Flameproof LED light to improve safety of mineworkers

5th October 2012 By: Zandile Mavuso - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Features

Flameproof lighting supplier Azolite, now a division of industrial plugs manufacturer Powermite, has manufactured a new flameproof light-emitting diode (LED) light for use in underground mining to improve safety and efficiency. Previously, fluorescent lights were most commonly used in mining operations for work area and road/walkway illumination.

“Fluorescents are extremely sensitive glass tubes. The necessary care not to break the tubes during transport and installation is a huge challenge in arduous mining conditions. In addition, the environmental impact associated in the disposal of fluorescent products necessitates disciplined practices and procedures to be followed,” says Azolite MD Donovan Marks.

Maintenance activities, which may involve climbing ladders and working in awkward positions, require mineworkers to walk in areas where light maintenance is needed, as they can be at risk of slipping, tripping or being exposed to broken glass if a light has been damaged.

“When designing the LED light, we focused on the safety of our customers on site, as well as improving the total cost of owner- ship by providing an improved operating life cycle.

“Consideration of the unstable conditions of underground mining prompted us to develop a plastic housing around the light that will not break, should it be flung or fall on the ground,” he explains.

Research on the potential impact of LED lights, with regard to the reduction of mining injuries during operation and the maintenance of lighting systems, published by the US National Institute of Occupation Safety and Health (NIOSH), reports that 140 relevant mining accident records were found between 2002 and 2006 in the US.

NIOSH says the incidents resulted in 3 668 working days being lost, with an additional 925 days of restricted activity on the mines.

About 74 accidents occurred during lighting maintenance when workers were changing bulbs at the mines. Although 37% of the maintenance accidents resulted in nonfatal days-lost injuries, the days away from work averaged 78.4 per injury.

There were five cases where employees received cuts when the bulb broke in their hands while it was being removed, says the NIOSH report authored by Michael Yenchek and John Samarco.

“The role LED technology plays in these accidents is to reduce the need for maintenance and exposure to maintenance-related hazards,” says Marks.

Azolite reports that the application of LED lights in the mining industry could also be beneficial to plants that are highly dependant on electricity as a power source because these lights consume significantly less energy.

“As a result, the operating costs of a plant and its environmental footprint are reduced,” says Azolite sales and marketing manager Rikus Prinsloo.

Marks mentions that the LED light is simultaneously undergoing testing by the South African Bureau of Standards and trials being conducted by some of the mining houses operating in the country.

“Because the needs of mines differ, the product must be versatile, which is why its introduction onto the market is being delayed.”

Other Innovative Products
Proof Engineering, also a division of Powermite, has manufactured plugs and socket products from a new zinc alloy material, developed in-house, to expand its flameproof range.

Prinsloo says the zinc alloy was developed as an alternative to brass, owing to the high incidence of brass theft. In addition to reducing and eliminating coupler theft, other consequential benefits include:
• Improved safety – unlike brass that will deform (or even form hairline cracks) under abusive use, the South African Future Value (ZAFV) material would rather break
• Improved production availability
• Reduced labour costs (resulting from unplanned replacement activities)
• Reduced unscheduled or unplanned downtime
• Reduced operating costs
• An opportunity to manage couplers from ‘cradle to grave’ as the material contaminates scrap metal salvage operations

“Our research and development has recommended the ZAFV material, as it is not targeted by thieves who supply scrap yards or unscrupulous resellers and repairers. In addition, the third generation of the ZAFV material is already in an advanced development phase,” adds Marks.