Night Harvest Safety


Any operations that take place between one hour before dusk and one hour after dawn are considered working at night. The difference between harvesting at night and spraying at night is the presence of workers on foot in addition to tractors. Some practices for keeping workers safe are required by law; others are safety Best Management Practices (BMPs). Many of these BMPs were contributed by growers with many years of night harvesting experience. 

Lighting Requirements

California Code of Regulation, Title 8, Section 3441. Operation of Agricultural Equipment 

  • A headlight that illuminates at least 50 feet in front of all self-propelled equipment (such as tractors and harvesters) is required.
  • The back of the equipment must be illuminated. 
  • Additional lighting is required if in-field adjustments or workers will be in close proximity to the equipment.

California Code of Regulation, Title 8, Section 3317. Illumination

Levels of illumination required for different spaces vary by risk:
  • 0.5 Foot-candles Offices, storage yards
  • 1.0 Foot-candles Loading areas, washrooms
  • 2.0 Foot-candles Stairways
  • 5.0 Foot-candles Machine shops
(This is not a complete list)
If measuring in lumens, 107.6 lumens is equivalent to 10 foot-candles.

Personal Protective Equipment

  • Employees should be issued high visibility reflective vests. Vests rated Class 2 or above are recommended.

Best Management Practices

  • Issue Headlamps

    • Headlamps direct light to where the worker needs it.

  • Flashlights, Spotlights, and Floodlights

    • A supply of high-output flashlights and hand-held spotlights distributed on tractors, in loading yards, farm shops and the like can provide extra illumination when they are handy.

  • Batteries

    • Have plenty of the correct batteries on hand and encourage people to replace them when their device begins to dim instead of waiting for it to quit completely.

  • Generators

    • Maintain an adequate supply of fuel for running generators that power lights.

  • Illness and Injury Prevention Plan

    • Write sections into the Illness and Injury Prevention Plan specifically addressing night work.

  • Safety Meetings

    • Conduct meetings specifically on night time hazards.

  •  Review Hazards

    • Review night hazards that are more common at night and how to handle them.

    • This includes things like trip hazards (squirrel holes, wet spots, etc.) and nocturnal animals (snakes, insects, coyotes, pigs).

    • Playing radios, blowing whistles, and generally making noise will scare off most nocturnal animals.

  • Review Basic Skills

    • Practice how to use and sharpen a picking shear safely.

    • There’s a difference between doing something in the light as opposed to doing that same thing in the dark. No matter how many times you have done it.

  • Daylight Inspections

    • Inspect work areas during daylight for hazards that may not be obvious at night (holes, trenches, low wires, rocks, etc.).

    • Inspect and repair equipment during daylight hours.

  • Communicate

    • Tell employees about the hazards you find during inspections or during the previous shift.

  • EMS

    • Identify landmarks that EMS personnel can identify in the dark.

    • Make sure all workers know how to describe them. This will make it easier for EMS personnel to get to the site of an accident.

  • Phones and Radios

    • Make sure key personnel have radios or cell phones and they use them frequently so people know where each other are.

  • Practice

    • Run a drill at night to ensure workers know what to do in case of an emergency.

    • Practice using your communication and safety protocols.

  • Whistles

    • Whistles can make it easier to communicate and locate someone in case of emergency in the dark.

  • The Buddy System

    • Use the buddy system for workers so no one is left behind if they are injured or fall ill in the dark.

    • Send people in pairs or groups to the bathroom.

  • Bathrooms

    • Make sure bathrooms are well lit with something like a lantern.

  • Give people time to acclimate to working at night.

    • This includes things like shifting biological clocks as well as being comfortable working outdoors at night.

  • Treats

    • Providing sugary snacks and coffee during breaks helps keep people alert.