According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 15 million Americans work a permanent night shift or frequently rotate in and out of night shifts. From heavy equipment operators to first responders to parking lot attendants, there are a whole lot of hard-working people who clock in after dark. And, particularly for those who work outside and/or near heavy equipment, there are significant safety concerns to address and night-work safety precautions that everyone needs to be familiar with.
Today, we’ll talk about some of the most essential night work safety precautions, including the most crucial hi vis clothing that will keep you safe and seen at night. Of course, we can help you with much more than good advice at HiVis Supply — we offer all the hi vis safety clothing you need for safer night work, so make sure to see our top 10 best hi vis gear options for night work at the end.
Types of Night Work
What types of night work typically require hi vis clothing and other safety precautions? These are a few of the common occupations that commonly involve performing outdoor work at night:
- Civil construction and road maintenance workers
- First responders such as EMTs, firefighters and police
- On-call utility workers
- Parking lot and toll booth attendants
- Roadside assistance and tow truck workers
- Mobile diesel mechanics
- Airport ground personnel
- Sanitation and maintenance workers
- Security guards
- Retail workers who work in store parking lots after dark
These industries have different reasons for scheduling night work, including:
- Providing services that are needed 24/7
- Keeping work temperatures manageable in hot climates
- Performing road work during periods of lower traffic
- Increasing the pace of progress on urgent construction projects
Each of the positions we’re talking about is essential in a different way, and each shares some of the dangers and difficulties of night work. Next, we’ll discuss exactly what those dangers are and how they can affect safety and performance on the job.
Common Hazards of Night Work
It’s important to know about the specific dangers that night work poses and how to identify which ones affect your job site. These are the most common night work hazards that managers and workers alike should know about:
Vehicles and Heavy Equipment
For most people who work outdoors at night, the greatest danger is what OSHA calls a struck-by accident: being struck or run over by a vehicle, such as a car or truck, or a piece of heavy equipment, such as an excavator, backhoe or dump truck. While struck-by accidents happen in the day, too, they’re more common at night because:
- Workers are more difficult for vehicle operators to see at night.
- People driving passenger vehicles are more likely to be tired, distracted or intoxicated at night.
These accidents are most common in industries such as road construction where people work directly next to highways, with road construction flaggers being among the most vulnerable. However, the risk is very real in almost every sector that involves outdoor night work.
Other hazards that are already in your work environment can become more dangerous at night. For example, it may be easier to accidentally walk into an open pit at night if the worksite isn’t lit and marked correctly, and tools or materials left around the worksite can more easily lead to slip-and-fall accidents.
Working in rain or snow at night creates a combination of two work conditions that are already difficult. Heavy weather will reduce visibility even more, and it can create additional hazards like slippery surfaces and wet clothes.
Many people have trouble adjusting to working at night and the disruption in the body’s circadian rhythms that it creates. Workers who haven’t been able to fully shift their sleep cycle to sleeping during the day and working at night often start to suffer from insomnia, poor quality sleep and drowsiness on the job.
These problems are compounded when workers have an inconsistent day-night schedule from working different types of shifts. Lack of sleep and fatigue are associated with all kinds of safety issues, with some studies suggesting that a severely fatigued worker can be as dangerous as one who comes to work under the influence.
Key Night Work Safety Precautions
Clearly, night work has its hazards. How can workers and managers lead by example in handling these hazards on the job site and keeping everyone safe? These are some of the most important night work safety precautions that everyone who works at night or coordinates night work should know:
- High Visibility Clothing: High visibility safety work clothes use a combination of visual elements to make workers easier to see at night:
- Fluorescent Colors: Hi vis clothing is made with fabrics in specific fluorescent colors designed to stand out in the visual field.
- Retroreflective Material: Hi vis clothing also uses strips of retroreflective material that reflect light at its source.
- The ANSI 107 standard rates visibility levels for hi vis clothing based on several factors, including how much retroreflective material is on each garment. While OSHA doesn’t dictate a specific level of ANSI-rated safety gear required for night work, they do enforce the General Duty Clause, which requires employers to provide employees with protection from recognized hazards at work.
- Lighting: Lighting makes a huge difference for night work safety. OSHA requires every worksite to have a minimum amount of illumination, measured in foot-candles. Additionally, worksite planning should always include an appraisal of which type of worksite lighting is best for your application. LEDs are the current preferred choice for many applications due to their brightness, reliability and low electricity consumption.
- Work and Worker Scheduling: Using smart scheduling practices can help keep workers healthy and out of harm’s way. Scheduling work on nights when traffic tends to be lower is one method, but scheduling workers themselves is just as important. Night workers should have a consistent schedule pattern that allows them to adjust their circadian rhythms. Whenever possible, workers should work either day shifts or night shifts, not a mix of both. If a worker has to be scheduled for both day and night work, they should always have a day off in between to ensure that they can receive adequate rest between shifts. Finally, every worker’s schedule should also include regular breaks under state labor laws.
- Work Site Planning: A better-planned worksite helps workers and vehicle operators avoid dangerous situations before they occur and get out of situations quickly if they do happen. In confined areas such as a road work site, workers should have designated escape routes that they can use to get to a safe area if necessary, and the site should be designed to give workers the maximum amount of buffer zone from vehicle traffic.
- Positive Protection Barriers: Many job sites use hard barricades, also known as positive protection, to keep vehicles from entering worker areas. So-called “Jersey barriers” made from plastic or concrete are one of the most common types, but many other types of traffic barriers are on the market now, including mobile barriers that can be deployed almost instantly from the back of a tractor-trailer.
- Safety Training: To work safely at night, workers have to know the precautions they need to take. Before they begin working night shifts, every worker should participate in training about night work safety precautions, including topics like how to wear a reflective vest correctly and how to stay out of a construction vehicle’s blind spot.
- Visual Workplace: The visual workplace is a system of design principles that allows people to efficiently communicate important information on the job. Make sure your job site is full of visual reminders for both workers on foot and vehicle operators. Navigational signs help make your worksite and vehicle routes more predictable and organized, and safety signs warn workers and vehicle operators about relevant hazards in their area.
Essential Night Work Safety Gear
Anyone who works outdoor night shifts needs access to the right high visibility workwear. Night workers should be packing some or all of the following gear when they arrive at the job site:
- Hi Vis Jacket: A hi vis jacket is a must for many types of night work, particularly for first responders, roadside assistance workers and others who have to work in nasty weather. Go for something waterproof, breathable and insulated — HiVis Supply’s hi vis jacket collection won’t disappoint.
- Hi Vis Vests: In warmer climates, a hi vis reflective vest is a great option for flexibility and comfort. Lots of different hi vis safety vest types are available from HiVis Supply, including breakaway vests and surveyor’s vests.
- Hi Vis Work Shirt: Whether worn as a replacement for a hi vis vest or together with one, a hi vis work shirt is a breathable hi vis work garment that stretches with your body as you work. HiVis Supply offers both long- and short-sleeved models of hi vis work shirts.
- Hi Vis Work Pants: A pair of hi vis work pants won’t just keep your legs safe and protected from the elements; they’ll also help you stand out even more in a crowded construction site or work zone, especially during night work. See HiVis Supply’s selection of work pants for great options in bib overalls, rain pants and more.
- Hi Vis Headwear: Wearing a high visibility hard hat is another great way to boost visibility, as is adding a detachable hood, rain hat or beanie for inclement weather. HiVis Supply has all of the night work headwear options you need.
Top 10 Best Hi Vis Gear Options for Night Work
You want ‘em, we’ve got ‘em — ten of the absolute best high visibility workwear choices for people working at night. Here are ten outstanding options from HiVis Supply’s huge catalog of safety workwear:
- Kishigo 1573/1574 Brilliant Series Class 3 Ultimate Reflective Vest: As rugged as it is comfy, this ANSI 3 reflective vest comes in a high-contrast striping pattern to boost visibility.
- Kishigo 3173 Class E Brilliant Series Ultimate Reflective Mesh Pant: This pair of work pants does more to keep you safe, thanks to its contrasting colors and reflective piping on the ankles.
- Kishigo 3932/3933 Black Series Class E Contrasting Mesh Gaiters: When your night gets messy, these high-contrast mesh gaiters will keep the muck out of your boots while giving you extra visibility with their bright pattern.
- Work King ST08 Class 3 Segmented Tape Micro Mesh Long Sleeve T-Shirt: A breathable, economical hi vis work shirt made from a comfy mesh fabric and featuring a chest pocket for easy storage on the go.
- Work King S607 Enhanced Visibility Safety Work Pant: Stylish and practical everyday work pants with an enhanced-visibility reflective stripe and pleasant polyester-cotton twill fabric.
- GSS Safety 7009 Class 3 HiVis Contrast Black Bottom Full-Zip Hoodie Sweatshirt: This ANSI 3 hi vis sweatshirt is extremely versatile and perfect for layering, thanks to its high-contrast design, double pouch pocket front and soft polyester fleece material.
- GSS Safety 6005 Contrast Series Class 3 HiVis Black Bottom Safety Rain Coat: Bad weather isn’t so scary when you’ve got this ANSI 3 oxford cloth raincoat with a polyurethane water barrier and high-contrast pattern.
- GSS Safety 6715 Contrast Series Class E Black Bottom Safety Rain Pant: These rain pants feature an elastic waistband and bound seams for ultimate comfort and water protection as part of a hi vis rain gear outfit.
- National Safety Apparel VIZABLE Class 3 HiVis Deluxe Micro Mesh Safety Road Vest: An ANSI 3 sleeved vest with a bold but classic look, an ultra-breathable fabric and tons and tons of pockets.
- Radians RC07 FORTRESS 35 Industrial Grade PVC Long Rain Coat: When you need heavy-duty rainwear, you need this full-length ANSI 3 hi vis raincoat with a vented design and a detachable hood.
If the nighttime is the right time for you, HiVis Supply is here to help you shine — literally. Browse our full selection of hi vis safety workwear for more options that will keep you safe and seen, and don’t forget to read our guide to preventing runovers and backovers for more tips on how to reduce struck-by injuries in the day or night.