Managing the risk of severe weather on your construction site
Due to the nature of the construction industry, weather conditions can have significant impact on your workflow and pose health and safety risks to your employees since the majority of work is carried out outside.
That’s why having a strong risk management plan to supplement numerous possible weather conditions is vital. Ensuring your business is prepared, whatever the weather, can leave you and your employees with peace of mind and freedom from worry that working conditions are as risk free and workflow is as uninterrupted as possible.
Let’s take a closer look at some risk management tips you can implement on your construction site, for various weather conditions.
Strong winds can pose risks to your employees and equipment on your construction site. When people and loose equipment are at height during strong winds, they are more exposed, which can increase the likelihood of falling if there is insufficient edge protection or harnesses to prevent it.
Cranes are also a risk factor when working in strong winds and could potentially fall or be affected by turbulence even at moderate wind speeds. That’s why it is vital that safe operation is carried out during strong winds, because accidents involving cranes can be severe.
Alongside the risk of falls from height, strong winds can blow dust up from the ground, which can irritate your employees eyes or worsen conditions like asthma.
Some steps you could take to mitigate the risks in strong winds include:
- Ensuring that all your equipment is secure
- Preparing to stop working if the conditions get too bad
- Wearing necessary PPE, for example goggles to prevent dust in the eye
- Monitoring the weather, and not scheduling elevated work on days where high winds are predicted
- Ensure partially built structures are properly supported at all times
- Ensure scaffolding and other temporary structures are secure and could not be blown over
- Use extreme caution when picking up large sections of plywood or similar flat materials, as these can act as a sail
Heavy rain and fog
The presence of heavy rain or fog can reduce visibility on your construction site. This is especially dangerous when there are vehicles on the site, both for drivers and employees. Without clear visibility, the risk of collision and slower reaction times increases. There also becomes a greater risk of trip hazards. Alongside this, in heavy rainfall, the ground will become more slippery, which increases the likelihood of slips, trips and falls.
When the weather is wet, the risk of live wires also increases. Electrocution is already a significant hazard on a construction site, but extra caution should always be taken when the weather is wet. This is because when water comes into contact with electrical wiring, it can cause short circuits, shocks, and even fires. Others should be alerted if you notice an electrical cable that may be live during wet weather.
Heavy rain can also result in malfunctioning equipment. This can cause a delay in work due to the time taken for repairs to be carried out and replacements to be sourced.
Some steps you could take to mitigate your risks on the construction site in heavy rain and fog include:
- Have protective sheets to place on scaffolding, and a dry area to store tools.
- Tarps are an effective yet inexpensive way to keep the equipment dry and safe, such as tools, equipment, and supplies.
- Ensure adequate vision by using anti-fog spray or wipes on any glasses or goggles before going outside. You could also wear a hood or hat to keep the rain out of your eyes.
- Wear proper footwear with a deep tread to prevent slipping.
- When working at night, make sure lighting is adequate and the lights used are for outdoor use.
Drought and heat
Drought and heat can pose a large risk to employees health and can result in heat stroke or dehydration if they are working outside for a long time. Along with this, your machinery has the potential to overheat if left outside in the sun for a long time.
In droughts, there will also be an increased risk caused by dry materials like grass, leaves etc, which can act as fuel for fires. This poses health and safety risks to your employees and equipment.
Some practices you can implement to reduce the risks on your construction site in drought and heat include:
- Leaving electronics in the shade to prevent overheating.
- Prohibit smoking in any form on or near the site as if they are not extinguished fully, the likelihood of dry materials catching fire increases.
- Keeping a fire extinguisher on hand and conducting regular fire watches to make sure the area is free of combustible materials.
- Ensure your employees are wearing the correct PPE, wearing sun protection, taking regular breaks and drinking enough water.
Ice and Snow
Ice and snow presents a number of risks to your workers as it can collect on roofs and overload scaffolding. If left uncleared, snow can cover objects causing trip hazards, and obscured skylights can be potentially fatal if an employee mistakenly walks on the glass, falling through.
Ice on roofs and the ground can also increase the likelihood of slips, trips and falls, which can result in serious injuries to your workers, if not cleared.
Some steps you can take to mitigate the risks in snow and ice are:
- Ensuring your employees wear well padded, rubber soled boots to not only keep their feet warm enough, but to reduce the risk of any slips.
- Keeping walkways as dry and clear as possible.
- Grit or salt the paths to prevent formation of ice.
- Ensuring snow is cleared from the roofs where people are working.
Whatever the weather may be, ensuring you have carried out a detailed risk assessment to ensure your business is prepared and your employees are protected is vital. Remember, even with a solid risk assessment accidents can happen and, in these instances, you will need means of protecting your business from financial loss.
Getting honest advice from an experienced adviser can help you create a robust insurance package to not only protect your business from any substantial losses inflicted by professional negligence claims, but also cover your tools and equipment, and any costs incurred from any physical accidents that occur on site.
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