Construction site lighting is not only a question of comfort but also of safety. Construction workers need to see what they do, and they need to be seen. But which light towers will you need and how many will you need to work safely and efficiently in the dark? Which other aspects must be considered when planning construction site lighting?
Work safety: Depending on application, trade associations call for illumination of different lux strengths on construction sites
Labor law regulates the lighting on a construction site, and diverse types of work are associated with different lighting requirements. These are measured in lux, which stands for the luminous flux that hits a defined area. To ensure safe working the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) requires lighting of at least 32 lux on general construction sites. Areas in which people are actively working require even better lighting. In track construction, for instance, it should be circa 50 lux, in tunnel construction even approximately 100 lux. Experts advise that lighting on construction sites is often insufficient. This can be a problem not just for legal reasons – eyes fatigue faster, and productivity suffers.
To be able to plan suitable lighting, you need to familiarize yourself with the terminology. The luminous flux, stated in lumen, is initially not of decisive value, because it only states how much light energy emits from a source. In contrast, the illuminance (measured in lux) indicates how much light arrives at the construction site and how bright it is in a particular area. In other words: A luminous flux that is very high in value can translate to a very low-level illumination of a specific area. If we take the example of laser pointers, the light is tightly bundled and impacts only at one point on a surface. This differs to area-wide light distribution. However, economical LEDs used on construction sites today are not seen as actual lighting in terms of their luminous intensity. But innovative lens technology can significantly improve the lux value.
Four points to consider when choosing a light mast
Choosing the right light tower can be simple if you pay attention to these four points: the local circumstances, application area, environmental aspects and special restrictions. If observed, you are most likely to find a good lighting solution.
1. Local circumstances
Let’s consider the local conditions first. How large is the area to be illuminated? What is its shape? Where should the light pole be positioned without impeding the ongoing work or creating shadows? The answers will indicate which and how many light towers you need. You should also check whether the construction site has an upper limit and whether environmental influences such as strong winds occur at heights. In which case you may have to support the light tower as it is particularly exposed. Intelligent light poles today are equipped with smart mast technology. It means that these lighting masts are capable of self-height adjustment so that it is always set at a safe working height. Once the area and conditions are known, you can determine the appropriate light tower solution based on its lighting diagram. Identifying the dimensions is particularly easy with the free Light The Power App from Atlas Copco. Entering the size and shape of the surface area will calculate the necessary number of light poles required to achieve the desired lux value for you.
2. Application area
Also, the operational area and the surrounding site conditions will impact the light tower choice. For example, in residential areas noise emissions may have to be considered. Here, electric light masts can be an advantage, if there is a power connection. Without access to electrical power and to support global sustainability goals, solar-powered light towers such as the HiLight S2+ from Atlas Copco reduce Co2 emissions and deliver efficient, high-performance site visibility. If there is a lot of gravel on a construction site or in a quarry, you may need the light towers to move. Protection against corrosion also becomes an interesting point to consider. The accessibility to the working area too has an important role. The classic light mast needs a fresh tank filling about every 200 hours of operation. A battery pack must be recharged or replaced every 32 hours. Also, to be clarified is whether the mast should be operated manually or whether it makes sense to operate it automatically via a photocell or a timer.
3. Environmental aspects
Considering the relevant environmental aspects, contrary to what might be expected, the emission requirements according to emission stage V are relatively easy to solve. This is because the usual light towers are operated with motors powered below 90 kilowatts, for which generally no particle filters are necessary unless you are working areas, such as in tunnels. Pay attention not only to key figures on service life, maintenance, and wear for the life cycle assessment of your light tower, but also consider volume, sound insulation and light emission, which, for example, disturb animals such as bats. Specific applications in natural environments require yellowish light to avoid disturbing the surrounding fauna. For that, customers can use LED lamps with a color temperature range of 3.000K (cool white). Finally, a flexible energy carrier with easy change modes between diesel and electric service modes can be a great advantage.
4. Special restrictions
A wide variety of factors can cause special restrictions. In a tunnel, you will need a particle filter and there can also be height limitations. Other notable risks, such as the previously mentioned winds at heights, must be known, as they can affect the lighting. After all, light towers are exposed to wind and weather at heights above eight meters. Therefore, the light towers must be protected at such heights by good wind and weather encapsulation and protection class IP69.
For applications such as on-road building sites, oncoming traffic needs to be guarded against glare. For this purpose, special attachments that diffuse the light are available. Although this impacts the illuminated surface area, motorists won’t look directly into the LEDs, minimizing the risk of being blinded by the light.
In addition, noise and CO2 emissions need to be considered, especially at metropolitan construction sites where noise and CO2 limitations are in place during the night. If the equipment being used does not comply with these regulations, the work must stop before the ‘curfew’; affecting productivity. Operators can overcome these challenges with the electric light towers range from Atlas Copco.
The latest addition to Atlas Copco’s clean solutions the HiLight S2+, a solar powered light tower that enables users to reduce their CO2 emissions by up to six tones, compared to diesel-driven light towers. It features four 90W LED solar- powered flood lights that deliver 2,000 m² light coverage. The HiLight S2+ also delivers 11 hours of light, with no noise or CO2 emissions.
Don't just buy light towers off the shelf. Evaluate beforehand what requirements the new lighting solution should meet. Generally, make sure to select a robust body casing for protection against stone chipping and corrosion. Finally, efficient motors and dimmable light bulbs will pay for themselves: you can quickly lower fuel by half utilizing modern light poles.