Effectively Lighting the Hazardous Enclosed Workspace|
Choosing and utilizing the proper lighting in confined workspaces not only ensures that workers are provided with as much protection against inadvertent ignitions as possible, but also serves to improve productivity and efficiency as well. Operating within confined spaces presents workers with a host of potentially serious problems ranging from lack of oxygen and entrapment to possible fires and explosions from the ignition of explosive gases, vapors, mists and dust that may accumulate and become concentrated within the enclosed workspace. Although good lighting is a prerequisite for good performance in almost any work conditions, lighting in confined spaces is often given too little consideration beyond classification.
Because of the added inconvenience and difficulty of providing effective power for lighting in enclosed spaces, workers often make do with insufficient ambient light or lighting equipment that is too weak to properly illuminate a large enclosed space. The result is an increase in accidents and a decline in productivity that in all reality could be avoided or mitigated with the introduction of proper lighting. Workers may rely on the ambient light from an opening or a small headlight that simply is not going to be adequate for close work or effective assessments within the workspace. This results in an inability to properly note potential hazards and increased mistakes that add to the duration of exposure within the workspace and job delays as workers struggle to cope with low light levels.
It’s already a given that any lighting to be used in the confined workspace must adhere to the proper classifications for hazardous locations. The type and nature of the confined space and the materials and compounds that may be encountered will dictate the level of classification and ratings required. Confined space lighting must also provide the widest possible coverage of the workspace and be bright enough and of high enough quality to allow trouble free visual determinations. Colors need to be rendered correctly and light levels must be high enough to allow normal activity without the need for compensation through slowed operations and overly repetitive verifications. Other considerations for confided space lighting include keeping heat production to a minimum, hands free operation, durability and mobility.
With many operators opting for the most powerful lighting equipment possible, it’s common for them to choose equipment that although powerful, generates copious amounts of heat as well. With workers already facing increased physical stress from wearing the appropriate safety gear and ventilation often seriously limited in the confined workspace, the metal halide and halogen work lights often chosen tend to add still more heat to already stifling conditions. This added heat can lead to reduced productivity and increased errors as workers will require more frequent rest periods between activities and become more fatigued in a shorter amount of time.
The durability and mobility of lighting equipment adds a further aspect to the safety and productivity equation. Workers must be able to illuminate the workspace and perform without needing to constantly manage lighting at the same time. Lighting that can cover large areas without the need for repetitive movement and placement and can be operated “hands free” allows workers more time for performing actual work. Additionally, the mobility of some lighting equipment is quite poor, with workers having to work around excessive cords and bulky mounting apparatus that could cause falls and accidents or deal with moving several pieces of equipment simply to reposition lighting. Clearly, choosing the correct lighting can have a significant impact on both the safety and productivity of operations in confined spaces and must address these concerns if it is to be effective.
Current improvements in hazardous location lighting offer improvements that can have a major impact on productivity and safety. LED equipped Hazloc equipment offers reduced equipment sizes, greatly reduced heat creation, improved light quality and durability and mobility that surpasses that of traditional light sources. Equipment like Larson Electronics’s Explosion Proof LED Cart Light offer the ability to illuminate large areas with a single light source that produces large amounts of illumination but requires very little attention or management once set up. The LED design creates far less heat than comparable halogen or metal halide lights, helping to keep temperatures in the confined work space lower. Mounting explosion proof lighting to a wheeled cart provides the maximum in mobility as well as hands free operation as well. With LEDs requiring so much less power to produce light and being of a sealed design, they also tend to be more effective for use in hazardous locations as by their very nature they present less of an ignition risk. This is not to say they are automatically safe, but that they afford more effective protection when used in equipment designed for hazardous locations.
LEDs used in general area lighting tend to have a higher light color than halogen lamps. While color rendering and color temperature are not interchangeable, LEDs tend to produce a whiter, cleaner light while the light from halogen lamps tends more towards the yellow end of the light spectrum. The end result is crisper and sharper rendering of objects illuminated with the LEDs, which is a very desirable trait for persons performing inspections or repairs within the confines of an enclosed container. When considering metal halide lamps and LEDs, metal halide although powerful and efficient, creates a great deal of heat and requires an additional ballast for proper operation. Many metal halide lamps include the ballast within their housing, which while it helps create a more compact lighting fixture, adds extra weight and another component that is prone to occasional failure. Some metal halide units may incorporate a ballast in-line with the power cord, which produces a work hazard that could cause tripping or tangling of the cord. LEDs in contrast require no ballast and are entirely solid state in construction. This works to help reduce weight and produce a very compact and rugged light source. Additionally, LEDs contain no filaments or glass in their construction, so should an LED fixture be knocked over or impacted, there will be little chance of breakage or failure.
In the past, choosing a good light source for enclosed spaces was something of a compromise between effectiveness and convenience. With the rise to prominence of LEDs, a new alternative has been created which allows operators to reduce the amount of compromise necessary while improving over effective illumination. By any measure, this is a beneficial improvement both for worker safety and employer productivity.