The Challenges of Lighting Confined Spaces

The Challenges of Lighting Confined Spaces

Lighting a small area is challenging, more so if it’s a confined space. Such areas provide limited space to conduct regular activities and proximity to conductive materials pose an immediate risk to the workers.

Imagine the threat that a torn 110-240V (standard mains supply) cable can pose to anyone entering a confined space. We shudder to even think about it.

Confined spaces such as small vessels, tanks, offshore platform separators, etc. require a special kind of attention, especially when it comes to lighting.

The solution lies in low voltage lighting, which we will discuss in detail in this article. However, first, let us understand what we mean by low voltage.

Understanding low voltage

As per International Standard IEC60364-4, anything below 50VAC is low voltage, the level below which one is unlikely to suffer an injury when exposed to the current. This voltage is in fact classified as ‘extra-low voltage’ in technical terms. But in everyday terms, this is referred to simply as low voltage.

Low voltage and confined spaces – a brief overview

The main risk of entering a confined space is a worker’s proximity to anything conductive if there is a supply of electric current in that area. A simple torn cable of 110-240V can cause electrocution and possibly even death.

When we think of any area which can pose such a hazard, we automatically think of explosion lighting equipment. However, it is essential to remember two things in this regard:

  1. Not all confined spaces are explosion zones, although they might require special kinds of electrical equipment. In fact, some confined spaces such as pressurized tents on rigs may not present electrocution risks at all.
  2. Low voltage lighting and ex-certified lighting are not the same. Some low voltage lighting may not be safe to be used in an explosion-prone hazardous area.

The most commonly used low voltage confined space lighting across the world are 12, 24 and 48VAC lights.

Using low voltage lighting equipment in confined spaces

In the last few years, the most commonly used low voltage equipment is 12 VAC and 24VAC. However, for temporary lighting, sometimes 48VAC is used, which, although of a higher voltage, is safe from electrocution. In turn, they provide considerable flexibility for setup. For example, the lighting arrangement can be extended by linking luminaries in a chain.

However, keeping the flip side in mind is also essential. Low voltage equipment has lower efficiency. These linked luminaries and cables cannot be more than 66 meters long. Setting up lower voltage lighting can pose such kinds of implementation and efficiency-related challenges.

Types of low voltage lighting for confined spaces

So, what are the options available to us for lighting confined spaces? By nature, quite limited, although all of them are quite useful.

Cordless confined space lights: As the name specifies, these are portable lights which can be carried by anyone entering a confined space. This includes handheld lamps, handheld spotlights, safe flashlights, etc. The power supply for these comes from a battery pack and not a corded power source.

Corded confined space lights: These may or may not be explosion-proof lights. Some corded confined space lights are approved for use in wet locations. The lights are connected to a power source such as a transformer through an input cord. The power source will be located outside the confined space. It will step down the voltage to the low voltage requirement of the confined space. Floodlights and work lamps are examples of corded confined space lights.

A word of caution

Although people are aware of safety standards, they are often unmindful of them. A minor mistake can cause major harm, and defeat the entire purpose of using low voltage lighting. It has been observed by various experts that often the transformer is installed within the confined space itself. One side of the transformer remains connected to the main power source, at 240V. The other end is connected to the low voltage lighting. This is a big no-no and should be avoided at all costs.

Sourcing low voltage lighting for confined spaces

Many things should be kept in mind while sourcing and installation of low-voltage lighting for a confined space. The equipment should be chosen carefully with extra attention to their certification. Ensure that the lighting equipment you are choosing is properly certified to be used safely within confined spaces.

AJV Technical Equipment is a renowned supplier of various kinds of safety lighting for hazardous and confined spaces. Our product portfolio for confined spaces includes different kinds of floodlights, headlamps, flexible headlights, hand lamps, and work lamps. All our products are ATEX certified.

Check out our confined space lighting solutions today!