Buying Guides - Safety & Installation
Published: July 25, 2011
Electric lighting raises important safety concerns in two areas. Firstly, the installation of the lights inevitably involves dealing with electricity. The number of deaths and injuries caused by faulty electrical wiring - much of it installed by unqualified DIY enthusiasts - should act as a reminder to everyone of the importance of safety during all electrical lighting work.
Important Safety Regulations
In addition, the potential danger of electric lighting demands a basic knowledge of fire extinguishers, particularly those suited to electrical fires. It's also important to remember that the light itself can pose a number of hazards. It may be too dim or poorly positioned so as not to illuminate essential areas sufficiently. This may cause discomfort due to glare, brightness or shadows.
Correctly installed lighting not only minimises the risk of harmful repercussions, but actively enhances the environment in which it is located.
Consulting a Qualified Electrician
The number of deaths and injuries caused by faulty electrical wiring (the majority of it installed by unqualified DIY enthusiasts) is reason enough to hire an experienced electrician, but not the only one.
Since 1st January 2005 any electrical work carried out in the home has to follow the strict rules set out in the Building Regulations 'Approved Document P'.
Part P Building Regulations
Part P, as it is commonly referred to, gives you two choices when undertaking an electrical project in the home.
- Employ a Part P qualified electrician to carry out the work and provide a signed record that it is all in accordance with the regulations.
- Carry out the work yourself and ensure it is thoroughly inspected and subsequently approved by your local authority building inspector
What is Included in Part P?
Significant electrical work, such as rewiring a house or making additions to existing circuits in kitchens, bathrooms or outside the house will fall under Part P of the regulations. If you have any doubt over exactly what is included in the regulations, be sure to consult your local authority.
When employing a qualified electrical contractor to do the work, your best protection against being let down by a 'cowboy' contractor is word-of-mouth recommendation.
As well as verifying their Part P status, look for an electrician that has completed projects successfully, on schedule and within the budget. Similarly, don't be afraid to ask an electrician for references from past projects. If they are at all reluctant to give you the full details of a previous job then you would be well advised to look elsewhere.
Common Fitting Problems
A lamp's light output diminishes over the time due to the effects of dust and general wear and tear. To ensure the desired level of luminance is maintained, a routine of maintenance and regular lamp replacement is necessary. In addition, there are other factors which affect the light quality emitted from lighting fixtures - some of which raise important health and safety concerns.
When brightness goes beyond maximum recommended levels, disturbing or debilitating glare can occur. There are a range of things that can be done to minimise this glare:
- Use larger numbers of low wattage fixtures rather than fewer high wattage ones
- Locate control panels and PC monitors away from windows or bright fixtures
- Elevate high wattage fixtures above the normal field of view and aim some light toward the ceiling to disperse any glare.
Shadows cast over any area where people require light can be overcome by using larger luminaires or simply increasing the number of light sources used.
The stroboscopic effect (caused by the flicker of fluorescent lighting) creates the illusion of motion or non-motion; especially where moving machinery is concerned. Modern fluorescent tube design has largely overcome this potentially dangerous problem by significantly minimising flicker.
An object that is blue for example will only appear this colour if the light falling upon it contains blue in its spectrum. Therefore it is important to bear in mind that colours can appear different under various types of lighting. For instance: a red object will appear brown under a sodium street light. With this in mind the choice of lamp is crucial if colour is important in the appearance or function of the room being illuminated.
Fire Extinguisher Types & Placement
Fire extinguishers are classed according to the different types of fire that each is designed to tackle.
- Class A: Solids (paper, wood, plastic, etc)
- Class B: Flammable Liquids (paraffin, petrol, oil, etc)
- Class C: Flammable Gases (propane, butane, methane, etc)
- Class D: Metals (aluminium, magnesium, titanium, etc)
- Class E: Electrical Apparatus (electric heaters, industrial control equipment, etc)
- Class F: Cooking Substances (oil, fat, etc)
The main body of each fire extinguisher is red and features more specific colour coding related to the class of each extinguisher.
Water Fire Extinguishers
- Class A fires
- Colour coding: Red
- Cheapest & most widely used
- Do not use on fires involving liquids or electricity
Foam Fire Extinguishers
- Class A & B fires
- Colour coding: Cream
- An expensive, but more versatile alternative to water
- Not recommended for electrical fires, but a safer option than water if inadvertently sprayed onto live electrical apparatus
Dry Powder Fire Extinguishers
- Class A, B & C fires (most suited to running liquid fires - Class B)
- Colour coding: Blue
- The 'multi-purpose' extinguisher
- Isolate the gas supply before extinguishing such a fire
- Warning: when used indoors, powder can obscure vision and cause damage to goods and machinery
CO2 Fire Extinguishers
- Class E fires
- Colour coding: Black
- Can also be used to extinguish class B liquid fires
- Warning: with liquid fires, the CO2 extinguisher has no post fire security and the fire could re-ignite
- Class F fires
- Colour coding: Bright Yellow
- Class D fires
- Colour coding: Blue
- Specialist extinguisher for metal fires such as sodium, lithium, manganese and aluminium when in the form of swarf or turnings