Q&A: Workplace Dangers Of Outdated Lighting

IMPO recently spoke with Luis Ramierz, Chief Operations Officer at Dialight, to discuss how industrial LED lighting can improve workplace safety.

Here at IMPO, safety is big part of the conversation and a major safety issue at a lot of workplaces is slips, trips and falls. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) a top environmental condition that increases the risk of these hazards is poor lighting.

I recently spoke with Luis Ramierz, Chief Operations Officer at Dialight, to discuss how industrial LED lighting can improve workplace safety.

IMPO: What is meant by “antiquated lighting”?

Luis Ramierz: The term “antiquated lighting” covers legacy lighting technologies, such as High Pressure Sodium, Fluorescent, Metal Halide and other conventional lighting technologies.

IMPO: There are a lot of different lighting options available. Which type do you believe is best suited for the industrial environment? Why?

Ramierz: Industrial settings are often hampered by challenging environments, such as dust, moisture, salt and environmental contaminants, high vibration, variable power conditions and voltage spikes, temperature extremes and fluctuations, humidity, etc. Because of these conditions, not just any lighting will work for this type of environment. Additionally, in safety critical areas, workers need to be able to see clearly and be able to decipher colors – whether that be wires, signage, or even blood vs. oil. The nature of LEDs, as well as enhanced engineering of Dialight industrial LED fixtures, allows them to perform better than conventional lighting in these hazardous environments.

To dive even deeper, here are 10 reasons why LEDs are the best type of lighting to use in industrial environments:

  1. LED lighting is the most efficient white light on the market providing significant energy savings
  2. LEDs are instant on, so there is no warm up period to reach full brightness
  3. LEDs have a higher CRI that improves color rendering and visibility
  4. LEDs do not contain mercury or other harmful materials vs. some conventional lighting which does
  5. Industrial LED fixtures are highly vibration-resistant and do not have replacement bulbs or ballasts
  6. LEDs can operate in extreme temperatures from -55°C to +70°C without affecting output or performance
  7. With proper thermal management and custom long-life drivers, a key Dialight differentiator, the fixtures can last 10+ years which is a game-changer for reducing maintenance risk, cost and burden
  8. Many people don’t know that the right industrial LED fixture with advanced optics can actually result in far fewer fixtures needed to light a space, which is an instant cost savings
  9. Integrated, factory sealed fixtures like Dialight’s, further protect against dust and moisture to ensure long-lasting performance
  10. LED lighting is often eligible for energy rebate programs from electricity providers for even more savings.

IMPO: According to the 2015 U.S. Lighting Market Characterization report, LED lighting accounted for 4 percent of lighting inventory in the industrial sector. Compared to the commercial sector’s 10 percent, what are some reasons industrial facilities are taking longer to adopt LED lighting?

Ramierz: As with any emerging technology, there is always an “adoption period”. Lighting budgets are often tied up in overall maintenance budgets. There are always competing budget priorities, as well as limited awareness by the decision-makers. They are sometimes unaware of the long-term cost savings that LED lighting provides, related to energy savings and maintenance savings.  For example, when I used to be a Plant Manager, the main focus of my maintenance budget was to keep my air compressors, motors and electrical installation in optimal condition. However, that inadequate lighting could cause fatigue or even lower productivity.  At that time, LED lighting was not readily available. Otherwise, we would have switched from fluorescent. Not only would a switch to LED have improved our foot candles at every work station, but it would have also saved my maintenance personnel countless hours on scaffolding replacing fluorescent tubes.

Plant managers, in particular, can’t risk the safety of their employees and often wait until more of the industry has taken on the new technology. Additionally, in order to re-light an entire facility it could result in shutting down production for a day – that’s lost revenue that some businesses just don’t want to risk. Because of the hassle to change out the lights, you will often see some lighting fixtures like HPS burn out. These lights are then just left dark and not maintained or replaced because they are difficult to access or would affect production. Ultimately, this creates even further compromised worker visibility and is a safety risk. Lastly, because incumbent lighting technologies have been around forever, sometimes there is just a comfort and contentment to use known products, regardless of the setbacks.

IMPO: What are some of the dangers/risks workers may face when antiquated lighting is used in the workplace?

Ramierz: The uneven light distribution and poor color rendering of antiquated lighting in the workplace make it very difficult for workers to see what they are doing, let alone see any hazards that could result in injury. We have heard from several customers that before they upgraded to LED, their employees would often have to use supplemental portable lighting or carry flashlights just to augment the dim environment. Especially when flashlights are used, workers are limiting themselves to the use of only one hand to safely complete tasks.

In the case of power outages, it can take up to 20 minutes for lighting to come back to full brightness. During this time, it creates a dangerous environment. You might recall the Super Bowl XLVII in 2013 when the lights went out and halted the game for quite some time. It may not have seemed like that big of a safety issue at the Super Bowl, but in comparison to an emergency situation, 20 minutes can be critical.

High-Pressure Sodium lighting generally has a lifespan of no more than a few years. Workers have to frequently climb scaffolding or use cherry pickers to replace and maintain the fixtures. This poses a risk of injury, or even death, from potential falls due to elevation or electrocution.

Mercury and other harmful materials can contaminate a work site if a bulb breaks, creating both short and long-term health consequences for workers that are exposed. It goes without saying that this also requires costly and burdensome hazmat cleanup. To put this in perspective, just one HPS bulb contains enough mercury to poison an entire classroom above threshold limits — and there are MILLIONS of these lamps installed across the country.

IMPO: Are there any misconceptions or overlooked elements about LED lighting you can set straight?

Ramierz: Yes. When LED lighting technology was first introduced, it got a bad reputation due to the brightness or blue quality of the light. The market was unfamiliar with the aesthetic of the LEDs and concerned about the bright light disrupting sleep patterns. Since then, there have been significant advancements and LEDs are now available in a wide color-temperature range. Unlike the residential sector where the potential for disruptive bright lighting exists, in industrial settings, alertness and visual clarity are critical to the safety of workers. In a study evaluating the impact of light pollution on human health, the white light of LEDs encouraged alertness and reduced fatigue by a factor of 5X compared to High Pressure Sodium. The Centers for Disease Control also found that 94% of people indicated a faster detection rate of trip hazards using LED lighting. To me, these misconceptions are actually really meaningful benefits in the industrial space.

IMPO: Are there any other benefits to LED our readers should know, or anything else you’d like to add?

Ramierz: You don’t have to take my word for it. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health stated that “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.” Overall, the evidence is pretty significant and should be seriously considered at industrial sites. The benefits of LEDs not only include safety, but also longevity, durability, cost savings, ROI, and the environmental benefits. These reasons and more make industrial LED lighting extremely compelling for industrial worksites. They are without question the best alternative to conventional lighting. The efficiency and performance will only continue to increase with the latest LED advancements each year.

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.

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