The Safety of LED Products

As manufacturers of products which contain LED lights are aware, it is a requirement of governments across the globe that their products be subjected to certain safety tests. These tests must guarantee that the output of ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR) light does not exceed the safety levels which are detailed in IEC62471.

Many manufacturers are unaware, however, that products which bear national marks - such as CE, UL, CCC, and others - which do not have documented proof of IEC62471 compliance are liable to be confiscated and excluded from sale, with the manufacturer risking a fine.

As a result of a higher rate of efficiency and lower operating costs when compared with incandescent and gas-discharged lamps, the performance of solid-state lights – also known as ‘light-emitting diodes’ (LEDs) – has improved exponentially in the last 20 years.

LED vs. Ballast Lights

LED lights are inherently more rugged than ballast- or filament-based lights, due to the fact that they are made of a monolithic semiconductor material. This has endeared these lights to industrial markets in which uptime is an essential concern. Finally, it is possible to design LED lights to generate any color or wavelength of light from the UV through the IR spectral band.

The majority of the LED lights manufactured at present begin as a blue LED with additional phosphor coating, which creates a broadband white light source. The result of this is the development of increasingly brighter blue LEDs.

An unfortunate result of the increasing prevalence of white LEDs, however, is an increase in the possible danger of UV damage to human eyes. Significant photobiological damage can be caused to eyes by UV, visible, and IR light above certain luminosities.

Consequently, an international standard known as IEC62471 “Photobiological Safety of Lamps and Lamp Systems” has been developed by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), in conjunction with the IEEE and other industrial groups.

Developed in 2009, this standard aims to protect people against photobiological damage caused by LED light. In accordance with this standard, all lamp designs – including LED and all luminaires – must have their outputs tested and documented by a certified laboratory between 200 nm and 3000 nm.

This is in order to establish that the light does not exceed safety output thresholds which are defined by a certain luminosity at a given distance. LED lights are classified in one of four risk categories as a result of these tests. They must then be labeled accordingly (see tables on page 3).

It is now a requirement in Canada, Europe, and some parts of Asia that all lights are tested and documented to the IEC62471 standard. Yet, many manufacturers are unfortunately unaware that this requirement exists. Under the assumption that their products are compliant with all relevant standards, CE marks are regularly applied by these OEMs for products to be sold in Europe, for example.

If a problem or lawsuit arises, however, and the OEM is not in possession of certified test documents, the products will be removed and prohibited from sale. There is also the risk of potential fines, even if the product is in actuality compliant with IEC62471.

To put it simply, it is a necessity, not an option, to undertake testing and receive the correct documentation in relation to “safe for sale” marks in the majority of the world’s developed markets.

The IECEE Scheme and What it Means to You

Although compliance with IEC62471 is a requirement in many countries, each of them has the right to alter the regulation as it deems necessary. The International Electrotechnical Commission for Electrical Equipment Safety (IECEE) has developed a Certification Body (CB) Scheme, in order to help global manufacturers seeking to comply with different requirements.

In the CB Scheme, mutual recognition of LED test reports and IEC62471 compliance certificates are allowed among 53 different countries. These countries include Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and the U.S.

Following a two-year process of acquiring equipment and proving competency, Smart Vision Lights began testing its own LED products in order to legally apply marks of conformity, such as Europe’s CE mark, to its products for sales and operation in the above-listed countries in September 2013.

Smart Vision Lights now solely designs and manufactures LED lights which are fully complicit with al IEC standards, including the photobiological damage standard IEC62471.

Included within Smart Vision Lights’ LED testing lab is a new Gooch & Housego Spectroradiometric system. This consists of an OL 750-M-D double monochromator with integrating sphere, which includes germanium, lead sulphide, and silicon high-sensitivity detectors which perform extremely accurate measurements of optical radiation.

In order to meet the minimum accuracy requirements published in CTL Decision Sheet 251B – Measurement Accuracy, Intertek calibrates and verifies Smart Vision Lights’ test equipment on a regular basis.

Courtesy of this new equipment, Smart Vision Lights’ lab technicians can independently measure and validate IEC62471 data, including both radiance and irradiance of optical radiation between wavelengths of 200 nm and 3000 nm.

What Does This Mean to LED Customers?

For LED customers, IEC62471 compliance means that any product or system they design using LED lights which are compliant with this standard is safe to both operate and sell in any country in the world.

Government agencies and large companies are familiar with the requirement to comply with IEC safety standards, even if not every company in the world is aware of the necessity of IEC62471 compliance.

Recently, one of the largest customers of Smart Vision Lights, Cognex Corporation (Natick, MA), was able to secure a contract based on presenting IEC62471 documented compliance of Smart Vision Lights’ LEDs to be used in a proposed system for sorting post. In any case, whether or not customers and regulators are aware of the standard is irrelevant, as ignorance of the law is not a legitimate defense.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Smart Vision Lights.

For more information on this source, please visit Smart Vision Lights.

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