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LED lighting provides safe solution for industry

Author : Luis Ramirez, Dialight

03 September 2020

Europe has long been recognised as a world leader when it comes to setting high standards for human safety and wellness and environmental protection. Not only does the European Union and EU-OSHA set standards across the member countries, but within those countries, individual agencies also bolster those efforts with national directives.

The difference in visibility after LED lighting was installed within a processing plant.
The difference in visibility after LED lighting was installed within a processing plant.

(Click here to view article in digital edition)

Despite having made great strides over the past 25 years, there’s still much work to be done. In 2017 alone, European workers suffered 3.3 million injuries and 3,552 workplace fatalities. With a cost of some €476 billion (£431bn), workplace accidents amount to 3.3% of GDP.

In the UK alone, more than 11,000 enforcement notices have been issued and 364 cases prosecuted, while workers in Germany racked up 669 million days of lost work in 2017, totalling €76 billion (£68.8bn) in lost productivity. The financial cost is just one factor, let alone the impact these incidents have on individuals and their families through disabilities, diminished quality of life and the loss of loved ones.

LED lighting reduces risk by 60%

Recently, as part of its mission to improve workplace safety through proven technology and best practices, the European Commission identified LED lighting as a Key Enabling Technology for reducing carbon energy consumption, improving energy and resource efficiency and providing a huge potential to fuel economic growth and provide jobs. In addition, improving facility lighting, through the use of modern industrial LED lighting for example, has shown to reduce the risk of workplace accidents by up to 60%.

Yet, more than 90% of industrial facilities still rely on outdated, antiquated lighting. In Europe, fluorescent fixtures have become the standard, primarily because they’re inexpensive. However, many organisations are realising that a low upfront cost isn’t the only measure that matters. In fact, by upgrading to modern, sustainable LED technology, companies can dramatically improve worker safety and reduce environmental impact for substantial savings on energy and maintenance costs that deliver strong ROI.

The LED lighting within an aircraft maintenance hangar produces incredibly clear visibility.
The LED lighting within an aircraft maintenance hangar produces incredibly clear visibility.

Upgrading from antiquated fluorescent lighting to high-efficiency industrial LED lighting technology can help any facility run safer, more efficiently and economically in four main areas.

Improved visibility

Poor lighting is a leading contributor to slip, trip and fall accidents as well as those caused by contact with objects and equipment – some of the most common incidents on any job site. Fluorescent lighting fixtures are extremely fragile and very large. They collect a lot of dirt and debris, which hinders light output, thus lowering visibility. They’re also at greater risk of being hit by moving equipment, causing cracked lenses and bulb failure. When the fixture isn’t fully operational, light output and visibility are therefore substantially reduced, making it extremely hard to visibly detect hazards.

Since visual data accounts for 85% of perceptual information, this poor lighting is like asking staff to work blind. Fluorescents can also take some time to come up to full output after being switched off, which can leave workers in the dark in the wake of a power outage, for example. In addition, the typical Colour Rending Index (CRI) of a fluorescent light can be as low as 60, which can distort colours, making it difficult to differentiate. In situations where colour is critical for detecting danger – identifying the ground wire in electrical wiring, for example, or interpreting safety placards – this poor colour rendering is a substantial safety risk.

On the other hand, the crisp, clear, white light of industrial LED fixtures provides near-daylight quality illumination. This not only improves visibility with brighter light overall, but it also means a higher CRI, so that colours appear natural for easy detection. And, because LEDs are solid-state devices, they’re much more resilient to impact or shock. That means no delicate bulbs and fixtures to break and fewer lights out throughout the facility at any given time. As a result, the improved visibility of modern industrial LEDs has proven to improve trip hazard detection by nearly 24%, help workers detect trip hazards 94% faster and spot peripheral motion 79% faster, all of which contribute to a lower risk of accidents and a safer work environment.

LED lighting brings clarity within this storage area.
LED lighting brings clarity within this storage area.

Lower maintenance

Because fluorescent bulbs and fixtures are so fragile, they’re notorious for their short lifespan, particularly in harsh, high-vibration industrial settings and, as a consequence, demand constant maintenance. Because lighting is commonly mounted at high elevations, and often directly over process equipment, accessing the fixture for maintenance is extremely difficult and dangerous. Not only does it necessitate the use of access equipment, the floor area must be cleared for access and often production equipment stopped to access the fixtures. This not only increases the risk of accidents due to electrocution and falls, but the inefficiency of it all means that facilities often delay maintenance until so many fixture failures force the issue, further contributing to the already-poor visibility.

Long-lasting LED fixtures dramatically reduce the risk of lighting maintenance hazards, as well as the associated costs. With fixtures that last six times longer than fluorescents, industrial LED lighting systems can deliver up to 100,000 hours of continuous performance, many covered by extensive, 10-year warranties. In fact, the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has established: “LEDs have the potential to significantly reduce the frequency of accidents related to the maintenance, operation, and repair of lighting systems because the long life of LEDs would enable an exposure reduction to the associated hazards.”

No hazmat exposure

Mercury is an extremely potent neurotoxin that causes nausea, vomiting and bronchitis, as well as tremors, memory loss, intellectual changes, kidney damage, psychosis and delirium from chronic exposure. Strict occupational exposure limits are in place by many agencies to protect workers from these debilitating effects. Yet, every fluorescent bulb contains mercury, phosphorous and other rare earth minerals – so much so that some jurisdictions have set limits on the number of fluorescent tubes that can be disposed of in a certain time. Any in excess of that number requires handling by a hazmat specialist, which adds considerably to the cost and environmental impact. Not to mention, if a bulb is broken during use, handling or disposal, everyone in the vicinity has been exposed to these harmful materials. With millions of these lamps – which are prone to failure and require frequent maintenance/handling – in place at facilities, the risk of exposure is extremely high.

With LED fixtures, not only are there no delicate bulbs to break, but these solid-state devices contain no mercury or other hazardous materials. Therefore, there’s zero risk of hazmat exposure to employees who must handle the fixtures, nor are there any special disposal procedures required to prevent toxic pollution. LED lighting complies with European RoHS and REACH standards, eliminating the need for noncompliance exemptions, which are being phased out under RoHS regulations. In fact, many components of modern LED luminaires can be recycled for an added environmental benefit.

This German chemical production facility benefits from LED lighting.
This German chemical production facility benefits from LED lighting.

Energy efficiency that drives environmental improvements

Lighting accounts for 15% of electricity consumption in Europe, and with industrial lights kept on from 10 to 24 hours each day, that amounts to 70 terawatt hours consumed each year. With 176 million industrial light fixtures in place at 2.6 million facilities, industrial lighting alone produces millions of metric tonnes of carbon, nitrous oxide and sulphur dioxide, contributing to global warming, acid rain, smog and human respiratory issues. In order to achieve the necessary light output that industrial settings require for safe and efficient operations, most facilities use VHO, SHO or HO (very high, super high and high output) fixtures. For most common T8 fixtures, this means total ballast and bulb energy consumption is about 212 watts.

The European public and public policy overwhelmingly support energy efficiency and a low-carbon economy. Over 90% of Europeans see climate change as a serious problem and have taken action to address it. The European Commission has proposed “a green and inclusive transition to help improve people’s well-being and secure a healthy planet for generations to come,” and the European Green Deal has set a goal for the continent to be climate neutral by 2050.

Adopting high-efficiency industrial LED lighting at European facilities can help achieve that goal. Linear LED fixtures, the most common replacement for T8 fluorescents, deliver far more and better-quality light with as little as 35 to 65 watts per fixture – about one-fifth to one-third the energy required for fluorescents. That means industrial LED lighting could cut energy consumption by as much as 75%. Combined with the ability to add smart controls to further reduce burn time and energy consumption, switching to high-efficiency industrial LED fixtures could reduce energy use by as much as 63 terawatt hours – enough to light 45 million homes.

This substantial reduction would eliminate 34 million metric tonnes of carbon emissions – the equivalent of taking 7.3 million passenger cars off the road. In addition, switching to industrial LED lighting would remove 82,000 tonnes of nitrous oxide and sulphur dioxide emissions, along with 400,000 grams of mercury.

Luis Ramirez, Dialight
Luis Ramirez, Dialight

LED: the clear solution

Upgrading to industrial LED lighting across Europe has tremendous potential to deliver massive energy and environmental savings that not only help companies save money and reduce the risk to workers, but also to save the planet from the harmful effects of lighting-related pollution. LED lighting costs have declined 80% over the past 5 years, making this innovative technology more affordable, while delivering efficiency, performance and reliability that far exceeds conventional lighting options.

With remarkable energy savings, substantially lower environmental impact and the ability to reduce accidents and injuries, industrial LED lighting technology is clearly the superior solution to creating safer, greener industrial facilities. 

About the author:

Luis Ramirez is Dialight’s Chief Operations Officer and is responsible for global operations, including direct and contract manufacturing; supply chain, planning and logistics; quality, warranty and technical services; and sustainability initiatives. He is a charismatic, “hands-on” and people-centric executive with over 23 years of global experience leading change in technology organisations with senior leadership roles in engineering, manufacturing, global operations and general management.

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