Today’s flashlights built for performance – and safety

For plant engineers, high performance and safety go hand in hand. And today’s flashlights are up to the challenge. The comprehensive array of flashlights – from compact, super-bright lights that are virtually unbreakable to specialty lights that can detect hard-to-find HVAC leaks or isolate repairs with laser pointers – are essential tools for plant technicians as they perform...

03/01/2007


For plant engineers, high performance and safety go hand in hand. And today’s flashlights are up to the challenge. The comprehensive array of flashlights %%MDASSML%% from compact, super-bright lights that are virtually unbreakable to specialty lights that can detect hard-to-find HVAC leaks or isolate repairs with laser pointers %%MDASSML%% are essential tools for plant technicians as they perform a myriad of tasks each day.

Advances in battery and bulb technology are taking flashlights to new levels, establishing even higher benchmarks in 'rechargeability’ and substantially reducing a flashlight’s size and weight, leading to increased portability. At the same time, safety enhancements now allow plant technicians to select lights designed to operate safely in areas where environmental hazards such as flammable gases or ignitable fibers may be present.


Durability is essential

As a practical matter, most plant technicians tend to carry two flashlights in their tool cases %%MDASSML%% one that is small, lightweight and easily slipped into a pocket or clipped onto clothing for the initial diagnosis, and a second, larger, more durable light for completion of the job.

Flashlights with non-conductive polymer housings or machined aluminum casings are tough enough to withstand daily abuse, extending life. Lights that feature a non-conductive polymer casing, besides being lightweight and virtually indestructible, also protect the user from the danger of electric shock %%MDASSML%% one less thing to worry about when the technician is working in potentially wet environments.

Flashlights equipped with LED 'bulbs’ are long lasting, durable and are virtually unbreakable. Additionally, the battery-saving LEDs have an almost infinite life %%MDASSML%% up to 100,000 hours %%MDASSML%% ensuring continuous illumination during long periods of extended use, without sacrificing brightness.

In addition, many flashlight lenses today are made of borosilicate, which offers good shock resistance, while others are made from polycarbonate, which is clear, tough, shatterproof and virtually unbreakable.

'If I can’t see it, I can’t fix it’

More often than not, plant technicians’ lighting needs extend little further than they can reach. As a result, many technicians turn to bright lights to diagnose problems or tasks and rely on long lasting %%MDASSML%% rather than intensive %%MDASSML%% lighting while making repairs or completing jobs.

Today’s high performance flashlights use halogen, krypton or xenon bulbs for brighter, sharper beams. Some flashlight designs provide both a spot focus for direct lighting and a flood beam for larger areas. Other lights contain built-in back-up filaments or spare bulbs.

LEDs offer great durability for extended periods of time. Some lights also feature LED/incandescent hybrid combinations, enabling the technician to choose between a high-power xenon bulb and a long-lasting LED with the flick of a switch %%MDASSML%% the incandescent mode when a high-intensity light is needed, and the LED mode when the flashlight will be used for an extended period of time.

Today, lightweight penlights feature powerful LED bulbs for maximum portability and shining light on hard-to-reach locations. Some also include an ultraviolet capability for close-up views when pinpointing air conditioning and fluid leaks. Many of these lights also come with flexible cable attachments, making them handy tools for times when it is essential to snake a light into tight locations.

Rechargeables vs. batteries

Innovations such as the lithium-ion battery are resulting in more compact rechargeables than ever before. Flashlights with lithium-ion batteries can be as much as 50% lighter than their rechargeable nickel-cadmium predecessors. Rechargeable lights also tend to burn brighter than those that use disposable batteries.

Rechargeable lights offer an additional benefit %%MDASSML%% savings. While their initial cost is generally greater than lights powered by disposable batteries, the lifetime savings for rechargeables is significant because they can be recharged up to 1,000 times. Rechargeable flashlights can provide an average savings of $337 in battery cost over a four-year period.

Disposable battery flashlights continue to be a mainstay. Long-lasting batteries ensure flawless operation even after long periods of non-use. Lights equipped with lithium batteries, for example, have a shelf life of nearly 10 years. Non-rechargeables also offer generally longer run times than rechargeable models. Understanding how frequently a flashlight will be used is key when selecting between a rechargeable and a disposable-battery flashlight.

Matching safety ratings to task

Because of the possible safety hazards faced by plant technicians, it’s important to use flashlights with the appropriate safety ratings %%MDASSML%% matching the flashlight to the likely conditions in the plant.

Approved flashlights are marked with the hazardous location in which they can be used. Underwriters Laboratory, Inc. and Factory Mutual Research Corp. are two independent, non-profit organizations that test and certify flashlights to well-established safety standards. These safety standards are based on the approval agencies’ experience, research, testing and input of industry experts.

Safety ratings are based on the conditions of specified hazardous locations, as defined by the National Electrical Code using the following terms: class, division, group and temperature code. The class of a hazardous location is defined by the possibility of an explosive atmosphere.

Class I indicates a situation where flammable gases, vapors or liquids could possibly be present, such as in a propane tank. Class II indicates a situation where combustible dusts are possibly present. Class III indicates a situation where there is the possibility of ignitable fibers and filings, such as a manufacturing facility where metal shavings are airborne.

Constant advances in portable lighting technology will continue to lead to more applications, and enhancements in lighting runtimes, weight, portability and safety. These advances consistently result in more effective, safer tools for plant personnel as well as providing cost-saving efficiencies.


Author Information
Dawn Dalldorf-Jackson is the director of sales %%MDASSML%% Industrial Division for Streamlight, Inc. Headquartered in Eagleville, PA, Streamlight manufactures lighting equipment for professional industrial, law enforcement, fire fighting, outdoor and automotive applications. For additional information, please call Streamlight at (800) 523-7488 or visit its Website at




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