Work Light Safety - Dangers of a Quartz Halogen Light
The 500W quartz halogen portable work light is everywhere. And why not? They are cheap, easily moved and they put out a lot of light to help you work in an area. And while they come in a couple of different styles (on tripods, floor stands, or magnet mounts), at their core they are all the same: dangerous tools that harm workers, start fires, and set off explosions. In our experience at Lind Equipment, we hear the same complaint everywhere we go; quartz halogen lights are too hot and people are getting hurt.
A look at the data reveals why everyone is complaining. We measured a 500W quartz halogen portable work light using an infrared camera for over four hours. What we found was that within the first hour, the 500W quartz halogen had already reached its maximum temperature of over 300 degrees Celsius (>570 F). This temperature will ignite paper and wood. It is the melting point of pewter. Styrofoam will become liquid at this temperature. We haven’t even begun to discuss what this would do to human flesh.
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Heavy-Duty versus Industrial; what it means to us.
You'll see in the descriptions of our products that we use the terms "Heavy-Duty" and "Industrial" often. We're not the only ones that use these terms of course, but what do they really mean, and do these words mean the same to everyone? Sadly, there is no defined, commonly agreed-upon criteria that allows one product to be called Heavy-Duty and another to be called Industrial. In this post, we'll describe what we at Lind Equipment mean by these terms and how that can help you to buy more intelligently. We'll also give you examples from real customers who have chosen to go one way or another in their selection and how it helped them save money and work confidently.
Heavy-Duty: For a light to be considered "Heavy-Duty" at Lind, it needs to be able to take a higher level of physical abuse than would be expected at a job site. In other words, it needs to be able to go above and beyond what would be considered 'getting the job done.' For us, this means that the light can be dropped from chest height and stood on by a real person (>170lbs) and then emerge from that abuse in working condition without breakage. You can see from this video an example of some of the abuse that our heavy-duty lights will sustain. Of course, you wouldn't normally expect that a light would be treated this way, but that is precisely why a light that survives this abuse warrants a "Heavy-Duty" label from us. We've seen lights treated this way in the past, and know that there is nothing more frustrating than constantly having to buy replacement lights and interrupting the job at hand. One thing to keep in mind with heavy-duty lights is that they are not necessarily explosion-proof or intrinsically safe. For those applications, you need a specially designed light. See our primer on this if you have any questions.
Of course, one of the first questions when considering a heavy-duty product that comes to mind is "But don't I pay a lot more for heavy-duty?" From our viewpoint, that answer is not always 'yes.' It depends on how tough your environment is and how rough your workers are on their equipment. Often buying heavy-duty lights can reduce your overall expenditure through longer-lasting life and removing the need for constant replacements. Our of our customers was using a more commercial grade incandescent work light for inspection work on finished products they were making at their factory. The light would constantly break from being dropped by the workers as they were maneuvering around the product. A switch to our heavy-duty LED work lights allowed them to continue to have very bright light shined on the inspection areas, but also to save money by not having to buy replacement lights or bulbs on a regular basis.
For us, an Industrial duty light is one that is designed to meet the regular day-to-day abuse that comes from being on a job site. So, while we wouldn't recommend standing on these lights or dropping them from head-height onto concrete, our Industrial lights will certainly be tough enough for most environments. Often, we'll achieve this not only through durable design, but also through the addition of intelligent features that make the light easier to work with or less prone to damage. For example, many of our industrial work lights come with magnet mounts to allow workers to secure them out of the way when not in use, and in a safe location that casts uninterrupted light onto the work when in use.
An example comes from an oil refinery in Western Canada that was building an addition in a non-hazardous location. The workers had been using the cheap s-frame floor-sitting quartz halogen floodlights that can be found in many retail outlets. They were going through these very quickly and breaking them via kicking them inadvertently, or damaging them when loading them into trucks or storage areas. This company, through one of our distributors, starting purchasing our BD-MAG floodlights, which have an innovative magnet mounting system to keep the lights out of the way. And their durable construction allowed for moderately rough treatment without breakage. While the company paid more for our BD-MAG lights than they were paying unit for unit, our lights lasted much longer than the cheap versions, making the overall expenditure less. Lind's Industrial lights are often a reliable, economical choice for tough workplaces.
If you have any questions, or want to learn more about any of our products, contact us today.
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Grounding Rolling Scaffolding
With the arrival of the first shutdown season of the year and the growing list of new construction occurring in the oil patch, we thought that it was worth highlighting an often overlooked source of static discharge danger during these projects: rolling scaffolding. As many of our customers will already be aware, whenever you are working in a hazardous location (i.e. one where flammable gases, dusts or grains are present in the air), workers need to be very cautious about static electricity and the static discharge (i.e. sparks) that can result from an accumulation of static electricity. By now we hope that everyone has safely grounded any equipment that is handling flammable materials and any associated metal structures that are near the hazardous location. We have been hearing feedback from the field that scaffolding is being overlooked and that workers may be confused on how to ground rolling scaffolding. One of the major oil companies has already identified the issue of rolling scaffolding and implemented our plan to ground these structures to avoid static discharge events.
The problem that arises from using rolling scaffolding in these projects comes from their wheels. Rolling scaffolding gets its ability to "roll" from the rubber wheels on the base of the structure. These rubber wheels also serve the unintended (and unwanted) function of insulating the scaffolding from ground. This insulation works much like the rubber tires on a car. What can then happen is that static electricity could build up on the rolling scaffolding structure and not be able to dissipate to ground. Typical grounding clamps and cables will work to dissipate this static electricity but are often clumsy to reposition when the scaffolding needs to be moved to work at another location.
The solution that we have been recommending to customers is to use one of our retractable grounding reels such as the 700-50R (50') or 200-20R (20') equipped with a pipe clamp on the end. This allows the reel to be set up in a location where it has a good connection to ground and the clamp can be reeled out as the scaffolding is moved. You now have a continuous path for the static electricity to drain to ground that does not need to be removed and re-attached when the scaffolding is moved. Just make sure that you purchase a reel that has enough cable to accommodate the full range of motion of the scaffolding. To further ensure safety of the workers, ask to have the reel equipped with high visibility yellow or orange PVC or Hytrel coated cable.
This solution has worked so well with one major oil company that worked with one of our distributors that they now have mandated this practice throughout all of their sites whenever rolling scaffolding is being used. To learn more about how you can properly ground your rolling scaffolding, please reach out to us.
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Static Bonding and Grounding Site Surveys
When handling flammable materials such as petrochemicals, paint thinners, etc, there must be great care taken to avoid any sparks that could ignite the fumes. Many people are injured or killed every year because the proper precautions are not taken. This is so serious that both US and Canadian governments have mandated that certain precautions be taken. The US NFPA and the Canadian provincial Fire Codes all mandate that, when handling flammables, static bonding and grounding must be employed to reduce the occurrence of static discharge that could ignite the flammable materials. You may know static discharge from the sparks you get when you touch a doorknob after shuffling your feet along the carpet. Annoying to you in the office, but potentially lethal to those folks who work amongst flammables.
These pieces of legislation are helpful as they bring to light the potential hazards of static discharge. However, what they do not do is tell the plant Safety Manager or the average worker WHAT equipment to use and HOW to use that equipment properly to avoid static discharge. So the employee is left knowing that they need to use static bonding and grounding equipment, but not which equipment or how to use it. This is where Lind Equipment's Site Surveys can help.
At Lind Equipment, we have been working in hazardous locations for over 60 years, and we understand how static bonding and grounding works from the inside out. Every day we field calls from distributors and end-users wondering how they should approach a certain situation. "I've got this issue with static, but I'm not sure how to handle it" is a common refrain that we hear. Nowhere in the fire codes will you be able to see typical static bonding and grounding equipment that is used, let alone understand which clamp is right for you, or how best to use them in the drumming room versus the mixing area, and so on and so on.
To help solve these dilemmas for our customers, Lind Equipment has been dispatching our consultants on Site Surveys to provide static bonding and grounding advice that matches the situation and environment in which the customer works. Typically a Site Survey will involve a plant tour with the Plant Electrician, Safety Manager and Line Manager. We will examine all of the locations where flammables are stored, transferred, mixed, drummed and used. During this tour we will be looking not only at the equipment (or lack of equipment!) that is present, but also we will observe workers in their daily routine. Upon the culmination of the survey, we provide a written report detailing which equipment is right for the jobs at hand and what procedures need to be in place to use that equipment correctly.
The latter point is very important. We have done Site Surveys before at plants where they had all of the right equipment in place, but then we observed line workers using them so incorrectly that they were creating greater dangers for themselves rather than mitigating the danger! The right equipment without the right procedures (performed consistently, every time) is like not have any equipment at all. This is true in many aspects of work, but none more true than when dealing with static electricity.
Our Site Surveys are often eye-opening experiences for our customers and reveal to them things they were not even aware of. They assume that they are doing the right thing because no one has even explained to them what "right" is. The fire codes certainly do not offer any explanation of "right" or "wrong." It is not uncommon for a Site Survey to lead to a request for us to perform some staff training on both the theory of static electricity and on how to discharge that static electricity safely. Call us if you have any questions about your static bonding and grounding equipment and procedures, or would like us to perform a Site Survey for you.
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Ground Fault Protection for All Industrial Areas
At Lind Equipment, we've been selling Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) for many years, and we've seen the adoption of these devices grow nicely. Their adoption has saved many lives, but has been driven mainly by legislation rather than voluntary uptake. We believe that many more lives can be saved through recognizing the need for ground fault protection across a wider variety of applications. While the US is taking steps to ensure this broader adoption, it is important for the electrical industry and safety engineers to step up and be aware of the applicability of ground fault protection in all industrial areas.
By way of background, a GFCI is a device designed to protect workers from ground faults that can occur in electrical equipment and circuits when the electricity finds a path to ground other than through the circuit. This could be due to a damaged cord, a broken tool, or the introduction of water into a tool. If that new 'path to ground' happens to be through an operator of the tool in question, the results could range from a shock to death. A GFCI device senses the flow of electricity out to the tool and back through the circuit. Any imbalance in the two of as little as 4-6 mA will cause the device to 'trip' and cut off the continued flow of electricity. For more information, see our GFCI primer here for more information (GFCI Primer).
For many years now, GFCIs have been mandated by OSHA (in the US) and the Canadian Electrical Code (in Canada) to be used on all outlets on construction and demolition sites. There are also mandates for residential use, but we'll stick to industrial applications here. This requirement recognizes the potential ground fault hazards in these job sites due to water (rain, puddles, sewer mains, etc) and rigours of the environment (e.g. damaged extension cords). After these rules were put into place and GFCI adoption increased, the number of electrocutions dramatically dropped. OSHA has now taken this a step further and introduced guidelines which require the use of GFCIs for "general industry." For all construction-like activities in general industry and for all temporary power applications, general industry must now protect those circuits using GFCIs. This greatly expands the requirements for GFCI usage and should result in a greater number of lives saved. More information on the OSHA guidelines can be found here (TRC OSHA Bulletin). Canada has yet to follow the OSHA regulation in the Canadian Electrical Code, but we suspect this is only a matter of time. That being said, many Canadian subsidiaries of US companies follow the OSHA guidelines as best practice across the entire organization and as such should be adopting a greater focus on GFCI protection through general industrial workplaces.
While this is a great next step, and Canada should follow in line with the requirement for GFCIs in general industry, there is more to be done. Where these guidelines fall short is in industrial applications where machinery should be protected from ground faults due to the presence of water. For example, any piece of equipment in a food service environment (e.g. bottling line, food processing machines) should have ground fault protection, lest a ground fault is caused by the presence of water and a worker gets shocked. (Sadly, we hear about this occurence FAR too often, and of course we hear about it after the fact.) Given the high voltage and amperage that typically power these machines, a simple GFCI device won't work. At that time, you have to turn to something called a Equipment Ground Fault Protection Device (EGFPD), which can monitor the higher voltages/amperages and provide trip protection at varying levels to take into account the natural leakage which may occur in these devices. At Lind Equipment, we offer EGFPD devices that can handle up to 600V and 60A.
Safety engineers and plant electricians - take a look at your operating environment. Do you have machines that operate around water sources? Are they protected by a ground fault interrupter that can save lives in the event of an accident? Don't wait until an accident happens or for someone to legislate that these are necessary. Send us your comments or questions on this topic.
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The Importance of Approvals for Hazardous Locations
Though we have mentioned the importance of approvals for hazardous location equipment in our previous post, it is certainly worth an entire article to itself given the gravity of the issue and the amount of confusion in the marketplace. After 60 years in this business, we still field questions about this all the time, and quite often we'll discover unapproved or inaccurately approved devices being used in the field. This practice is of course dangerous and can get people into trouble with the law, insurance companies, etc etc. But its no wonder this happens - the approval process is a bit of a maze. Let's see if we can't clear some of this up.
Why do we need approvals for hazardous location equipment?
As we described in our last article, hazardous location equipment is used in areas where there is enough flammable gas, grains or dust in the air to fuel a serious explosion and/or fire. Have you ever received a static spark off a door knob before? That simple spark, which doesn't hurt you in most circumstances, can have enough energy to ignite the gas, grain or dust in a hazardous location. So any spark, from static electricity to current electricity, must be avoided or controlled in a hazardous location. While we'll talk more about static electricity bonding and grounding (the process of avoiding a static spark) in a later article, you can start to get the idea of why electrical equipment needs to be specially designed for use in hazardous locations. There is an inherent risk of electrical sparks whenever you are using live current, and this needs to be controlled. There are many tried and tested ways of achieving this control, which has led to develop of standards against which all electrical equipment for hazardous locations needs to be measured. Approvals by accredited standards bodies recognize that the device has passed these standards and is safe to use. Without these standards and approvals, how would you really know that you are safe when using electrical equipment in a hazardous location?
What does a proper hazardous location approval look like?
In North America, all electrical equipment used in hazardous locations must prominently display the areas for which it is approved. In the case of our explosion-proof lights, for instance, they all have a metal plate firmly attached to the light indicating their approval status. The picture shown here is from our XP162 explosion-proof incandescent hand lamp. Note that the UL stamp in the upper-middle part of the label has the "c" and "us" designations on either side of it. This indicates that for the Class and Divisions noted (Class I, Division 1, Groups C&D), UL has approved this light to BOTH Canadian and US standards. Also note that the stamp explicitly states that this is certified for "portable lighting for hazardous locations." All hazardous location equipment will have a similar stamp.
What does the "Class", "Division" and "Group" mean?
These are the specific types of hazardous locations in which the item is certified to be used. There are strict standards around operating temperature, thickness of material, etc. that are used to determine which types of gases and dusts the item can operate in and still keep the operator safe. You can see our primer on this here. Do not use the item in areas for which it isn't approved!
Is there a difference between Canadian and American approvals?
In short, YES. Hazardous location equipment needs to be approved FOR Canada or FOR the US, depending of course on where it will be used. In Canada, you cannot legally sell a piece of electrical equipment unless it is approved specifically FOR Canada. Of course, from an insurance point of view, you should also not use a device that isn't approved for use in your country. While many of the standards are the same or similar between Canada and the US, there ARE differences and they must be respected. Typically, accredited standards bodies such as UL, CSA and ETL will denote a Canadian approval by adding a small "c" before their logo. Common examples are shown to the right. Note that a dual approval can be shown by placing a small "c" and a small "us" on either side of the logo, as is indicated in the far right example from UL.
Look for these marks. If there is any confusion, call the standards body or the manufacturer and ask. Better safe than sorry!
Who can approve hazardous location equipment? In Canada and the US, there are a host of "accredited standards bodies" that are able to provide approvals for hazardous location equipment. Canada keeps a good list of them here, segmenting them by what kind of approvals they are allowed to give. For our purposes, you want to look for someone who is able to give approvals on hazardous location luminaires and portable luminaires for hazardous locations. The most common accredited standards bodies for explosion proof and hazardous location lighting are CSA and UL.
What are the most common usage mistakes?
Asking around our organization, we've compiled the most common mistakes that customers make when trying to purchase explosion proof or hazardous location lighting:
1. Light not approved for Canada.
This is the most common issue we encounter. Someone has found a light that has UL (or equivalent) approval for the US and so the customer assumes that it can be used in Canada as well. There are many explosion proof lights that receive approval in the US but not in Canada due to the temperature level of the bulb used. Using such a light in Canada can be illegal and void insurance policies. Make sure it has Canadian approval. All of our lights have Canadian approvals and we are happy to assist you if you aren't sure about a light that you are thinking of buying.
2. Light approved ONLY as a fixture, NOT as a portable light.
There IS a difference between a light (or luminaire in the approvals-speak) approved as a fixture or for portable usage. A fixture is a light that is permanently mounted to the wall or ceiling. A portable light is just that - portable. There are different approvals for each kind of light, and using an approved fixture as a portable light is not allowed. Many companies will modify approved fixtures to make them portable, which will void the approval in Canada. Make sure the portable light you buy indicates that it is APPROVED for portable use, or else you are using an unapproved light.
3. Light approved for the wrong Class, Division or Group.
Often people will think that they are getting a deal by buying a Class I, Division 2 light and will then proceed to use it in their Division 1 areas. Again, this is an unapproved use and could get you into trouble. There are reasons why a light will be only approved as Division 2 and for those same reasons it should not be used in a Division 1 area. Similarly, people will use lights approved for the wrong Group for their usage. Familiarize yourself with the Class, Division, and Groups definitions in our primer, or in our handy reference sheet, which you can download here.
4. Light is not approved at all!
We often see people use a "vapour-proof" light thinking that it is explosion-proof. Or they will look at some of our industrial lights and assume that they are also explosion-proof or approved for hazardous locations. Easy answer is that if it doesn't specifically claim to be approved for hazardous locations (with a mention of Class, Division and Group), then it probably isn't approved. Even better - look at the product itself. Does it have a stamp indicating the approvals? If not, it's not approved, period.
We hope this is helpful to giving you an understanding of why we are so diligent with approvals here at Lind Equipment. Hazardous location equipment, whether it be lighting or static bonding and grounding products, are used in very tough locations and should be treated with respect. We've taken the time to educate you on this to keep you save and to allow you to Work Confidently, knowing that Lind Equipment is on your side. As always, we love to hear your questions and feedback, so don't hesitate to reach out.
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The Explosion-Proof Light Explained
Many of the questions that we get asked on a regular basis relate to understanding exactly what is an "explosion-proof" light. Customers often confuse this terminology with other labels that they've heard before, or often have not had the function of the light explained to them. Let's try to clarify some of the confusion.
First off, let's talk about the general usage. Explosion-proof lights are designed to be used in a "Hazardous Location," as defined by the Canadian Electrical Code as well as other codes or regulations across different jurisdictions. Broadly speaking, a hazardous location in this context is an area where there are high enough concentrations of combustible materials in the air to cause a fire or explosion. This could be in the form of a gas (e.g. natural gas, ethanol, toluene, etc), a dust (e.g. grain, flour, coal, etc), or even a fibre. When these hazards are present, workers need to (by law) use specially designed equipment to reduce the risk of igniting the flammable materials lest they cause a catastrophic fire or explosion. For more background on the classification of hazardous locations, see our quick primer on the topic here.
One of the pieces of equipment often used in these areas is a portable light. Imagine you are going into a massive tank that used to contain gas in order to clean it out and inspect it for damage. This tank is still going to contain combustible gases long after all the liquid fuel is gone, and as such you'll need to protect yourself. However, the tank is dark inside so you need to bring in a light with you to allow you to see and carry out the job. Since this is a hazardous location, you will need to have a light that can reduce and minimize the chance of igniting the gases (or dusts, depending on the location). This light can come in two basic configurations, explosion-proof or intrinsically safe.
All electrical equipment certified for hazardous locations can either be certified as explosion-proof or intrinsically safe. The aim is similar; to reduce the chance of igniting the flammable materials. However, the approach is different. Explosion-proof lights (like our XP162 light shown here) are designed to withstand an ignition of the flammable material that happens inside the light itself, whereas intrinsically safe lights are designed to not carry enough current to cause a spark that could ignite the flammable material. To be certified, explosion-proof lights typically will be made of durable, non-sparking material, a very thick glass globe over the bulb, and other features to ensure that the worker and the surrounding environment remains safe should an ignition occur inside the light. We won't go into the details here, but this is a real feat of mechanical engineering to accomplish this. As it should be! We are talking about people's lives at risk. To be certified, intrinsically safe lights will typically be battery-powered and have such low voltage traveling through the circuit that a spark arcing through the air could not happen. A good example to think about is a specially designed battery-powered flashlight. So as you can see, the terms explosion-proof and intrinsically safe are similar in their goal, but very different in their application.
We should take a second to pause here to stress that all products used in hazardous locations MUST BE CERTIFIED by an approved certification body (e.g. in Canada and the USA: UL, CSA, ETL, etc) for the exact type of hazardous area that it is being used in. You will need to know the Class, Division and Group (or Zone as it becomes more widespread) applicable to the location and use a device specifically approved for those criteria. For example, do not use a light certified for Class I, Division II when you really have a Class I, Division I area. Similarly, don't use a Zone 1 classified light in a Zone 0 location. More on this in a later post.
There are some common misconceptions about explosion-proof lights that are worth addressing. For example, many people assume that an explosion-proof light works by blocking out all gases or vapours so that they can never come in contact with live electrical power, even if the light were to break. That is typically NOT the case. Explosion-proof lights do not have to be "air tight" to perform their function. Many explosion-proof lights will allow gases into the light itself. The important part of their construction is to prevent any explosion caused by those gases from escaping to harm the worker or further ignite gases in the work area. So before submerging your explosion-proof light to clean it off, it's best to check with the manufacturer to see whether this is acceptable. For example, some of the lights we sell can be power-washed and others are not water or vapour-tight.
On the flip side of this issue, many non-explosion-proof lights are for sale that are "vapour-proof" in their construction. It's important not to assume that these lights are also explosion-proof as most are not. An explosion-proof light needs to be certified as explosion-proof and that should be prominently displayed in any sales materials and certainly on the product itself. Remember, not every vapour-proof light is explosion-proof, and not every explosion-proof light is vapour-proof. Make sure to ask to ensure you are getting the right tool for the job.
This is a quick overview of the use of the terms explosion-proof and intrinsically safe as they apply to portable lighting products. If you have any questions, or want clarification, please feel free to reach out to us.
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