assessing the strengths of led lighting for hazardous environments

Selecting the best and most appropriate lighting for an area that has been designated as a hazardous environment involves more than simply choosing a light bulb or fixture that illuminates the area. OSHA regulations for hazardous environment lighting are very specific with respect to the features and characteristics that are allowed to be used in those environments. LED industrial lighting is increasingly becoming the standard for hazardous environment illumination, but not all LED industrial lights will be good matches for every type of hazardous area. Assessing the strengths of specific LED lighting for a hazardous environment is as much a function of understanding the threats posed by that environment as it is an element of the technical and design features of the LED lighting itself.

Hazardous environments are designated as Class I, II, or III areas according to the types of materials that are likely to be found in those areas. These classifications have been defined in the U.S. National Electrical Code and adopted as OSHA regulations. Class I hazardous environments feature flammable vapors, whereas class Ii environments include dusts, and Class III features fibers.  Within each Class, a hazardous area will be subdivided into Division 1 or 2, depending on whether the probability of flammable substances being present in those areas is high or low. Lastly, each division includes a number of groups that are specific to the specific types of flammable materials that may be found in the hazardous environment.

The Class, division, and group designations are typically used to describe hazardous environments in facilities within the United States. Facilities outside of the United States typically utilize Zone classifications that are generally analogous to Class and division designations.

Once a hazardous environment has been properly identified and classified, a facilities manager can select LED lighting that matches the classification. Many LED industrial lighting fixtures include descriptions to indicate the types of hazardous areas in which they can be used safely and in compliance with OSHA regulations. LED fixtures that are designed for use in Class I, division I, group A hazardous areas, for example, might include more durable housings and corrosion-resistant fixtures. They will also likely include heat sinks or other passive technology that dissipates built-up thermal energy to reduce the physical temperature of the housing and fixture. LED industrial lighting will not necessarily be sealed even if it is rated for use in a hazardous environment with flammable vapors. That lighting will likely be engineered with baffled features that prevent vapors from coming into direct contact with physically warmer surfaces.   

Notwithstanding this detailed hazardous environment classification protocol, LED industrial lighting is generally a better and more appropriate option for hazardous environments, and LED lighting is becoming the de facto standard for those environments. In addition to complying with hazardous environment standards, LED industrial lighting also reduces electrical utility costs while providing higher-quality lighting for workers in those environments.

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