Published on:Jul 6, 2018
By Luis Ramirez Dialight
Nearly 3 million American workers are hurt on the job each year, and poor lighting is to blame for the most common accidents, including slips, trips, falls, and contact with objects and equipment.1 Despite the risks associated with poor lighting, more than 90% of industrial facilities still rely on conventional fixtures2, namely high-pressure sodium (HPS), which are notorious for their unnatural orange glow, insufficient light output, short lifespan, and potential danger from mercury exposure.
Research has shown that simply improving workplace lighting can reduce accidents by as much as 60% percent3; in industrial facilities, this could mean the difference between life and death for employees who work in these harsh conditions.
Modern, long-lasting LED lighting is the ideal solution that can help to dramatically reduce the risk of industrial accidents by providing a safer, well-lit environment. Here are five ways upgrading to industrial-grade LED lighting can improve plant safety.
Improved color rendering
A typical HPS bulb produces illumination with a color rendering index (CRI) of less than 30, which results in that unnatural orange glow that distorts colors. This makes it difficult for workers to discern between colors on hazmat placards, wiring, and labels, all of which rely on color-coding for effectiveness and safety. By comparison, industrial LEDs boast a CRI of 70 or above, for a much more natural color that mimics natural daylight. This provides optimal illumination to improve workers’ color perception.
Fatigue and drowsiness are contributors to accidents and injuries4, and this can become even more problematic in overnight shift work. Compared to the low CRI of antiquated HPS fixtures, which can lower mood and energy levels among workers4, the white light of modern LEDs actually reduces fatigue and makes workers feel five times more alert.5 One CDC study even found that LED lighting helped people detect trip hazards 94% faster6, which alone could cut down on thousands of accidents each year.
In the event of a power outage, it can take HPS fixtures up to 20 minutes to return to full output. During that time, visibility is severely limited by the low light conditions, which are even worse than normal. In contrast, LEDs come on instantly, as soon as power is restored, which means full visibility the split second the backup generators kick on.
Aside from their poor lighting, simply maintaining HPS fixtures can also be dangerous due to the risk of electrocution and falls from ladders or lifts. And, because of their short lifespan, bulbs must be changed out frequently, which puts workers at risk every time. Industrial LEDs, on the other hand, last three times longer than HPS — even up to a decade or more. That means much less lighting maintenance and fewer maintenance staff at risk.
Zero mercury exposure
A single HPS bulb contains enough mercury vapor to poison an entire classroom full of children.7 That means just one broken bulb can put workers at risk of mercury exposure that can cause severe toxicity symptoms, some that can have lifelong implications. LED fixtures contain zero mercury or other harmful chemicals, making them a much safer alternative in industrial applications.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, LED fixtures can “significantly reduce the frequency of accidents related to the maintenance, operation and repair of lighting systems.”8 By virtue of their long-life performance, reduced maintenance, and improved visibility, LEDs are an important consideration when it comes to the short-term safety and long-term health of industrial workers.
References (click on links for more information
1. US Dept. of Labor, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Summary, 2016.
2. US Dept. of Energy, “Energy Savings Forecast”, p. 18.
4. L. Edwards, NREL, “A Literature Review of the Effects of Natural Light on Building Occupants.”
6. Centers for Disease Control, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
7. US Dept. of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration 29 CFR 1910.1000, Table Z-2; ECG analysis.
LUIS RAMIREZ is chief operations officer at Dialight and is responsible for global operations, including: direct and contract manufacturing; supply chain, planning and logistics; quality, warranty and technical services; and sustainability initiatives.