Nighttime construction zones pose a unique risk to workers as a result of low-light conditions. Hazardous by nature, road construction becomes doubly risky during evening hours when the rate of impaired or distracted drivers increases. When designing a nighttime task, contractors need to plan for additional construction lighting.

Nighttime Roadwork

For pedestrians and drivers alike, the nighttime driving environment of roadway illumination, signs, vehicle markings and flashing lights can be complicated and confusing to navigate. The nighttime construction environment can be even more chaotic with swarms of workers, loud and awkward construction equipment, and flashing/strobing lights.

New traffic patterns are often part of roadway construction work and can be unfamiliar to drivers. Workers and drivers both require distinct visual aids and traffic advisor lights to prevent accidents and injuries. In urban areas and places that are highly traveled, the need for additional lighting is especially strong. 

LED Lights and Construction

LED Lights and Construction

One of the most exciting advancements in the work zone illumination world is the emergence of the LED light. LED lights for construction vehicles and work sites are excellent alternatives to the traditional halogen high-intensity work zone lights. Although halogen lights have been the go-to source of nighttime lighting, LED lighting platforms have begun to rise in the ranks as factory-installed equipment lighting, mobile equipment lighting and mobile light towers.

LED lights are extremely energy-efficient and can use up to 80 percent less energy than their halogen counterparts. When properly designed, LED lights can also increase return on investment. These platforms are often more durable and better able to withstand extreme temperatures, rugged environments and rough handling.

The LED light has the ability to match and surpass halogen lights in brightness. These lights can also be tuned for greater consistency with the natural color spectrum. Natural colors create less strain on the human eye and can enhance object recognition both for the workers and passing motorists. 

While LED lights offer exceptional clarity, they have a tendency to produce a certain amount of glare. When looking at platforms equipped with LED lights or mobile lighting equipment, it is important to consider whether the light intensity is adjustable. If the glare is too great, the light can potentially blind passing motorists and workers present on the site. 

Integrated Lighting Systems

Integrated lighting systems are designed to decrease low visibility and shadows around equipment that can lead to hazardous conditions. Flood lighting helps with this problem, but integrated lighting systems that are part of the equipment itself help to eliminate blind spots and shadow areas around the machinery and give the operator an especially clear view. 

Bright Lights and the Human Eye

Bright Lights and the Human Eye

When a bright light shines into an eye accustomed to low light, the pupil contracts. The pupil takes time to re-adjust to the dark, leading to a decrease in vision quality and shape recognition. The human eye will also lose depth of focus as the light level decreases.

Obtaining the right balance between sufficient light and minimal glare is a challenge that must be met in order to keep road workers safe and drivers able to see. Many manufacturers of lighting systems are offering safer and brighter platforms in mobile and integrated configurations. 

Have a Lighting Plan

Most road-building contractors schedule their jobs to be performed at night when traffic is decreased. Low traffic means less interruption and a speedier completion of the job. In order to keep drivers and workers safe, it is important to develop an effective lighting plan. A lighting plan should help you accomplish the following objectives: 

  • Improve the safety of the workers and the public.
  • Provide the appropriate amount of lighting to allow the task to be completed safely and efficiently.
  • Reinforce the intent of any new traffic plans and provide guidance for drivers navigating the work zone.

The planning process should take into account any existing lighting and any additional lighting needs.

  • Portable Lights - Portable lighting systems are often mounted on trailers and are designed to be easily moved to different locations of the work site. This type of lighting should be able to generate the minimum level of light required for nighttime construction work zones. Floodlights may be a necessary supplement to this light system. Be aware that these lights often cause glare for passing drivers. 
  • Balloon Lights -The illumination for a balloon light is surrounded by an opaque material and resembles a balloon in appearance. These lights are often mounted directly on the equipment and are especially useful for large machinery such as pavers. 
  • Warning Lights -Some types of lighting equipment serve the primary goal of warning oncoming vehicles. These lights will not necessarily provide any additional illumination to the work site. Flashing and rotating beacons are recommended for all work vehicles and any equipment to be used on a nighttime construction zone. These lights are commonly used in pairs, one on each size of the vehicle. Warning lights are often an indication of whether a vehicle is authorized to operate in the work zone. 

Steps to a Lighting Plan

In order to develop a successful construction lighting plan, consider following the steps below. 

  • Identify the activities to be performed. You will need a complete understanding of the intended work process.
  • Determine the area to be illuminated. Use a scale layout of the roadway to draw the project area. You may need to perform this step in stages to match work progress. Be sure to add key locations such as lane drop details and on-site obstructions. Locate flagger and spotter locations on the layout to determine their lighting needs.
  • Choose the type of lighting you need. Based on the type of work being performed, you have the option of selecting from balloon lights, portable light plant towers and roadway luminaires. 
  • Iso-footcandle charts are a useful tool for evaluation and comparing light patterns. Use an Iso-footcandle chart to help you determine where the light will fall on the roadway and to give you the tools to determine the necessary lighting scheme for large work sites.
  • In order to perform a quality job, the proper light is essential. LED lights for construction vehicles and work zones can help get the job done as safely and smoothly as possible.