In 1961, Elvis Presley’s ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’ was top of the charts. What’s that got to do with light-emitting-diode technology, you might ask? Because the Eureka moment for the dominant lighting technology of 2021 and beyond also happened in 1961, when Nick Holonyak – the father of LED – ran the first electric current through a semiconducting diode to produce photons.
The catch, however, is that the 1961-style LED light only produced a single colour – red. Fast forward 60 years, though, and you can now get those photons in – wait for it – an infinite array of colours. That’s right: infinite. How on earth is that possible? It’s all about the precise qualities of the material used for the diode. Use Gallium Phosphide, and you’ll get orange. Use Gallium Arsenide Phosphide, and you get yellow. Tweak the material composition just a tiny bit, and you get a tiny colour change – and millions, billions and beyond in terms of the infinite colour possibilities.
But today, we’re just going to talk about a small handful of LED beacon light colours – which are intended to catch the attention of the right person in the most timely moment to stop and prevent danger, and potentially save their lives, and the lives of others.
This sort of LED beacon setup can be found across the spectrum of industries, businesses and work tasks, letting people clearly know what they need to know in volatile situations and spaces and what to do next to remain safe. You’ll find them on buildings, vehicles, structures, equipment and anywhere else, instantly drawing eyes and brains to a hazard or a message is critical.
Are you or your brand or operation new to the world of the LED beacon light? The best place to start is by understanding what the colours denote – so let’s dive straight in:
We start with red, because we all know already that it means stop – right now. It means there’s an emergency, or a situation or a condition that simply can’t wait for attention. Something is dangerous, something has failed, something is no longer safe, something needs to be instantly switched off. No mucking around. No waiting.
Often, red in a workplace has a specific meaning – like the presence or warning of fire. In those situations, a serious hazard needs another colour – and that’s where the purples come in!
Think of those traffic lights: when you see amber, you don’t necessarily slam on the brakes. But you do need to be highly alert to what’s about to happen next – a critical state that needs your urgent attention or intervention. It’s no different when that yellow LED beacon light is lit up – something has overheated, overloaded or gone beyond normal limits. What you do next could prevent something bad from happening, or just let you know to be extra vigilant.
When the light turns green, it’s safe to move your car across that intersection – and it’s a similar when your workplace shows a green LED beacon light. If on a machine, everything is working well or ready for action. It’s the sign that, despite being a potentially hazardous situation or space, it’s safe to proceed with normal operating methods. It’s as safe as it’s ever going to be today.
A blue LED beacon light, however, is something a little different from the ‘traffic light’ colours. That’s because while the traffic light colour itself conveys the message, blue demands an action – but it’s undetermined. In most situations, though, whoever is seeing it will know what to do next. Think of it like those blue police lights – depending on the situation, it could either be good or bad news – it just depends on the assigned meaning for the situation/space.
Unlike all the other beacon light colours, white or clear is not meant to attract attention for any particular reason. They should be regarded as ‘general purpose’ beacon lights, perhaps simply an added bonus to the workplace’s beacon system to indicate that it’s on and working but has nothing in particular to say – except, perhaps, to throw a little more light on the situation. Are you ready to select the LED beacon lights you need for your activity or workplace? Next up, you’ll need to think about flashing, rotating, multi-functions and multi-colours – but we’ll save that for another day. In the meantime, always consult with an industry expert to guide the perfect choice for you.