Like many modern mining technologies found in mines today, the trusty cap lamps’ inception was born out of the necessity to improve safety for workers underground.
There have been many types of lamps used in underground mining over the last 200 years; covered oil lamps, safety lamps, spout oil wick lamps, candles and holders, carbide lamps, and electric lamps.
But the most significant advancement in the technology was not until the early 1900s, following a string of tragic coal mine disasters that sounded alarms for the global industry.
According to the National Museum of American History, in 1909, 20 coal mine disasters were recorded and in 1910, 25 mine disasters (metal/nonmetal and coal) were recorded.
It was these spiralling disasters that prompted mine engineer John T. Ryan Sr. and George H. Deike, with the help of Thomas Edison, to create a dependable and safe electric cap lamp.
“Electricity had been available in homes for years, but the application of electric lighting in mines was a harder proposition due to the extensive wiring costs,” it stated.
Edison’s solution was a rechargeable battery pack that was encased in a self-locking steel case worn on the miner’s belt. A flexible cord travelled to the cap lamp, which would last for about 12 hours before needing to be recharged.
Since this time, cap lamps have become a necessity for anyone going underground, attaching to the top of a miner’s helmet and providing hands-free illumination.
In fact, they’ve been proven time and time again to improve safety, visibility and ergonomics.
According to peer-reviewed journal article ‘The effect of cap lamp lighting on postural control and stability’, Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) accident data for 2005–2009 indicated slips, trips and falls (STFs) were the second leading accident class (18.1%, n = 2,374) of nonfatal lost-time injuries at underground mining work locations.
“Research, specific to the lighting of underground metal/nonmetal mines, determined that increasing the illuminance could improve visual performance for detection and recognition of trip hazards,” it stated.
“Lighting can influence the performance of people in the industrial workplace by way of ten mechanisms that include visual performance, visual comfort, visual ambience, interpersonal relationships, job satisfaction, and problem solving.
“Poor lighting and reduced visual feedback decreases detection of STF hazards and has also been shown to decrease postural stability, increasing one’s risks for falls.”
So, there’s a little history on cap lamps and their importance. Now, for the part you’ve been waiting for
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