on TVs these days, and I wish that technology was applied to LED lighting instead.
posted by reeddavid at 10:23 PM on July 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

lot of people at my company use this crib canopy from ikea to block the light
posted by andendau at 7:27 PM on July 12, 2018

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