Mining is an around-the-clock activity where worker safety and zero downtime are critical requirements for a successful operation. The potential gains of utilizing LED lighting in mine sites are unlimited. LED lighting options extend beyond floodlights to lighting within electrical rooms, machinery houses and walkways. All these options are within the capabilities of LED technology and with such an efficient green technology, mines can cut operating costs and maximize their limited resources.
It has already been established that poor lighting in mine sites is one of the major causes of mining accidents, because of the inability to detect hazards. A mine site is a very challenging environment. The nature of the terrain exposes mine workers to tripping, slipping and falling hazards. With these hazards in mind, there is a need for a lighting solution that allows workers to navigate the dangerous terrain safely and effectively. David Stanford, Business Line Manager Portable Energy Division argues that, light towers should be carefully designed such that it is extremely easy to position in any desired location to obtain optimal work area lighting.
According to a research by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) light emitting diodes (LEDs) can be used to enhance safety by improving a miner’s ability to see mining hazards and reducing glare.
Improving visibility and eradicating cable-related accidents
White light emitting diodes (LEDs) are emerging as a viable replacement for traditional lighting including incandescent and florescent in mines. LED technology has the potential to improve mine safety in several areas. Illumination from LEDs can potentially improve a miner’s visual performance for the detection of mine hazards. The technology can also be used for visually communicating warnings and alerts. It can provide longer service life and require less power than traditional mine lighting technologies.
LEDs could provide, depending on the design and ambient conditions, useful lives up to 50 times longer than incandescent lighting technologies commonly used in mining thus greatly reducing exposure to maintenance-related hazards associated with lighting. Reduced power requirements can enable reductions in the size and weight of mine lighting. LEDs can also enable the elimination of power cords that tether miner cap lamps to wearable battery packs. These power cords are known to contribute to accidents when they get caught against equipment or protruding hazards.
The longer life and robustness of LED lighting systems can potentially reduce the frequency of accidents associated with maintenance, repair, and the catastrophic lamp failures occurring during operation. Quality LEDs are also typically rated for at least 50,000 operating hours. Due to strict mining regulations, some applications require lights to be on 24 hours a day. This can equate to almost six years of lighting. The lifetime of traditional light sources, by contrast, is far less; between 2000 and 20,000 hours in perfect conditions. Upgrading lights to LED can, therefore, significantly reduce maintenance expenses.
To a lesser extent, it appears that LEDs could reduce accident severity for the cases of eye injury from an exploding bulb and the eight cases of cuts from broken glass. For these cases, the hazards would be eliminated by the LEDs given the physical construction of this light source. Elimination of the cap lamp cable could eradicate cable-related accidents. It is anticipated that new LED cap lamp designs will use high efficacy cool-white LEDs thus enabling consider able power reductions such that the battery that it will be integrated with the cap lamp headpiece, thus eliminating the cable.
Furthermore, according to Ryan Robertson, director, Vert Energy, The use of LED lighting applications in arduous environments, like construction and mining has efficiency and economy advantages compared with towers that use gas-filled metal halide lamps. These eco-friendly LED lighting towers have integrated fluid spillage protection bunds as standard, for environmental compliance.
Replacement and maintenance of lighting fixtures
Most lighting challenges that operators face are the result of the high-vibration conditions on mining equipment. The constant, rapid movement is detrimental to traditional lighting. For this reason, lighting related maintenance has always been a huge burden for mine operators. Whether replacing an entire fixture or repairing a broken lamp or ballast, lighting maintenance on mining equipment is time consuming, expensive and dangerous. Because LED lighting is solid-state technology, there are no fragile filaments or breakable glass components vulnerable to the constant shock and vibration.
Thus it appears that overall, LED technology could provide some added safety benefits in terms of reducing operational and maintenance-related accidents involving lighting; also, through reduced hazard exposure given that LEDs could potentially reduce lamp replacement by a factor of 28 as compared to incandescent bulbs.
However, given the risks posed by other accidents the primary benefit of LEDs is likely to be improving the visual performance of miners such that they can better detect mining hazards.