⟨ Object ⟩

Miner’s safety lamp

E. Thomas & Williams

Words / Phaedrus Lam
Illustration / Furze Chan
Translation / Ian Tsang

無論時代再進步,職場安全把關得再好,有些職種就是會比別的職種危險,而像是長年在職災統計上名列前茅的採礦工,其事故意外可謂族繁不及備載。當中最惡名昭彰的,可能要算上沼氣引發的爆炸事故了。

時間拉回十九世紀以前,愛迪生尚未發明電燈的年代,當時候人們唯一的照明工具,是現在看起來笨重又危險的煤油燈。傳統煤油燈採明火設計,日常使用只要盡量小心點即可,然而在惡劣的曠場環境裡,一點小火星就足以引起爆炸,傳統煤油燈因而顯得不堪使用;這情況一直延到1816年,在首盞「礦工安全燈」被發明後才得到紓緩。

「礦工安全燈」,又名為「Davy Lamp」,是為紀念發明者Sir Humphry Davy而起的名字。Sir Humphry Davy本身是一位化學家,在他進行沼氣研究的途中,發現只要把煤油燈的火種採上下分隔,再以氣鼓把氧氣供到燈具中間給火種燃燒時,易燃氣體雖然可以穿透金屬紗網,紗網卻能冷卻火種,免除點燈時引發氣體爆炸的隱憂。除此以外,「礦工安全燈」還是一個氣體檢測器,氧氣不足時火焰會變暗;遇易燃氣體時會變藍色;而透過藍色焰火的高度,甚至還可以檢測氣體的濃度;可是一件身兼照明、氣體檢測的優良礦場工具。

眼前這一盞黃銅色燈殻、古老造型設計的「礦工安全燈」由E. Thomas & Williams生產,其品牌創辦於1860年,是威爾斯境內唯一獲得英國政府認證的「礦工安全燈」生產商。使用這盞「礦工安全燈」時,請把前述的功能用途統統忘掉;在電燈年代點煤油燈,只能是怡情的作用罷了。

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However advanced the times become, or however much effort is put into ensuring work safety, there are still bound to be job types that are more dangerous than others. For instance, mining have long been regarded as the most accident-prone job sector. So frequent are the accidents that it is almost impossible to keep track of all of them, and fire-damp explosion can be regarded as the most notorious among them.

Back in the days prior to the 19th century, before Thomas Edison invented light bulbs, the only lighting device available was kerosene lamp, which was both clumsy-looking and dangerous. When using traditional kerosene lamps, which burn with a flame, nothing will go wrong as long as it is handled with extra caution. When it comes to such harsh working environments as mines, a tiny spark is enough to trigger an explosion, thereby rendering traditional kerosene lamps unfit for use. It was not until 1816, with the invention of the first “mine safety lamp”, that things took a turn for the better.  

Safety lamp is also called “Davy Lamp”, named after Sir Humphry Davy, its inventor. Sir Humphry Davy was a scholar who, in his research into fire-damp, discovered that with a two-layer design containing a mesh screen that confines the flame and allows the flow of oxygen for combustion, even though flammable gases can pass through the metal gauze, the gauze can conduct heat of the flame away, thereby eliminating the risk of gas explosion. In addition, the safety lamp also serves to test the presence of gas. The flame turns dim with insufficient oxygen and burns with a tinge of blue in the presence of flammable gases, whose density can be read by observing the flame’s height. Given its dual functions as a lighting device and gas detector, it can be regarded as a mine tool of good quality.

The safety lamp shown here, which boasts a brass-colored outer shell and an antique design, was manufactured by E. Thomas & Williams, a brand established in 1860, the only safety lamp maker in Wales officially recognized by the British government. When using this lamp, please forget all the aforementioned uses because in the age of electric lamps, kerosene lamps are used for cheering the heart.

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