When it comes to construction sites and work zones, safety is of the utmost importance. The presence of machinery, dangerous tools and hazardous work conditions require everyone on site to take an active interest in promoting safety through best practices. The risk of permanent injury and/or loss of life is significant during the day time. This risk is further compounded by the low visibility that comes with nighttime operations. If you’re ever part of an evening or overnight construction shift, you must be all the more diligent about keeping the work zone safe. Here are some tips to know.
Let There Be Light
Perhaps the biggest factor in nighttime work danger is the lack of available light. Whether you’re working on a roadway construction project or on a high-rise building, it’s important to make sure that active work zones are properly lit. Crews should use lamps and portable lights that adequately illuminates the work zone. Each worker should have enough light to see where they are going as well as what they’re doing. Prior to beginning any night shifts, there should be a lighting plan that details not only the lamps to be used, but also their placement.
Nighttime Power Control
Often construction sites are areas that don’t have permanent sources of power such as electrical outlets in a building. They often rely on the use of generators and extension cords to power electrical items or implementation of gas- and battery-powered equipment. The relative low visibility experienced in night shifts requires special attention to the use of safety controls such as switchgear to control which items remain powered and which are de-energized. Consider addressing the use of such controls in a formal night shift work plan that is made available to all onsite personnel prior to beginning the work.
Given the low light in evening and night shifts, the reflectivity of various work zones becomes especially important. Onsite personnel should wear personal protection equipment or PPE with reflective material for improved visibility when it’s dark out. Look for hard hats and safety vests that include surfaces with material that reflect available light to keep the wearers visible at night. Reflective tape can also be applied to PPE and other surfaces for low light work. Keep in mind that barricades and other items used to close off areas near the work zone also need to reflect light to remain in view.
Work zones should have proper signage to make everyone aware of conditions. This is especially true for nighttime work. Certain types of construction such as roadway and bridge work are adjacent to traveling motorists and nighttime operations come with the added potential for danger. Make sure your work zone has enough advance warning signsindicating any closures, duration of scheduled work and changed conditions. You not only have an obligation to the crews working onsite, but also to the public that may be in close proximity to your work zone.
The Importance of Proper Rest
Another risk of night shift work is fatigue. The safety of everyone onsite can be jeopardized by the tiredness of just one worker. Fatigue impairs cognitive abilities, including one’s ability to judge a situation, focus on the task at hand, handle dangerous equipment and move safely about the work zone. It’s important to make sure that crews are well-rested and alert, especially at night. Workers should be observed for signs of exhaustion and there should be breaks scheduled during the shift. Consider providing healthy snacks and beverages to support the health of nighttime crew members.
Whether you’re a boss or part of a crew, safety on the job site is your responsibility, especially at night. The low visibility and the lateness of the hour increase the potential for a dangerous situation, especially given the hazards that already exist in the work zone. Proper lighting, appropriate PPE, signage, active safety controls and a well-rested crew all work towards making the site as safe as possible, lowering the risk for serious injury and loss of life.