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Hazards of Construction Work at Night

Neil Kokemuller

To complete some building, road and bridge projects, nighttime work is necessary for many construction workers. Night work presents several health and safety hazards stemming from visual difficulties and inconsistent sleep patterns.

Close-up of construction workers paving road

Sleepiness and Drowsiness

While some construction laborers regularly work night shifts, many work overnight only to meet project deadlines. For those employees, sleeping during the day and being alert overnight is not a part of their regular sleep pattern. Having your normal sleep pattern altered contributes to drowsiness and lower levels of alertness. Being drowsy is a hazard when you work with large machinery, operate dangerous hand tools, carry heavy objects and work at great heights. There is a higher risks of injury, falls, cuts and burns for workers and those around them.

Limited Visibility

Visibility challenges are a primary safety concern of nighttime construction work, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration. While states and organizations develop illumination standards to enhance safety, it is impossible to duplicate the illumination of sunlight. Without perfect lighting, workers face increased risks of falls and equipment mishaps. The DOT website notes that about half of construction fatalities from 2005 to 2010 resulted from workers being struck by construction vehicles or equipment. This risk increases at night because it is more difficult for crew members to see other workers and perceive depth at night.

Car Glare

Some construction crews work near or on roadways and highways that remain open at night. Even though crews set up cones and signs that reflect light and are designed to be easily visible to drivers, there still isn't much room between vehicles and workers. This creates the risk of being hit by a careless or preoccupied driver. Another hazard is glare from cars driving by, which can blind construction workers who use equipment or dangerous tools. The cumulative effect of glare from passing cars may also contribute to visibility issues throughout the work shift.

Personal and Family Life

Not all hazards related to nighttime construction are specific to the work itself. Intermittent nighttime construction work also can impact the personal and family life of a worker, especially if he is putting in long overtime hours to help a project get done on deadline. Working long hours takes time away from personal endeavors and family life. Overtime on top of overnight work also leads to constant fatigue. Feeling irritable or sluggish can create problems in your personal and home life, and can also cause you to be less sharp and careful on the job.