Equipment and Jobsite Winter Gear
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 and safely, but without disruption to oncoming traffic or nearby property owners.
For example, if the work zone is stationary, luminaires 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 Department of Transportation (DOT) project, there may be state specifications for lighting compliance to consider.
Create A Lighting PlanNighttime construction projects should have a lighting plan in place before work begins. The plan would identify:
- Type of work and size of job
- Work zone areas that need to be lit and when they need light
- Best type of lighting for the project, best power source, and run time (this could change as the work progresses)
- How well your lighting source will perform in various weather conditions, extreme temperatures, and around dust and debris
- Discover if there are sound restrictions as some light systems create a high noise level
- Locations of where to position luminaires, 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 disturb nearby homes
The Federal Highway Administration (FHA), DOT, and American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) worked together to publish a detailed reference guide for options and specs 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 specs before creating your lighting plan.
FHA's List of Common Lighting SolutionsThe Federal Housing Commission (FHA) has provided a list of lighting descriptions to help contractors better understand lighting needs based on the many different potential projects and uses. This section covers the larger types of lights that are used on construction jobsites. These lights are considered portable but not mobile.
Portable Light TowersThis 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. Most construction sites have several of these so that work can continue regardless of weather or time of day. Some benefits that portable towers have over balloon lighting:
- They’re adjustable to 30’ over a jobsite
- Made sturdier to withstand high winds
- Less set-up time
- They have an on-board generator and can power onsite tools
Balloon LightingThis type of lighting consists of a large balloon-type luminaire that provides a large area of evenly distributed light and is relatively glare-free. Balloon lights can be mounted on slow-moving equipment or portable light towers. Some benefits that balloon towers have over portable towers:
- They’re quiet which works well in areas with sound restrictions
- Zero emission
- They provide consistent 360° light coverage
- Work as stand-alone or mounted on a slow-moving vehicle
- Able to be retrofitted to work with traditional tower fixtures
- Smaller size means easier transport and storage
Roadway LuminairesProviding the brightest light, these luminaires most closely resemble daylight, and they are almost always used for road construction. Mounted on temporary poles and considered a permanent roadway lighting fixture, each is hardwired to an electrical system.
Factory-Installed Lights on EquipmentHeadlights installed on most equipment do not normally provide adequate lighting for most work operations, but they help reduce glare when working near oncoming traffic.
Battery-Powered Tower LightsWhen you want to reduce emissions, costs, and noise, consider this innovative option. One great example of battery-powered towers are Milwaukee’s MX Fuel Rocket Tower Lights. With a rechargeable power source, these lights can last up to 10 hours. Keep a couple of extra charged batteries on hand for long shifts. They’re ideal for interior and exterior projects.
Certain tasks may even require workers to use personal lighting solutions. Wearable light sources offer hands-free mobility but lower power output. They should be used as a supplemental light source. Personal lighting acts as an additional safety solution improving worker vision while illuminating the wearer.
Securely fastened to a regular hard hat, headlamps provide hands-free and individually controlled lighting for above-ground construction work despite being commonly associated with miners. Headlamps can be secured to existing hard hats with clips, and parts can be easily replaced instead of buying new equipment.
Everyone on site should have an adjustable, magnetic flashlight. They can be used for a wide range of work, and you never know when someone may need extra light, especially in tight spaces or for closeup work.
Very versatile and adaptable, personal floodlights can be used for a variety of situations and in a variety of areas for personal lighting. They can be attached to almost any surface or clipped to hard hats as headlamps.
When it comes to power at night, keeping the noise level down is a must, especially when your site is near a residential area. You may consider an inverter generator; they offer the cleanest output, a more efficient energy source, and low emissions. Their lightweight, compact design makes them quieter than other generators.
This is always a good choice as a movable backup energy source on your jobsite. These generators can run on gas, diesel, propane, or natural gas. Usually mounted on a towable trailer or vehicle, these rugged generators are built to withstand harsh outdoor conditions. Use them to power up tools, computers, lights, and heaters.
Usually small to medium size, these models are used to power appliances, refrigerators, or as an emergency backup power source running on gas or diesel. Easy to maintain and move, they’re also the most cost-effective and considered indispensable on construction sites because they can power up tools, small equipment, and lights. However, they can be noisy, hard to start in cold weather, and they produce high emissions.
Eco-friendly with low-to-no emissions, vibration, cordless, and quiet. Has the same durability, long run time, and energy as gas-powered models.
Used in industrial plants or pipelines, these large models are built to be very dependable, extremely rugged and provide sustained power to commercial or industrial operations under harsh conditions. With an automatic transfer switch, these generators turn on seamlessly when power is lost. They’re often used at hospitals and medical centers as a commercial or industrial backup power source and can be used for up to 48 hours.
High powered with a large footprint and fuel area, containerized industrial generators offer the same benefits as other generators but on a larger scale. They’re best suited for manufacturing plants and large-scale constructions jobs. Despite being on a trailer, they’re designed to be stationary.
For more info, go to our article on Selecting the Right Portable Generator
What to Wear at NightWorking 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, and 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-Vis 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
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.
Worker safety is always top of mind on the jobsite and this is even more important at night with limited visibility and loud noises.
Reducing The Risk
Nighttime projects should have specific safety plans 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
- Taking breaks from the cold and resting is critical. While workers will maintain their blood flow and stay warmer while moving, they will still need to take 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.
While 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, luminaires, 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