Conventional high-pressure sodium (HPS) lighting is a mainstay in industrial facilities, used in over 90% of U.S. industrial applications, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, Washington, D.C., including cold food storage, despite its lackluster performance in refrigerator and freezer applications. In addition to its slow startup, excessive heat production that results in problematic condensation and poor light quality, HPS lighting also poses a significant safety risk to both workers and consumers.

Switching from antiquated HPS to modern LED lighting can dramatically reduce the risk of accidents, provide a safer working environment and lower the long-term liability costs of exposing workers and consumers to hazardous materials.

Here are 5 reasons why industrial LED lighting provides a safer, less toxic lighting solution for cold food storage applications.

  1. Eliminates workers’ exposure to toxic mercury. A single HPS lamp contains as much as 50 milligrams of mercury, enough to poison an entire classroom of children above threshold limits, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Washington, D.C. Just one broken bulb exposes workers in the immediate area to acute toxicity, with symptoms ranging from nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain to bronchitis and other symptoms. And, because broken HPS bulbs are extremely common, this chronic exposure can cause serious effects such as tremors, weakness, sensory abnormalities, memory loss and even emotion or intellect changes and kidney damage, severely impacting the long-term health of workers. LEDs on the other hand, contain zero toxic chemicals, eliminating this risk of exposure to keep workers safe and healthy.
  2. Reduces consumers’ exposure risk. In food storage applications, the mercury emitted by a broken HPS bulb also contaminates product stored in the vicinity. This has the potential to expose consumers to the toxic effects of mercury poisoning if proper remediation steps aren’t taken, which could result in a large liability issue. At the very least, potentially contaminated product must be discarded, which wastes money and impacts profitability. Since LED fixtures eliminate this risk of mercury contamination, they also eliminate consumer liability and protect your bottom line.
  3. Eliminates hazmat disposal. Because of the mercury, tungsten and other compounds found in HPS lamps, these must be treated as hazardous waste or federally-classified “universal waste.” That means that every bulb that’s changed out must be dealt with carefully or risk extensive hazmat cleanup and product recall in the event a bulb is broken. This not only puts workers and consumers at risk, but also takes extra time and money, directly impacting plant productivity and profitability. Because LEDs contain no harmful materials, they require no special handling, eliminating the risk of exposure and lowering disposal costs.
  4. Greatly reduces UV exposure. Unfortunately, mercury isn’t the only hazardous concern when it comes to HPS bulbs. They also emit high levels of unsafe UV radiation if their covers become damaged or lost. HPS fixtures must remain securely shielded to avoid impacting workers or product. LED fixtures emit only an extremely low, negligible amount of UV rays, which protects workers and product from excess exposure. In food storage, this also helps to reduce the number of insects that can contaminate product because insects are drawn to UV light; the lower the UV emitted, the fewer the bugs.
  5. Reduces maintenance. In addition to the threat of harmful material exposure if an HPS bulb should break, the sheer act of performing lighting maintenance can put workers at risk. Considering that most industrial fixtures are mounted high, maintenance requires the use of ladders or lifts, introducing the risk of fall- or drop-related injuries—not to mention electrocution. This risk is even greater with HPS because they must be changed out so often. In a study produced by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, Pittsburgh, Pa., the greatest number occurred during lighting repair or maintenance. Because LEDs last much longer than HPS—over a decade in most applications—LED fixtures greatly reduce the amount of lighting maintenance that must be performed, and with it, reduce the risk of maintenance-related accident or injury.

Industrial LED lighting fixtures is said to be a much safer, longer-lasting, more efficient and more economical alternative to HPS lighting, especially in cold storage applications. The reduced risk of harmful exposure and maintenance-related accidents directly reduces the liability and long-term cost pertaining to worker and consumer health and safety. For these reasons, upgrading to LED lighting is a worthy investment for any company looking to improve safety, productivity and profitability.