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Why sufficient lighting is critical to construction site safety

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Construction Site

Ross Markham, managing director at Bull Products, and Paul Yarnell, technical compliance manager at Red Arrow, explain why planning for sufficient lighting should be a key consideration for the construction industry, even more so as winter approaches.

In the first quarter of 2020, workplace absences due to work-related ill health increased by 14%, which then rose to 36% during April to June 20201, when the construction industry was hit by Covid-19.

Now more than ever, construction sites are eager to make up for lost time but it’s crucial that the health and safety of workers isn’t compromised.

Your site starts and stops with planning

Construction sites are constantly evolving, and with that, comes the need for companies to be able to quickly adapt to changes on site.

One of the main concerns in the construction industry is whether lighting is sufficient enough for the task at hand. Each site brings its own unique challenges, so it’s important to use a phased planning approach – this means planning ahead for the different stages of the construction site development and breaking down what type of lighting you will need for each phase.

Planning in advance rather than reactive ordering is a much more cost-efficient option and results in exactly the right solutions being available on site when they are needed.

Doing so will save you time in the long run and allow you to adapt, react and prepare for any changes that may limit light as the project progresses, such as covered windows or new doors and walls.

It’s important to think about the following when planning for lighting;

  • Will the lighting allow workers to notice hazards and assess risks?
  • Is the lighting suitably positioned so that it can be properly maintained, replaced or disposed of?
  • Is your hardwired general lighting fixed? (This is key so that other employers cannot draw the power for other uses).
  • Does the site have adequate plug-in, plug-out task lighting for individual requirements?
  • Are there enough adapters for workers to move their task lighting to where it is needed without disrupting others?
  • Do you have adequate lighting for out of hours protection?
  • Is the site near a road? If so, do you have a high level of temporary lighting in place such as hoarding lighting?
  • Is your cabling routed and fixed to avoid trips and falls?
  • Does your site have adequate lighting and light up signage in case of an emergency?

Control the risks

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in 2018/2019, 4.7 million working days were lost in the construction industry due to non-fatal workplace injuries.2 A risk assessment is a fundamental process in planning, and one that will allow you to mitigate the risk of injuries, reduce downtime and boost productivity in the safest way possible.

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, employers must assess possible risks in the workplace, which includes carrying out a risk assessment to see whether lighting arrangements are satisfactory or whether they pose a significant risk.3

According to HSE4, there are five steps to a risk assessment;

Step 1: Look for the hazards

Look closely at lighting in the workplace to see what may cause harm or injury. Is the lighting placed correctly so that hazards are identifiable or is the lighting placed in areas that are more likely to lead to injury?

Step 2: Identify who’s at risk

Consider who is at risk including workers, members of the public, subcontractors and other professionals who may visit the site. Assess the hazards to which individuals may be exposed to as a result of inadequate lighting.

Step 3: Evaluate the risks

Are your existing precautions adequate? If not, take action to remove, reduce or control the risk.

Step 4: Record the findings

It is important to record the findings so that:

  • Workers are aware of the hazards and are better placed to deal with them.
  • Employers can use these records to assess risks and take appropriate action.
  • Any action taken may be referred to in the future if a similar hazard needs to be addressed.

Step 5: Review and update

Regularly check the risk assessment, especially when there is a change in working procedures. The assessment needs to take into account any new lighting hazards, including changes of use which might cause injury to employees.

Light the way for safety

Sufficient lighting is essential for the health and safety of workers. The quicker and easier a worker can spot a hazard, the more likely it can be avoided. That said, too much lighting can also be hazardous making it more difficult for workers to see. Therefore, the planning stage and your risk assessment can help identify what type of lighting is adequate.

When it comes to safely lighting your construction site, LED is the way forward. LED lighting provides durability, high performance and efficiency. It’s also a much more cost-effective option than traditional lighting. Generally, the more yellow the light, the more comfortable it is to work over long periods. So ideally, you want a yellow light which is 110V.

To support the general lighting in case of an emergency, it’s important to address the differing levels of light required for various needs and uses to ensure the appropriate amount of emergency lighting is installed. Emergency lighting units normally last around one to three hours, providing an ideal solution for designated escape routes such as corridors or stairs.

Remember that members of the public need to be protected too. If a site is well lit, pedestrians or unauthorised vehicles are less likely to enter a building site and encounter potential dangers. Don’t forget lighting outside the site too such as hoarding lighting, street lighting and illuminated walls.

Education is pivotal

A crucial step in planning is the induction process. For any new site, workers should be given a thorough induction, so they are familiar with the site and made aware of any potential hazards, risks, emergency escapes, range and positioning of the lighting on site and signage.

Regular training can also help to enhance health and safety on site, raise awareness on the importance of risk assessments and guarantee your site is fully compliant with regulations.

Employers have a duty of care to provide a safe working environment all year round. Using reliable and trusted general and task lighting can help the construction sector not only prevent lost time to accidents, but to also recover some of the time lost to COVID-19. Planning for lighting at this time of the year is even more crucial, and it’s important to get it right from the start, not only to protect your site but to ensure workers’ health and safety remains at the forefront.

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