Under the Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974, it is the legal responsibility of employers to ensure construction site lighting requirements are met. Construction sites can be dangerous work environments at the best of times and poor lighting only compounds this. Aside from the obvious risks to worker safety, projects will take longer to complete, with mistakes more likely and details easily overlooked. Proper lighting also protects members of the public and site visitors by exposing any potential hazards and ensuring they are visible to site workers. During winter, with its short days and poor natural light, adequate lighting is even more important to keep the worksite safe and efficient. Full details of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 can be found at https://www.hse.gov.uk/legislation/hswa.htm
Health and Safety (HSE) guidance states that every part of a construction site that is in use should be well – lit. This can be natural or artificial light, but workers must be able to work and navigate the site safely and efficiently. If work continues after daylight hours, artificial light at least equal in illumination to natural light must be provided. This also applies to work in indoor areas that natural light does not penetrate effectively.
All lighting provided should be bright enough for any hazards to be easily noticeable. Static machinery, containers, generators and other large equipment can throw areas nearby into shadow, obscuring any potential threats. As these can move from day to day as work progresses, it is important to continually assess any shadow areas. Extra lighting can then be provided, or existing lights moved to counter this, allowing safe passage through these areas.
Different jobs require different levels of illumination and the appropriate level must be maintained throughout. HSE guidance provides a table of average and minimum illuminance broken down into five categories of work. Using a light or lux meter will give accurate readings of light levels in all areas of the site and ensure the correct level of lighting is provided. For further detail, the Society of Light and Lighting produces the SLL Code for lighting, covering a wide range of individual tasks and their recommended levels of illumination. https://www.cibse.org/knowledge/knowledge-items/detail?id=a0q20000008I6xiAAC
While the whole point of providing lighting is to ensure a safe workplace, using the wrong sort of light can create its own hazards. If the light is too bright, the glare can cause visual impairment (disability glare) or discomfort, irritability and distraction (discomfort glare). All of these can negatively affect productivity and distract the worker from nearby hazards. Surfaces lit by different types of artificial light at the same time or monochromatic light sources (ie. sodium discharge lamps) can affect colour perception. For colour sensitive work such as electrical wiring this could have inconvenient, if not actively dangerous, consequences. Older lamps using an alternating current can produce oscillations in light output, causing a stroboscopic effect. This can cause moving machinery to appear stationary or moving differently, increasing the likelihood of collision or injury to workers. Flickering low frequency light modulation can cause disorientation, fatigue and in some cases epileptic seizures and should be avoided completely. Some lamp designs emit large amounts of ultraviolet radiation that can damage the skin and eyes. These should not be used within one metre of workers and undamaged ultraviolet shields should be fitted.
In the event of a power cut, emergency lighting should be provided. This ensures employees working at height can safely descend, or those fleeing an emergency have a well – lit escape route. If an automatic system that engages when normal lighting fails cannot be provided, easily accessible torches should be available. All emergency escape routes should be illuminated, even in the case of a power failure. This does not need to be excessively bright, just light enough to allow a swift, orderly retreat. All emergency lighting must be activated for as long as the danger exists or until normal lighting resumes.
Moving from a dark area to a bright one or vice versa can cause dazzling or apparent blindness from low lighting. This will obviously cause disorientation and reduce awareness of any hazards nearby. This is particularly dangerous to workers driving or operating heavy plant machinery during the transition in lighting. To avoid this, make sure adjacent work areas have close levels of illuminance with no sudden change. If this is not possible, create a transition zone with a light level halfway between the two to allow a more gradual adjustment.
Keeping lights used in construction working to provide constant and consistent illumination is vital. As a result, lighting equipment should be easily accessible for repairs when needed. It is also important to implement regular maintenance schedules to ensure all lighting is working at full capacity and avoid breakdowns.
While keeping your construction site well lit is important, this should not cause light pollution in surrounding areas. This can cause inconvenience to those living around the site and distract motorists driving nearby, potentially causing accidents. Using directional lighting ensures the site is properly illuminated in key areas while reducing light spillage outside. If pedestrians are likely to be using paths around site boundaries, appropriate lighting should be provided for their safety.
When referring to generators, the ‘cleanness’ of power refers to a consistent, stable power output with few fluctuations. This is expressed using sine wave charts, with the sine wave being one cycle of electric current (60 – hertz cycles per second). Sensitive electronic equipment such as laptops, PCs or tools with microprocessors can be damaged or forced to shutdown or reboot by a sine wave distortion of more than 10%. Conventional generators use an Automatic Voltage Regulator to minimise voltage fluctuations and avoid this. For extremely sensitive electronics, inverter generators run power through an inverter board for a sine wave distortion of less than 2.5%. For most construction sites, this will not be necessary and capacitor – style generators will suffice. Even though they can have sine wave distortion of up to 40%, this will not negatively affect power tools or air compressors. Due to their relative simplicity, they are also usually the most cost effective choice.
When working in severely noise – restricted or residential areas, the quieter the generator is, the better. Inverter generators are extremely quiet due to their lower level of noise producing resonance compared to standard generators. However, there are a number of components and design features conventional generators use to reduce the decibel level during operation. Large mufflers and air cleaners are designed to reduce or suppress volume while the generator is running. Automatic idle control reduces the number of engine rotations when the generator runs idle, reducing noise and saving on fuel consumption. Pairing a diesel generator with a hybrid generator can further reduce fuel use and power critical equipment silently outside of peak use.
For further information on HSE Lighting at Work guidance and regulations, visit https://www.hse.gov.uk/pUbns/priced/hsg38.pdf
SERV Plant Hire are plant and machinery specialists offering a huge variety of construction equipment for hire to the North West of England. This includes a wide range of lighting solutions and generators for all construction needs. Contact us to discuss your requirements, we will be happy to help and ensure you have the correct equipment for the job.