Illuminating Mine Safety With LED Lighting

Safety in the modern mining industry continues to be well regulated. However, the ongoing use of outdated lighting systems, particularly in underground mines, creates potentially hazardous working conditions.

The mining sector, representing about 45% of global GDP, was ramping up production in previous years. Unexpectedly, mining operations were halted in 2020 as the global pandemic changed daily activities along with the working environment. Just as reducing costs and meeting budget constraints became top priorities after the financial crisis, the focus is again on cost savings.

Poor lighting can have an impact on both mental and physical health – from eye strain and headaches to potential confusion and even poor morale. Proper lighting is essential. This is especially true in underground mines where there can be insufficient lighting and dust particles can create limited visibility.

The Reality of Mine Lighting and Safety

The increasing focus on reducing costs to meet budget constraints has led to shortcuts in lighting and ultimately unintended safety risks. Procurement of seemingly low-cost light bulbs with limited lifespans can create unsafe working conditions and increase long-term costs.

As we age, vision impartments become more common. As eyes age, they are adversely affected by light color, distributions, and glare. Because the average mine worker is in their 40s, this makes lighting concerns even more relevant. Quality lighting is important to reduce these effects and protect workers.

Light-emitting diode (LED) lighting can minimize these concerns as they are more durable in harsh environments, including underground mines. This is because LED lighting has a longer life span than traditional bulbs, and it can add safety benefits like improving visual perception for trip and fall hazards. A recent study found that replacing two existing CFLs can improve reaction time by 112% and create over 2,000% more floor illumination, improving visibility and reducing accidents.

recent report from the CDC noted that “Slip, trip, and fall (STF) hazards in mining environments pose safety risks to mine workers. According to an analysis by NIOSH researchers of MSHA data, about 22% of all non-fatal injuries reported to the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) between 2014 and 2018 were associated with STF incidents. Each STF incident led to an average of 60 lost workdays.”

Here are three reasons to make the switch to LED Lighting and improve safety in mines: 

Miner working overhead light

1. Durable and safe

The high dust content, frequent vibrations from mining equipment, and continuous operations create a unique challenge in securing adequate and durable lighting. Incandescent, fluorescent, and high-intensity discharge (HID) lighting require more maintenance, are susceptible to burnouts, and can increase vision impairments from inconsistent lighting.

LEDs provide a powerful alternative and are designed to withstand high vibrations, such as those found in mining environments, and they provide a consistent light source. HID lamps can suffer from an inner arc tube rupture potentially showering people and the area below in molten glass.

Unlike HID lamps, LEDs have no glass envelope or filament which prevents potential safety risks. According to AXA XL Risk Consulting, the “rated life of an HID lamp is a prediction based on a 50% probability of failure for given service conditions.” Low voltage of other bulbs or the flickering effect caused by loose fluorescent bulbs makes these an inadequate choice for mining. The flexibility in voltages of an LED, ranging from 12 to 48 volts, make this a great option for mobile equipment and lighting mines.

For a safer, more robust option, LED is the miner’s choice of lighting.

2. No more burnouts

Underground mines that have very natural lighting make it essential to have long-lasting light sources to ensure properly lit working environments. Failure to establish proper lighting can increase serious injuries and bring operations to a halt costing time and money. According to NIOSH, LEDs are “poised to revolutionize mine illumination.”

LEDs don’t “burn out” as other light sources are prone to do. Instead, the produced light decreases in LEDs as they reach the end of their useful life. Using LEDs as the main source of light significantly reduces the risk of sudden and unexpected outages.

Additionally, LEDs do not have a warm-up period and will come on instantly to their full illumination. Compare this to HID lamps which can take up to 10 minutes to reach their brightest and require a cool-down period of up to 20 minutes before restarting. With a flip of a switch, your employees will have a bright view of their workspace when using LEDs.

3. Lifespan

Mines typically operate around the clock, leaving little to no time where the lights aren’t on. This increases the need for long-lasting lights. Predicting life expectancy significantly varies between types of light sources.

Using a conventional light source, like incandescent, will last up to 4,000 hours, increasing the risk of high failure rates in a continuously operating environment. Filament light sources can operate between 1,000 and 4,000 hours where fluorescent and HID lamps last around 20,000 hours. Replacing incandescent lamps with LEDs will result in 15,000 to 20,000 hours of light. However, the LEDs found in retrofit kits and fixtures can extend the useful life to 100,000 hours or more. Increasing the useful life with the use of LEDs decreases maintenance, which benefits the bottom line, reduces safety incidents, and prevents downtime.

For a longer lamp life expectancy, LEDs are the go-to choice that will reduce maintenance and decrease slip and fall incidents.

The Safe, Smart, and Productive Choice

Upgrading to LED lighting in your underground mines can enhance energy efficiency, increase productivity, reduce errors, lower costs and improve safety by reducing injuries, fatalities, and other health hazards. LED is a valuable mining resource and making the switch to LED lighting can result in long-term benefits for both a company and its employees. As the mining industry evolves, safety and productivity will continue to be top of mind.

Article originally published July 19, 2021 and updated for accuracy and relevance.

Todd Tiberi


Todd Tiberi
Todd is the Director of Project Development with Wesco's energy solutions group. With an Advertising/PR degree from Pennsylvania State University and NCQLP-LC certification, Todd has held many sales roles and management positions. His key projects focus on LED Lighting Upgrades.