Getting work done on schedule for the modern contractor is becoming a major challenge as cities and towns continue to grow and roadways become more and more congested. Jobs involving road and utilities work is becoming more difficult as contractors find themselves having to juggle safety and productivity with the demand placed on them by the need to keep roadways clear and moving freely.
Because of these problems, contractors are continually shifting operations toward nighttime hours when roadways are less busy and the chances for accidents and increased congestion are lessened. With this shift towards working in the evening hours, however, comes the problem of maintaining productivity and safety on the jobsite. With a reduction in light levels, studies have proven that worker productivity tends to drop off while the incidence of accidents tends to rise. Among the biggest problems encountered involve the higher incidence of impaired drivers during evening hours and the need to maintain the safety of workers around heavy equipment.
Although there is precious little that contractors can do to mitigate the dangers presented by the higher incidence of impaired drivers, maintaining visibility on the jobsite and thus the visibility of workers is something they can be proactive with. The number one way contractors improve visibility on the nighttime jobsite is to of course, increase the amount of available light. There are many ways this is accomplished, and each has a varying degree of effectiveness depending upon conditions and the application in question.
Light towers are a popular choice for the nighttime jobsite because of their ability to illuminate large areas with a great deal of high quality light. These light towers are generally an array of two to four metal halide lights mounted on telescoping poles and powered by a dedicated diesel generator. They can typically illuminate an area of approximately two acres and provide a great solution for contractors who need powerful illumination for large scale projects. Light towers have several drawbacks, however, and these can make a huge difference in how effectively these light towers are used. One of the most important problems with light towers is the fact that they are expensive to purchase and operate. Although contractors can rent such units, such rentals can become cost prohibitive in the long run if the contractor conducts large scale night operations on a regular basis. Another problem is that light towers are generally large units and require ample room for placement and setup. Since they are most often trailer mounted, any area where access is limited will limit their effectiveness. Yet another concern is the glare that can be produced by these light towers. The metal halide lamps used in their construction create an intensely bright light at their source, which if not properly directed or specially shielded can create glare than can blind traffic approaching the jobsite. While shields and filters can effectively reduce glare, they also tend to reduce light output and add to the overall cost of the lighting system.
One of the more practical solutions for jobsite illumination involves placing lights on the heavy equipment being used during operations. Heavy equipment manufacturers currently install a fairly standard array of lighting packages on their equipment at the factory, but for dedicated nighttime operations contractors are finding these packages somewhat less than optimal. When you consider that heavy equipment like backhoes are usually paired with spotters who are in close proximity to the equipment, and that larger units have booms with a thirty foot or longer reach, it become clear that a well illuminated work area around equipment is critical. Typical lighting setups on heavy equipment consist of four or six halogen floodlights arrayed in locations intended to illuminate the direct area of work in front of the operator. While this works well as supplemental lighting, it is sorely lacking for locations that require more due to a shortage of local ambient light from light towers or other systems.
The typical backhoe needs a safe area approximately fifty feet around it in all directions. In order to illuminate such an area regardless of location, equipment mounted lighting needs to be both powerful and efficient. Although HID lamps are no offered which provide a great improvement over the halogen lamps they are replacing, they still leave some room for improvement due to the heat they can generate and the generally fragile nature of the glass used in their construction. A newer entrant on the construction scene, LEDs offer even greater efficiency and durability with an excellent potential for providing high quality illumination no matter the location.
A Larson Electronics 12 LED Light Emitter - 10 Watt LEDs - 10,800 Lumen - 4100'L X 325'W Spotlight for example produces 10,800 lumens of light in a package only a foot long and five inches high, which makes mounting it to heavy equipment easy and unobtrusive. Such light bars are capable of illuminating an area four thousand feet long by three hundred and twenty five feet wide. If set up in a floodlight configuration, LED light bar like this can easily illuminate an area measured in hundreds of square feet, far beyond the nominal fifty needed around a backhoe. Since these lights are multi-voltage, capable of running on a variety of DC voltages ranging from 9 to 50, they can be mounted on almost any piece of equipment that produces a sufficient amount of DC current.
LED also have the benefit of producing good quality light that has none of the yellowing effects of high pressure sodium lamps. LEDs are also highly durable, capable of withstanding shocks and vibrations that can damage ordinary halogen lamps. The best benefits for contractors, however, is probably the ability to mount these lights to almost any equipment and have a powerful light source that is capable of allowing equipment operators to fully observe their work area no matter where they are located. With equipment mounted light bars, equipment operators can operate independently of outside light sources if needed, move equipment to another location and begin operations without the need to wait for the setup of stand-alone lighting, and even simply provide mobile illumination for other operations as needed. While no equipment lighting can take the place of effective light towers, equipment fitted with LED light bars can make a great deal of difference in how productive and safe the jobsite is. Isn’t that the whole point of jobsite illumination after all?