Sometimes getting the job done means getting the job done at night. Not all construction jobs require night work, but when they do, it is important to be prepared, be safe, and take precautions that minimize risk to workers.
Top Reasons For Night Construction
- The most common reason for night work is to reduce risk to travelers and workers, and maximize production on DOT and Road & Bridge projects.
- Depending on what part of the country the job is in, and the season, another reason would be to take advantage of working in cooler weather.
- If a job is behind schedule, night work may be needed to hit deadlines and avoid fines. This situation is more common the last year or two, as many contractors are struggling to find skilled workers.
- When doing large pours where time is a factor, it can be beneficial to pour at night. Your concrete ready-mix company can deliver faster at night – which can be a factor, especially if your mix is not batched close to the jobsite.
Preparing Your Work Zone
If you have a night job coming up it’s important to survey the area during the day first. Establish the boundaries of your work zone. Take note of all potential areas of risk, uneven terrain, utilities, and make detailed notes. Mark and flag the jobsite before work begins. Seeing the site’s surroundings and any potential hazards in the daylight will help you and your team avoid potential risks at night.
Make sure to prepare your work zone for night work by implementing the following:
- Cones – can be used to divert traffic and can be moved around the sites easily
- Barricades – can divert traffic and provide a safe barrier between traffic and workers
- Delineators – can be used to guide traffic through a work zone, mark the edge of the job site, or draw attention to the presence of workers
- Reflective Signs – all these safety measures work in conjunction with reflective signage; all signs engaged at night should be reflective for maximum visibility
Make sure to check state/city guidelines that pertain to night construction. Some areas have minimal specifications, while others (large cities, etc) have many ordinances, guidelines, and specifications, and may require a detailed lighting plan designed by a certified lighting professional. Make sure you’re in compliance. In those areas that have little or no night work spec’s, refer to The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) as a basic guideline to design a lighting scheme for your project (if the PDF text looks weird in your browser, it will look normal after you download it). Refer to page 614 for details on Lighting Devices.
Changing Your Sleep Schedule
For individual workers, preparing to work at night—whether temporary or permanent—usually requires modifying sleep schedules. Switching to the night shift and sleeping during the day can be a difficult transition; workers must ensure they are getting enough rest in order to be alert and rested while working at night. Most people invest in some good room-darkening shades to help them sleep during the day. Either way, sleep needs to happen. Working while drowsy is hazardous to the crew and can increase the chance of accidents or errors.
Use The Right Lights For Your Project
Probably the most important equipment for working at night is lighting. Workers need adequate lighting to be able to do their jobs effectively, but without disruption to oncoming traffic or nearby property owners. If the work zone is stationary, luminaries may be mounted on poles. For more mobile work, light towers mounted to a highway-safe trailer can be repositioned as the work activity moves. If you’re on a DOT project there may be State specifications for lighting compliance to consider.
FHA’s List Of Common Lighting Solutions
Portable Light Towers
This lighting consists of numerous luminaires mounted to a mast arm that is capable of holding the luminaires at various mounting heights. The mast arm is attached to a trailer with a generator that can be towed by a vehicle.
This type of lighting consists of a large balloon type luminaire that provides a fairly large area of evenly distributed light and is relatively glare-free. Balloon lights can be mounted on slow-moving equipment or portable light towers.
Mounted on Temporary Poles – This would consist of any permanent roadway lighting fixture mounted on temporary poles and hard wired to an electrical system. This type of system would normally be prepared by a lighting design professional.
Factory-Installed Lights on Equipment
Headlights installed on most equipment do not normally provide adequate lighting for most work operations and as a large component of glare should not be used when facing any oncoming traffic.
Certain tasks may even require workers to use personal lighting solutions. Wearable light sources offer hands-free mobility but lower power output, so they should be used as a supplemental light source. Personal lighting acts as an additional safety solution improving worker vision while illuminating the wearer.
Create A Lighting Plan
Nighttime construction projects should have a lighting plan in place before work begins. The plan would identify:
- Type of work, size of job
- Work zone areas that need to be lit, and when they need light
- Best type of lighting for the project (this could change as the work progresses)
- Locations of where to position luminaries, light towers, and other light sources
- Best practices for minimizing glare (i.e., using blocking or shielding lights)
- How to position lights so they don’t invade nearby homes
The Federal Highway Administration (FHA), DOT and American Traffic Safety Services Association worked together to publish a detailed reference guide for options and spec’s on jobsite lighting in various applications. It’s definitely worth checking out. This is by no means a comprehensive document, but rather a solid starting point to devise a workable lighting plan for your project. Be sure to also check out your state guidelines and spec’s before creating your lighting plan.
When it comes to power at night, keeping the noise level down is a must, especially when you’re site is near a residential area. Most studies and reviews score the Honda EU series generators the highest when it comes to solid, consistent, QUIET power for the jobsite. For more info go to our article on Choosing The Right Portable Generator.
What to Wear at Night
Working at night presents different environmental challenges than daytime work. While the cooler temperatures are a benefit in summer, workers may need to wear increased clothing at night (e.g., long sleeves, jackets, rain gear at times) if working in colder temperatures. And, wearing high visibility gear is even more important at night than in the daytime.
Nighttime workers should wear Performance Class 2, 3, or E Hi Viz apparel:
- Class 2 – provides a higher amount of reflection to define the wearer more effectively
- Class 3 – provides greater visibility with a greater mix of complex backgrounds of retroreflective material through a full range of body movement
- Class E – represents garments with legs, like pants, coveralls, raingear, and includes gaiters
Nighttime work requires fuller Hi Viz outfits, such as jackets, pants, coveralls, or gaiters in addition to the shirts and vests that many workers wear during the day. These garments must have the proper retroreflective material which encircles parts of the garment (around torsos, arms, legs, etc.) and increase visibility for workers. Retroreflective material are bands of reflective trim that encircle parts of the garment. They reflect a high proportion of light and return light in the direction of the light source; they are extremely bright and visible.
Reducing The Risk
Worker safety is always top of mind on the job site and this is even more important at night with limited visibility and loud noises. Nighttime projects should have specific safety plan for night work that addresses risks such as:
- Visibility, glare, and other lighting issues
- Noise levels (need to pay more attention at night due to nearby property owners)
- Worker alertness and/or drowsiness
- Traffic control, high vehicle speeds, impaired drivers (if working on roadways)
- Working in cold temperatures
As mentioned, working in cooler temperatures is one reason for night work. The flip side to that is when working in an environment that is too cold, certain safety precautions need to be assessed. Air temperature, wind speed, and humidity or wetness can all affect the productivity of workers. In order to do their job properly and safely, workers must be properly insulated and able to take regular breaks from the cold.
When the mercury dips, the best course of action is to:
- Dress in layers with an outer wind and water resistant layer (be sure that all outer layers have the appropriate retroreflective bands)
- Cover any exposed skin
- Take breaks from the cold and resting is critical – workers will be keeping blood flow moving because they are active and moving, but they still need breaks.
Ensure the safety plan outlines specific break times and their durations. Night tasks that are stationary may set up portable heaters to warm the crew; be sure to regulate heaters temperatures because as the work heats up, workers may too.
When working at night is the best call, make sure it’s done safely and with the right equipment. To best protect workers and the work:
- Ensure proper traffic safety equipment is employed
- Get the right amount of rest and sleep to acclimate to the new schedule
- Light up the night with light towers, luminaries, personal lighting, etc.
- Use blocks and shields to ensure lighting doesn’t produce glare for workers and a nuisance for property owners
- Gear up with the proper safety apparel that have high-visibility retroreflective bands
- Layer up the outwear for cold weather
- Implement safety plans and lighting plans
Here’s an interesting example of a nighttime pour:
Night Concrete Pours at Ivy Station