11 Jul Safety first !
by Mike Gambino
We might have a tendency as lighting designers to focus primarily on aesthetic values while designing a landscape lighting system. But it is our responsibility to the property owners and to ourselves to make sure that we also provide a reasonably safe and secure environment for family members, pets and guests after dark.
This means identifying and addressing potential areas of danger or risk on the property and mitigating or eliminating these dangerous areas with creative lighting solutions.
Potentially dangerous areas could include the following:
Steps or unnatural changes in grade that could cause a tripping hazard
Traverse areas or decking around pools, ponds or other bodies of water
Walkways that get used after dark especially those leading to common destinations
Entry and exit ways
Eliminating dark corners or hiding spaces for burglars or predators
In 2010 I was hired as an expert witness for the plaintiffs of a personal injury case. A cancer patient in remission fell and was badly injured at a resort where the lighting was insufficient and installed improperly.
This experience really got me thinking about the responsibility and potential liability we as designers and installers of landscape lighting systems have.
When they brought me out to the resort I instantly observed that the immediate area outside the cabin where this lady fell was extremely dark. In fact the entire resort was dark with the only lighting provided on the walkway areas were some very widely spaced circa 1970 style tiered pagoda fixtures that shined more light into a persons eyes than on the ground in front of them.
The resort is located in a rather remote locale in the hills where any benefit from ambient city or street lights does not exist.
In addition, the porch light that they had directly outside the cabin door was located over head and it was incorrectly installed upside down. Very little light made its way to the deck where it was needed.
The only other light was located and mounted on the side of the cabin and it was a motion detector. So one had to actually walk in front of it for it to activate. The trouble was that it was located directly behind the trunk of a huge oak tree which blocked not only the light output but the line of sight to the motion detector making it unreliable.
This poor attempt at lighting, which the owner admitted was installed by a handyman, left the 4 steps from the deck to ground level with no illumination. This is where the victim fell and was injured.
I never got a chance to testify in court as the case was settled by the insurance company shortly after my involvement with the case. I was told that my expert opinion and analysis of the site lighting was instrumental in influencing the insurance company to make a very favorable monetary settlement with the victim.
It is your responsibility as a property owner to provide a safe environment for your family and guests even more so after dark as it is during the day. Don’t put yourself in the same situation as the owners of this dark resort who were financially responsible for the personal injury to this woman.
It is terrible that someone got injured. Had the lighting been adequate it certainly would have been more difficult for the plaintiffs attorney to prove that the resorts owners were negligent and the argument for the defense could have been that it was simply an accident.
The lack of proper lighting took that option away for the defense and resulted in a significant payout by the resorts insurance company.
This landscape lighting blog is published by Mike Gambino of Gambino landscape lighting inc. all rights reserved. Mike is a professional landscape lighting system designer/ builder and has been designing, installing and maintaining landscape lighting systems for more than 20 years. Mike resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and 2 sons. To visit his website go to www.gambinolighting.com . To inquire about hiring Mike please click here .
Blog articles may be published with permission on other websites without editing or removing links.