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Comparison of cap lamp and laser illumination for detecting visual escape cues in smoke

Transactions of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration , 2013, Vol. 334, No. 1, pp. 401-409

Lutz, T.J.; Sammarco, J.J.; Srednicki, J.R.; Gallagher, S.


 The Illuminating Engineering Society of North America reports that an underground mine is the most difficult environment to illuminate (Rea, 2000). Researchers at the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Office of Mine Safety and Health Research (OMSHR) are conducting ongoing studies designed to explore different lighting technologies for improving mine safety. Underground miners use different visual cues to escape from a smoke-filled environment. Primary and secondary escapeways are marked with reflective ceiling tags of various colors. Miners also look for mine rail tracks. The main objective of this paper is to compare different lighting types and ceiling tag colors to differentiate what works best in a smoke-filled environment. Various cap lamps (LED and incandescent) and lasers (red, blue, green) were compared to see which options resulted in the longest detection distances for red, green and blue reflective markers and a section of mine rail track. All targets advanced towards the human subject inside of a smoke-filled room to simulate the subject walking in a mine environment. Detection distances were recorded and analyzed to find the best cap lamp, laser color and target color in a smoke environment. Results show that cap lamp, laser color and target color do make a difference in detection distances and are perceived differently based on subject age. Cap lamps were superior to lasers in all circumstances of ceiling tag detection, with the exception of the green laser. The incandescent cap lamp worked best in the simulated smoke compared to the LED cap lamps. The green laser was the best color for detecting the tags and track compared to the red and blue lasers. The green tags were the easiest color to detect on the ceiling. On average, the track was easier for the subjects to detect than the ceiling tags.