De-risk by design: Maintaining safety at heights

A major challenge facing oil and gas facilities is inadequate lighting and the need for workers to climb to elevated heights to repair or replace lights.
By Bradford Morse January 7, 2016

Oil and gas facilities are among the most demanding and hazardous of industrial settings that require proper lighting to maintain worker safety. To address this concern and help improve safety some recent innovations in lighting technology have been developed.

Identify the challenge

Maintaining lighting in industrial facilities is often complex, time consuming, and costly because most fixtures are in dangerous and difficult to reach locations. As a result, an industry average of one-third of all lights at an industrial facility are out at any given time. The installed base of high intensity discharge lights should be re-lamped every two years. However, this is typically not done. According to OSHA, fall protection is the most frequently cited violation. Worse, 36% of worker deaths on construction sites are from falls according to the United States Department of Labor.

A worker installs a new bulb in a light that is attached to a spring-loaded pole. Image courtesy: Eaton

Typically, workers climb to elevated heights to repair or replace lights. When climbing to an elevated height, beyond the protection of a guardrail, fall protection must be used. Two generally accepted methods to protect a worker are used while working at heights of 4 ft or greater; personal fall-arrest system or scaffolding with guardrails. While personal protection equipment will help protect workers from some threats, there is still a risk of injury from a fall.

The bottom line: Preventing workers from being exposed to threats is the most effective risk reduction measure.

Spring-assisted telescoping light poles

Spring-assisted light poles are designed for industrial walkways, platforms, stairways, and conveyors where OSHA/HSE regulations typically require fall prevention equipment. A worker can remain where an existing guardrail provides protection and lower or raise the light with the spring-assisted telescoping pole during installation or maintenance.

In addition, spring-assisted light poles are useful in hard-to-reach areas in harsh and hazardous environments subject to corrosive agents, vibrations, and extreme temperatures. Overall, the light poles reduce downtime costs and shutdown during an outage compared to the time and labor typically needed to repair or replace lights due to the cost of working at heights. This technology allows the light to be brought to them.

Safety innovation

Improving upon previous generations of rotational light poles, the simple vertical travel of a telescoping light pole provides true controlled lowering, reducing the strain on the worker, and eliminating consideration of surrounding obstructions. Spring assistance allows the luminaire to be lowered safely and easily, meaning that work can safely take place on any platform or walkway, eliminating the need for portable ladders and fall protection equipment.

Safety initiative

A study conducted by Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety reported that for every $1 invested in safety, there is a $3 to $6 return on investment. Using this type of light pole, the investment in worker safety provides a compelling return while ensuring overall integrity of the facility.

Bradford Morse is a product manager at Eaton. He leads the launch of new products and enhancements to existing products for Eaton’s Crouse-Hinds series of industrial fittings solutions. Morse has 18 years of experience and has held a variety of engineering and product management positions. He has defined, launched and marketed more than 10 successful products for companies Eaton, General Electric, and Motorola. He has been recognized with seven U.S. patents. Morse graduated from Boston University, with a B. Sc. Degree in Electrical Engineering and is a 20-year member of IEEE. Edited by Eric R. Eissler, editor-in-chief, Oil & Gas Engineering, eeissler@cfemedia.com