Because the most hazardous conditions are often in dark places, many manufacturers offer a complete line of Division I safety-rated lights for use when an explosive atmosphere is likely to exist under normal operating conditions. (Streamlight Inc. photo)

Optimizing Worker Safety: It's in the Lights

State-of-the-art flashlights protect against workplace hazards.

Construction and other industrial professionals who rely on flashlights and lanterns to light their way under low-light conditions have never been safer: Recent advances in lighting technology are offering procurers and users a wide range of new lighting tools and features for keeping workers safer on the job.

The latest hand-held flashlights deliver flood light-type brightness, while new scene lights can adapt for use in any environment. And a growing number of lights offer protection in hazardous environments. Today's professional-grade lighting products also feature an unprecedented number of safety features and applications. Following is a summary of some of the latest developments in lighting technology that are helping to protect workers on the job.

High Lumen Technology
Worker safety at construction, manufacturing, and other industrial sites often is critical. Workers in these environments depend on high-quality flashlights or lanterns that deliver extreme brightness, particularly in low-light or other challenging conditions. LED technology has continued to evolve so that manufacturers can now offer high lumen products (500-1,100 lumens) that also maintain high levels of candela and long regulated run times. Products that feature this "high lumen" technology perform like floodlights. They can light up entire work scenes, including peripheral areas, giving users a distinct safety advantage by illuminating potential hazards near and far. Some models even feature superior down-range lighting in addition to extraordinary lumen output. This technology allows professionals to inspect aerial sites from the ground or examine a potentially dangerous scene from a distance, for example.

Scene Lighting Innovations
For tight spaces and in highly rugged areas, recent innovations in scene lighting offer construction professionals important new safety advantages. The newest scene lights feature narrow footprints, making them easy to store and transport. Workers can deploy these lights in a matter of seconds. Some lights even feature a rotating head that can extend on a telescoping pole. The pole is supported by stabilizing legs that workers easily lock to provide balance on uneven surfaces.

While ideal for illuminating wide, open environments, this new type of scene light is flexible enough to be positioned over a manhole or pit to increase worker visibility in tight, dark spaces. In addition, new technology exists to ensure battery life lasts for several shifts, even days, which can be critical in time-sensitive situations.

USB Rechargeable Options
New USB-rechargeable flashlights are now widely available, giving industrial professionals the ability to charge on the go. USB rechargeable lights save time and avoid the worry of not having batteries on hand when they are needed most. They offer a quick, easy, and convenient way to recharge—workers can simply connect to a USB port, an AC wall adaptor, or use a USB charger that plugs into a service truck’s on-board USB port.

Headlamp Innovations
Today’s headlamps are increasingly lightweight, easy to use, and give professionals a range of hands-free options. Designed to fit comfortably on the head or around a hard hat, headlamps are ideal for confined spaced entry. They enable hands-free operation and maximize worker safety.

Many lights now combine multiple features into a single headlamp. They can offer a choice between spot and flood beams for close up or distance lighting; high and low modes; and USB-rechargeable or alkaline batteries. Professionals have the option to select the features they need with just a click. Several varieties also enhance job safety with ratings that meet the stringent requirements of Division 1 hazardous locations, while others incorporate high lumen technology.

Additional Safety Considerations
Certain work environments are extremely dangerous places for flashlights. These hazardous environments can serve as a source of ignition in the presence of flammable gas and liquids, as well as other substances. Because the most hazardous conditions are often in dark places, many manufacturers offer a complete line of Division I safety-rated lights for use when an explosive atmosphere is likely to exist under normal operating conditions. Examples would be working inside an oil or gasoline tank or in certain confined spaces.

Some lights now have safety rating approval based on the requirements of the ANSI/UL 783 standard—the specific standard for flashlights used in hazardous locations—or ANSI/UL 913, the intrinsically safe standard for general electronic equipment. While either standard can direct certification to Division 1 level, it is important to note Class, Group, and Temperature code requirements to select the correct flashlight for specific applications. (It's also important to remember that while an intrinsically safe light carries a Class 1, Division 1 rating, not every product with a Class 1, Division 1 rating is considered intrinsically safe.)

These safety considerations are particularly important in light of OSHA's newly issued standard for construction work in confined spaces, which recognizes that such spaces can present physical and atmospheric hazards that can be avoided if they are recognized and addressed prior to entering them. The new standard (Subpart AA of 29 CFR 1926) is designed to eliminate potentially deadly hazards by requiring employers to determine what kinds of spaces their workers are in; what hazards could be there; how those hazards should be made safe (including the use of headlamps, flashlights, and other lighting equipment that carry the proper safety ratings); what training workers should receive, and how to rescue workers if anything goes wrong.

Other Innovations
At construction sites, it's not unusual for a flashlight to be knocked around or dropped several feet to the ground from atop a piece of equipment. Manufacturers now make newer lights with durable thermoplastic material that has anti-static properties and superior resistance to potentially dangerous chemicals and solvents used in many industries. The latest models offer safety features such as a mechanical locking mechanism that requires a tool to open the battery compartment. This mechanism prevents users from inadvertently opening the battery housing in a hazardous environment, which could result in electric shock.

As lighting technology evolves at break-neck speed, procurement managers must keep on top of lighting innovations to help ensure employee safety in construction environments. When employees are equipped and well trained on the latest high-performance flashlights, lanterns, and headlamps, they can do their jobs more effectively. New high lumen technology; scene lighting and rechargeability innovations; and growing options in hazardous location products are among these innovations. These and other safety features not only enhance productivity, but also they are critically important for keeping workers safe in the environments in which they operate.

This article originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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