How hazardous area lighting improves underground mine safety


Thursday, 12 May, 2022

How hazardous area lighting improves underground mine safety

Lighting is one of the most common causes of explosion ignition in high-risk mining environments. In addition, inadequate lighting and electrical light failures pose major safety risks within hazardous mines.

In 2020, the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) reported fire and explosions as the third-highest cause of fatalities globally1.

Ensuring that hazardous area lights meet the highest local and international safety standards and certifications is paramount to keeping workers safe, while also improving light quality and visibility, maximising productivity and reducing operating costs.

Exposing the dark side to inadequate lighting

Many underground coalmines continue to operate with inadequate lighting in hazardous underground areas like coal wash plants, reclaim tunnels and conveyor systems where flammable gases are present.

In many cases, coal wash plants and reclaim tunnels are positioned underneath coal stockpiles and are at risk of fire and explosion because of the potential build-up of methane gas and coal dust due to coal transportation.

Because reclaim tunnels serve as the main transfer point from coal stockpiles to other areas within the mine, appropriate lighting is paramount.

In addition to the possibility of explosion ignition, traditional lighting sources like fluorescent lighting pose serious health and safety risks. The inadequate distribution of lighting increases the likelihood of slip and trip hazards, and makes it more difficult to detect any damage to conveyor systems and other vital equipment, further compromising safety, visibility and productivity.

Before: Fluorescent lighting creates dark spots along the wash plant conveyor, increasing human safety risks and explosion risks.

The rise of LED strip lighting

There has been a rising demand for linear lighting systems, like LED strip lights, that provide continuous illumination in often hard-to-reach places. In fact, explosion-proof LED strip lighting solutions are becoming a safer, more cost-efficient solution to alternative complex lighting infrastructures in hazardous areas.

In highly explosive or combustible environments, electrical failures in lights should result in either immediate isolation of the spark through encapsulated lighting, or non-sparking such as intrinsically safe lighting fixtures.

Industrial-grade LED strip lights work by isolating and containing sparks from escaping and igniting gases, dust, fibres and particles in hazardous atmospheres.

When selecting any new hazardous area lighting fixture, ensuring that the lights meet the highest local and international safety standards and certifications is paramount. Some important features to look out for include:

  • IECEx and ATEX certified
  • low voltage
  • IP65 or higher
  • robust and durable design to withstand extreme temperatures
  • corrosion resistance
  • impact and shock-resistant outer shell
  • 80 + colour rendering index (CRI)

Explosion-proof LED strip lights in action

Last year, MineGlow introduced IECEX and ATEX certified explosive-proof LED strip lighting in Oceania approved for Gas Zone One and Two and Dust Zone Twenty-one and Twenty-Two.

The explosive-proof solution minimises risk by isolating and containing sparks within the strip to prevent explosions from escaping and potentially igniting the gases and particles in the atmosphere.

Fully encapsulated with silicone, the lighting system is resistant to dust, humidity, chemicals and extreme environmental temperatures without enabling the risk of an explosion.

After: MineGlow’s Exm LED strip lighting providing continuous illumination, eliminating dark spots along the reclaim tunnel conveyor belt.

MineGlow partners with mines across Australia, most recently working with a Queensland underground coalmine to improve visibility and safety of their reclaim tunnel.

The installation of the x-Glo Exm range enabled the mine to significantly improve the health, safety and wellbeing of site personnel working in the tunnel. The solution also improved inspection and maintenance time due to the increase in illumination throughout the reclaim and wash plant tunnel.

Download the case study here.

[1] International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) 2020 Safety Performance Report.

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