Alert: Light stands with portable generators
Learn about the risks and safety precautions you should take when changing the bulbs on light stands attached to portable generators.
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Light stands with portable generators are common in work locations where lighting is necessary, and power is either not available or inconvenient to access. This equipment is used:
- on construction sites
- for road maintenance tasks
- in mining areas
- for other work requiring portable lighting
Changing a light bulb on this equipment is high risk and a hazard to workers if they do not correctly de-energize the electrical power. It is not a simple and low-risk task.
In a workplace incident in 2017, a worker was electrocuted while changing a 1000 watt metal-halide light bulb on a light stand equipped with a generator that was running. The worker did not de-energize and lock out the lighting circuit prior to doing the work.
The lighting circuit had reverse polarity wiring connections at all four fixture heads. With the generator running, the worker inadvertently contacted the lower conductive portion of the metal-halide bulb, which was energized because of the reverse polarity.
Incorrect wiring is a hazard that could exist due to a manufacturer’s wiring error or because of poor maintenance and verification.
Always verify your unit for CSA approval or Field Evaluation Certification. Check units with certain Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs) immediately.
High starting voltage
A secondary hazard is the initial starting voltage of the ballast. The lighting circuits use a metal-halide type 1000-watt light bulb. These types of bulbs typically have ballasts that supply higher starting voltages, higher than those normally supplied to the light’s electrodes.
These higher starting voltages can be greater than 400V and are needed to ionize the gas mixtures before current can flow through the lamp. The ballast will also regulate the starting current and operating current, so that when the materials inside the bulb are vaporized the bulb will emit light and the voltage and current will be regulated to their operating values.
What you’re required to do by law
You must always follow the general duties for employers, supervisors and workers under sections 25-28 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
Before you work on an equipment, regulations for workplace sectors also require that the unit must be de-energized and safely locked out.
The use and maintenance of these generators must be done safely. Read the requirements that may apply in your workplace:
- O. Reg. 213/91 – Regulation for Construction Projects
- general requirements for equipment (section 93)
- electrical hazards (sections 18-195.3)
- Regulation 851 – Regulation for Industrial Establishments
- machine guarding (sections 40-44.2)
- electrical hazards (sections 60, 75 and 76)
- Regulation 854 – Regulation for Mines and Mining Plants
- for electrical hazards (all sections of Part VII)
- O. Reg. 67/93 – Regulation for Health Care and Residential Facilities
- for equipment in general (section 44)
- for electrical equipment (sections 62-73)
De-energize and lock out
Electrical hazards are one of the most dangerous hazards posed to workers.
It is imperative that higher wattage metal-halide light bulbs, or any light bulb regardless of the voltage, are changed with the electrical circuit de-energized and safely locked out.
Manufacturer’s instructions will indicate how to safely turn off the generator to perform maintenance. Read the user manual and provide adequate training for workers to understand how to maintain and operate this equipment.
Verify for zero energy
Verification of zero energy is vital when performing electrical work. Always verify zero energy:
- using adequate personal protective equipment
- after lockout
Verify certification of your equipment
There is no visual indicator when there is an incorrect wiring condition because a unit will still function as intended.
All units must have either CSA approval, or a Field Evaluation Certification attached to it. This needs to be verified. If neither of these approvals are located on the equipment, the employer should remove this equipment from service and have it approved accordingly.
Vehicle Identification Numbers
Light towers manufactured in, or around, 2011 with the following last 6 digits of the Vehicle Identification Number (“VIN”) require immediate review:
Note: units may be re-branded under names of various vendors or suppliers. Regardless of the name on the nameplate, units with the above last 6 digits of the VIN require immediate review.
Learn more about Field Evaluation Certification and approved agencies.
If you need more information about safety requirements, contact the Ministry of Labour Health & Safety Contact Centre at
This resource does not replace the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations, and should not be used as or considered legal advice. Health and safety inspectors apply the law based on the facts in the workplace.