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Published: Winter, 2006; Vol 8, Num 1

 

As the Sun Goes Down, Beware of What’s Around

By Mark Dempsey

To avoid further disruption on congested highways in the U.S. and Canada, night work is becoming more and more prevalent in road repair and construction. Because night work is so increasingly common, it will be the focus of this spring’s National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week.

National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week is April 3-9, 2006.

A national media event will kick-off the week on Tuesday, April 4, 2006, in a roadway work zone near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. Due to the focus on night work dangers, the event will take place at sunset.

For more information, please refer to the National Work Zone Safety Information website.

“Safety is a major concern when workers are exposed to the night environment,” says Dr. Jim Melius, LHSFNA Research Division Director. “Extra care and attention to detail is required for night work, as all hazards are magnified when the sun goes down.”

Among the chief safety concerns are:

  • Visibility
  • Staffing issues
  • Noise and glare
  • Worker and driver alertness
  • Impaired drivers
  • Higher speeds
  • Driver confusion
  • Workspace intrusions

Practical solutions

Though night work entails additional risks for workers, these can be dramatically reduced with proper planning. A comprehensive night work zone plan also must ensure mobility in and around the work zone and the safety of motorists who need to move through the zone quickly. It should include:

Effective signage: brighter and larger signs, flashing arrow panels, temporary signals and changeable message displays

Effective channelization: positive protection to separate traffic flow from the work zone with jersey barriers or other means; control of traffic flow around the work zone with warning lights, pavement markings, crash attenuators and ballast

Internal traffic control: signs within the work zone and designated buffer spaces to isolate workers from equipment, reduce the need to back up and coordinate truck and equipment movements

Visible workers: high visibility attire; well illuminated work areas, especially around flaggers

Visible work vehicles and equipment: vehicles with identifying signs, retroreflective markings and rotating/flashing lights with 360 degree visibility (amber is the preferred color)

Temporary lighting: lighting plan that accounts for level of illumination, uniformity and glare

Health issues

As night work becomes more common, Laborers must learn how to deal with the physiological effects as well as the physical challenges. “A safe environment must be provided for workers,” says Melius. “In addition, education and training are essential to help deal with all possible hazards. We must know what to expect from our immediate surroundings as well as the inner workings of our own bodies.”

Alcohol: Limiting or avoiding alcohol consumption can help in the adjustment of sleep patterns.

Circadian rhythms: Natural cycles in the body control appetite, energy, mood, sleep and libido. When the body is out of sync with nature, we suffer from a Circadian Rhythm Disorder (CRD). Night work almost always causes a circadian rhythm disruption, where a person’s internal body clock is at odds with the shift schedule. The goal is to create a circadian balance, where our bodies sleep well, eat right, have lots of energy and feel great. When in balance, we are at our best.

Knowing your work environment and getting yourself mentally and physically prepared for the rigors of night work will yield positive results.