Cheap Forklift Warning Lights Could be Incredibly Expensive
The "blue light" is common, and there are lots of options on the market - including many you should never use
You see them all over the place in warehouses these days – the ubiquitous blue forklift light gliding over the floor ahead of or behind a lift truck as it winds its way between rack rows, down aisles, across docks, and out of trailers. A wide variety of choices are available, including many inexpensive imports with a bewildering number of dense specifications. How can you tell the difference?
Let’s break down the ways you can avoid the “bargain” light that could cost you plenty.
Why the $39 forklift warning spotlight isn’t worth the savings
If workers rely on them, forklift warning lights must work every day, all day for many years. They must be reliable, bright and long-lasting. Since warehouse employees rely on them to see lifts before they arrive, dim, cheap lights that won’t last may actually make your forklifts less safe.
What do you look for?
Don’t sacrifice on lux rating: it’s what makes a light crisp and visible
- Lux rating: The purpose of these lights is to be seen, which means that their intensity is critical – and that’s measured by lux, which is the amount of perceivable light projected onto a surface. A forklift spotlight with less than 900 lux won’t be as intense, bright and visible as those with at least that much. The market is full of lights that range from a low end of 110 lux, and plenty of mid-range products in the 500-700 range. Don’t sacrifice on this critical specification.
- Do not focus on raw lumens. Raw lumens measure of the total quantity of visible light emitted by a source, but don’t consider losses. For projecting a bright light onto a warehouse floor, lux is the appropriate success metric.
Only use lights with a long-term warranty
As a critical safety device, these lights should be reliable. You shouldn’t have to have a program to check and maintain them very often.
A key indicator of reliability is the unit’s warranty. Some lights have no warranty at all – avoid those entirely. Other cheap options offer just a year. The better lights offer at least four years, and only one – the JW Speaker 770 Series – offers a lifetime warranty.
Make sure your light has excellent heat dissipation; it will last longer and won’t fade
Contrary to popular belief, LED bulbs generate heat. They generate less heat than halogen or fluorescent bulbs, but they still get hot in an enclosed space like a warning light’s tight housings. Lights that don’t adequately dissipate heat will dim and won’t last as long. Well-designed housings, good circuit boards and heat exchangers help reduce the heat and make lights last longer.
See Cisco-Eagle Forklift Warning Lights for detailed information
Choose high voltage range lights to reduce parts management complications
This is an important specification because the wrong voltage means your light can’t work with your forklift’s power.
- Installing a light that has 12-110V DC means the light will work on practically any forklift or other vehicle. This is critical because you’ve only got one part to manage for an entire fleet, and don’t have to fret about voltage matching for a wide variety of trucks, AGVs, carts, or other vehicles.
- Most of the cheap lights on the market are 12-48V DC. Both 48V and 80V are typical forklift operating voltage. Under certain conditions voltage may overshoot and a 80V forklift may see voltage above 100V. Others are 12-96V DC, which will work in more applications than 12-48 lights, but still won’t cover everything.
A good light shouldn’t be a power hog
The lower the power consumption the better because more consumption means more strain on the forklift’s electrical system. Many forklifts are equipped with multiple peripherals, creating more strain. Some lights are wasteful, consuming as much as 56.32 watts. Choose a light that consumes single-digit wattage.
IP ratings for wet or moist conditions
IP ratings “are used to define levels of sealing effectiveness of electrical enclosures against intrusion from foreign bodies (tools, dirt etc) and moisture.” Most forklift spotlights fall into IP67 or IP68, with very low end units in the IP54 range. All these have some resistance to water and airborne debris, but those of at least IP69K can resist washdown and pressurized moisture. This matters if your forklift is operating in wet/moist conditions, outdoors, or must be washed down.
You must have a UL Recognized light
Don’t use a warning light that isn’t UL Recognized. Many inexpensive lights are not UL Recognized, and should be avoided.
Dimensions: smaller is better
These lights tend to be compact, but smaller is better in this application. Small packaging means a decreased change for incidental contact between the light and its surroundings and resulting decrease in maintenance cost.
Check those specifications!
If the light you are considering doesn’t have these critical specifications, find one that does. For a few dollars, don’t make your workers less safe by using a light that isn’t bright enough, won’t last long enough, or can’t handle the environment you ask it to work in. Since these spotlights are “passive” (they are always on) people begin to rely on them. Make sure they’re relying on a light that can do the job.
- Blue safety lights on Cisco-Eagle.com
- Infographic: “Pedestrians & forklifts shouldn’t mingle, but we have to make it work”
- Setting up a forklift warning light: height/angle
- Video: forklift warning lights
Scott Stone is Cisco-Eagle's Marketing Director with three decades of experience in material handling, warehousing and industrial operations. He writes on automation, warehousing, safety, manufacturing and other areas of concern for industrial operations.