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    How can connected LED lighting boost industry safety?

    High-quality lighting and data-driven capabilities can reduce injuries and even save lives

    Workplace injury has an enormous impact—first and foremost on injured workers and their families, but also on employers and on society as a whole.

    The roughly 4.6 million on-the-job injuries that occur each year in the U.S. alone generate a variety of direct and indirect costs for a range of stakeholders. According to the Illinois-based National Safety Council (NSC), 2018 saw work injury costs total $170.8 billion in the United States. Those costs included productivity and wage losses, medical and administrative expenses, and other liabilities such as fire and vehicle damage costs.
    Industrial employers, who are on the front lines of the fight against workplace injury, have direct financial and moral interests in cutting down on it. And in fact investing in safety measures generates impressive ROI: from two to six dollars for every dollar spent, according to the NSC.
    How to fight the scourge of on-the-job injury? A number of established methods exist, from educating workers, to financially rewarding smart safety behavior, to furnishing workers with the right personal protective equipment.

    Technology can also play a role—including digital and connected lighting technology. That doesn’t mean LED lighting alone, as important as it can be. It also means the smart lighting applications that go far beyond LED tech to function as platforms for the connected, data-generating, sensor-based technologies known collectively as the Internet of Things (IoT).

    On the most basic level, LED tech simply provides better light than do the high-pressure sodium (HPS) fixtures that have traditionally been standard in industrial applications. HPS lamps are generally characterized by color rendering index (CRI) under 30, which accounts for their amber-tinged light—a light that not only flattens perspective but also can make it harder than it should be for workers to distinguish between different colors. But distinguishing between colors can be important in an industrial setting. Tools and equipment controls are often color-coded, as are electrical wires. Color plays a role in security-related signage and floor markings, too. LED luminaires, typically with CRI of 80 and above, provide a brightness and clarity that can save lives.

    In the future, industry workplace designers might look to adapt recent advancements that have been made in human-centric lighting (HCL) for office spaces. HCL is lighting that not only maximizes vision but also supports effectiveness, health, comfort, and general well-being. Traditional lighting can itself be “human-centric,” but tunable LED makes it that much more effective and easy to deploy. Office workspace managers can program an LED lighting system so that it emits higher levels of the blue light that promotes alertness and wakefulness. They can run evidence-based light “recipes” that promote healthy circadian rhythms among workers, with the interior light spectrum transitioning throughout the day. In this way, HCL may promote better sleep patterns among workers, rendering them more alert when they’re on the job and happier in general.

    LED lighting can also make life easier, and safer, for individual employees. Brighter light can be precisely targeted to the discrete workspace of an older employee whose vision might not be as strong as it once was. Workers might even personally customize the lighting that their workspaces receive, making those spaces maximally comfortable—and safer. Precision tasks could call for a different lighting treatment than non-specialized tasks do.

    LED light promotes safety, too, by the mere fact of its being “instantly on.” An LED system blazes into full life as soon as you hit the “on” switch. By contrast, the high-pressure sodium lighting systems that used to represent the industrial standard can take minutes to reach full power. Accidents can happen as such systems gear up.
    No lighting system can foster safety if it fails to work, leaving employees in the dark. Here too LED lighting, and in particular smart LED lighting, improves on what used to be the status quo. Some LED light sources can last 50 times longer than incandescent lamps do. An LED luminaire that lights a dark corner for 11 years is by definition “safer” than a traditional lamp that illuminates it for a mere two, because it involves less downtime. It pays safety dividends, too, by requiring fewer worker trips up ladders to change it.
    Second, smart LED lighting platforms, which serve not only to light up spaces but also to deploy sensor-driven IoT technology, can cut down or even eliminate system downtime. Thousands of sensors embedded in a smart system can feed back to managers data that can help them assess which lamps, luminaires, or other components are set to fail. A smart system essentially monitors itself and issues warnings about its own condition, expediting replacement and repair before workers are left in the dark. Reactive maintenance will soon be a thing of the past.

    With pandemic diseases on everyone’s minds, responsible employers need reliable methods to ensure that employees are maintaining proper distancing on the job. Motion and occupancy sensors may have a role to play here. But health isn’t the only thing at risk in the COVID-19 era: so is the integrity of supply chains and of industrial processes in general. For the foreseeable future, a newly vulnerable industrial complex will have every incentive to make sure that disruptions are kept to a minimum. The industrial IoT, delivered via lighting systems, can play a key role in meeting that challenge.

    Interact Industry IoT lighting software and systems afford the distributed connectivity that smart applications, like many of those described above, require. Advanced data-driven application such as HCL and asset tracking are still in development, but Interact Industry offers many applications today that can make an industrial facility a safer, better place to work—including scene management, lighting and lighting asset management, and space management.  

    About the author

    Headshot of Ton van de Wiel
    Ton van de Wiel is the global segment lead for industrial end-users within Signify and co-founder of Interact. With over twenty years of business experience, he now works to shape tomorrow’s world of smart manufacturing and warehousing as enabled via connected lighting.

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