Managing construction projects under a tight schedule may sometimes prompt contractors to adopt work shifts. However, upon researching the total work shift practitioners in the country, there are only a few of them and most are those in the transportation construction field or, in other words, road construction projects. But there are some instances when building contractors need to go on night work and we listed some challenges they’re faced with.
There’s been quite a debate on the feasibility of putting construction workers in shifts or implementing night-time construction. But since lighting is a crucial element in carrying out construction activities, most construction companies would rather employ new technology to boost productivity and meet the schedule. Meanwhile, there are also modular construction options to make the work faster. However, it’s different for startups. Due to limited funds, some would walk the harder path and experiment with putting their construction crew on shifts.
But are work shifts really helpful?
Issues in Construction Schedules
Schedule compression is often the result of starting construction activities later than expected. And there are a lot of factors affecting the original schedule set by crew scheduler superiors. There may be changes in design or specifications. There may be issues in the plan that were detected late. There may be delays in delivering the materials. Sometimes, construction workers are scarce and hiring new members can take so much time. To cope up with the late start, contractors are given options in accelerating the schedule. They include overtimes, additional workers, or implementing work shifts. But according to numerous researches, creating a second or third shift can lessen productivity. This is why we still recommend smart planning and scheduling and their strict implementation with the help of a reliable construction crew scheduling software.
Why Implement Work Shift in Construction?
Shift Work is putting construction workers on a work schedule other than morning work. The second shift covers the evening schedule most of the time, while the third shift covers the night to dawn schedule. Working on second and third construction schedules are said to be less efficient, though, since there’s low light during these shifts and workers find it difficult to see what they are working on.
The increasing demand for fast turnaround in the industry has, however, led to the birth of new lighting technologies, which we will discuss later. The bigger concern is the safety of the workers when working at night as we know that staying awake and focused during the night is more difficult.
Removing these factors, though, work shift may work out in keeping up with tight construction schedules since there are lesser public disruptions during the night. So, despite the risks and challenges, construction teams can pull an all-nighter with a well-planned night construction schedule plus a project manager who’s responsible and skilled in managing construction at night.
Pros and Cons in Implementing Night Shifts in Construction
Like any other construction strategies, work shift has its own pros and cons. We listed some of the most noteworthy concerns and benefits below.
Cons: Safety/Lower Productivity/Public Irritation
There is a perception that working your crew members during the night is riskier than working them in the morning. The assumption follows the fact that it is more difficult to see clearly during the night. And it is understandable as you cannot light up the whole construction site, most especially when the project is huge.
The movement of heavy equipment around the site is also limited because apart from the blind side, the darkness can also make it hard for the operator to see people working along the way.
Ironically, even when the construction site is well-lit, risks are still present. That is because of glare from passing vehicles and spotlights from nearby establishments. The strong, passing light from these sources can blind the workers and those working on great heights and operating heavy equipment are at most risk.
That said, accidents, injuries, and death are believed to be on the rise during the night shift. Consequently, productivity is assumed to drop.
Most contractors managing construction works at night also emphasized the fact that workers feel lazier at night. Since their body is used with day time work, the graveyard shift makes it difficult for them to stay awake. Their efficiency is then lower and the work quality is less impressive. Sometimes, mistakes because of inaccuracies happen during this time. Rework is then more likely to happen and the project goes out of budget.
Another disadvantage is the complaints a company can get from the public due to the noise coming from machines and equipment. This is especially true when the construction site is situated in a residential area but is not so much of a concern when the activities are done in the middle of a busy city.
Overall, the effects may vary depending on the activity and the project. If it’s road construction, the night time is still the best timing s traffic is lesser during the night. Building construction projects find the eve to night time the best time to pour and cure cement before pushing through with other activities during the day.
Here are some other advantages of working for your team on a night shift:
Pros: Lesser Traffic/ Better Working Temperature/ Longer Work Hours
As we’ve mentioned earlier, road works benefit from working during the night as they can do more with less congestion and fewer disruptions caused by the public. Also, without the heat of the sun, workers are able to work more comfortably, hence they are more energetic and can accomplish more.
Night shifts can be longer too. Contractors can choose to carry out a second and third shift starting from 4 p.m. up to 8 in the morning. The period may vary depending on your crew scheduler superior’s discretion. This can be an option when the project already is already far behind schedule.
Solving Work Shift Problems
So, we mentioned that the most probable issues that may come with implementing work shifts include safety concerns due to poor lighting, lower productivity, and public irritation. Here are some recommendations on how they can be resolved to make additional shift work for your project.
1. Anti-Glare Lighting Technology
Technology plays a big role in resolving almost any issues in construction. From project management for construction to better plans and designs, now we have lighting technologies invented for making night shifts safer in construction, most especially on sites where glare is a problem.
New lighting technology that can neutralize the effect of glare is now available and Airstar, Inc. has one designed for construction works. The Airstar Balloon Light was made to provide good illumination in dark construction sites while reducing the harmful effects of glare from other light sources.
2. Supplied Work Plan for Night Shifts
It is recommended to have a separate work plan for night shifts. This is to protect the interest and health of workers doing the night shifts. Special considerations should be set for this work arrangement and should be declared during the preconstruction phase.
The plan can include:
- Special layout for lighting equipment/setup
- Lighting equipment description
- Details of electrical power source for the lighting equipment.
Special Safety Plan
- Illuminated equipment warning signs and devices
- Illuminated or reflectorized PPEs
- Overhead power lines
Emergency and Contingency Plan
- Contingencies and mitigation for anticipated emergencies
- Emergency contacts available 24/7
- Local utility contacts
- Materials supplier for emergency reworks
- Availability of materials and equipment
- Reduction of noise and vibrations
3. Remote Project Management for Construction
Another concern that should be considered when implementing work shifts in your project is project management. There should be a supervisor stationed at the site to see that the crew members are doing their tasks right and safely. As for project managers, they can still manage construction activities remotely through a construction crew scheduling software such as Pro Crew Schedule. They should be asked to be on call so they can respond immediately when issues arise at the site or when the team needs a document or permission. However, project managers should be given additional incentives for working out of their regular work time.
Work shifts may become more prevalent in startup construction companies that cannot yet afford automation to make the work faster. It may also be an option for those who are not comfortable with modular construction. Although productivity and safety issues come with work shift, if implemented properly, it can greatly help meet tight schedules. To help further, here are some of our suggestions that may help you succeed in implementing work shifts in your construction projects:
1. Write a detailed night work plan that should supplement your day-time work activities. Include details about night differential and contingencies when emergencies happen.
2. Consider traffic control devices so that heavy equipment-related accidents can be prevented.
3. Invest in illuminated PPEs and signage.
4. Be sure to find a supplier that can deliver at night in case of an emergency. Otherwise, plan your material volume and deliveries carefully, so you never run out of supply during your night shift.
4. Appoint supervisory personnel to take charge of the operation during the night and appoint them at the beginning of the project.
5. Offer special training for night shift workers. They need to know the environment they’ll be working in, the processes they need to observe, the safety precautions for working in low light, and so on. Make sure they are correctly oriented before the project begins and make sure to oblige them to fill up their reports so you can track their activities, especially because there are only a few project managers and supervisors who are willing to work on a night shift.
6. Offer night differential rates to boost those working at night, so they’ll be more motivated to do their work properly.
Work shifts – night shifts specifically – can be a challenge, but if they are the only solution to keep up with the construction schedule, following this guide can help contractors successfully manage construction activities during the night.