Choosing the proper work light increases safety, productivity

Selecting the right light source for your work application is a critical component to ensuring a safe, well-lit environment — not to mention increased productivity. This choice is based on several factors, including type of application, environment, light output, color rendering required and durability.

First consider both the application and environment before choosing the appropriate light. There are many types of work lights on the market, and the first step is to determine if you need one that is general duty, industrial grade or task-specific, such as drum-inspection lights.

Types of work lights

General duty: Most commonly used for light-duty repair and inspection work on an occasional basis. Look for a light with non-energized and impact-resistant plastic or rubber housing. The bulb needs to be enclosed in a plastic tubeshield to protect against potential breakage. The handle should be easy to grip and, depending on the size of the light, one or two integrated hanging hooks should be included. The cord should be rated SJT. Bulbs typically come in fluorescent or light-emitting diodes (LED), and vary in wattage/lumen output

Industrial grade: Used on a frequent basis for extended periods in dry or damp environments. Look for a light with weather-resistant construction, impact-resistant lens, rubber end cap and handles to eliminate the risk of electrical shock. An industrial-grade work light will need to withstand damage when accidental drops and falls occur. Desirable options include built-in shock absorbers and integrated tube shields that contains the bulb in the event of breakage. The handle should be easy to grip, and one to two integrated hanging hooks should be included. The cord will need to be SJO rated (oil and water resistant). Bulbs typically come in fluorescent or LED, in varying wattage/lumen output.

Task specific: Considerations for drum-inspection lights would be environment-specific, such as:

Is the light being used in a hazardous environment, as defined by section 500 of the National Electric Code?
Is the light being used in a dry or damp environment?
Should the work light be mounted on a retractable cord reel for tangle-free storage?
Would a pull-to-light feature assist the operator?
Other important considerations when selecting a work light include electrical operation, light output and color rendering, as well as the product’s longevity.

Electrical operation

Work lights can be 120v or 12VDC battery-operated. Both modes have pros and cons. 120v offers the most reliable illumination with no downtime due to low batteries; however, you need an outlet. 12VDC does not require an outlet, but batteries run out of juice and replacements can be expensive.

Light output and color rendering

Work lights come in various lumen/wattage outputs with either fluorescent bulbs or LEDs. Your bulb selection should be based on the desired brightness and the type of color rendering required. Fluorescent bulbs offer cool, natural and shadow-free lighting and are commonly used for work/task lighting. LEDs are becoming increasingly popular because of the long bulb life and intense lumen output.


Simply put, a work light is a tool to be depended on for years. The light needs to be made from durable materials that can withstand breakage from accidental drops and falls. Its major components should be made with standard parts that the end users, or certified electricians, can purchase and/or repair themselves. Also helpful is the option of a manufacturer’s repair program that goes beyond the warranty period.

For more information on the various types of work lights, be sure to call a thoroughly trained Value Mart Customer Service Representative at 800-776-3786 or visit Value Mart’s Web site at, where you can place orders 24 hours
a day, seven days a week.

[Published Spring 2010]