A lot of work goes into planning before walking onto a construction site. That includes project management, blueprints, customer meetings, among other things. Unfortunately, severe weather events like lightning storms, heavy rains, and strong winds can cost builders a fortune due to lack of preparedness.
Note that severe weather events can also pose safety risks for jobsite workers. So, prioritizing adequate preparation in advance is not an option in this case. That suggests that you need to have your workers and equipment ready to tackle the effects of extreme weather conditions. By doing so, you will prevent worker injuries and reduce delays.
Here are a few statistics you cannot afford to ignore as a player within the construction sector.
•In the U.S. alone, weather-related delays cost the construction industry $4 billion yearly.
•In 2020, 61% of construction executives predicted that weather would impact their operations.
Lately, weather patterns have become unpredictable, and that affects the construction industry as well. Below are even more worrying statistics on extreme weather conditions.
•Some researchers estimate the actual cost of the recent storm in Texas to be from $80 billion to $130 billion in direct and indirect economic losses.
•In 2020, extreme weather cost U.S. taxpayers $99 billion, and the situation is only worsening.
•Damages resulting from hurricanes and tropical cyclones are a whopping $1.03 trillion. That accounts for the greatest overall damage cost among all weather events. The highest average event cost is $19.9 billion per event.
•The past four years have seen three of the most expensive wildfires: $25.7 billion in 2018, $19.6 billion in 2017, and $17.1 billion in 2020.
•The average annual cost of droughts and heatwaves is $6.4 billion.
Note that construction site weather safety considers factors outside job sites and maintaining safe conditions inside the work area.
What Is The Importance of Weather Awareness?
Understand that weather awareness is the first step to preparing a construction site for severe weather. As such, you should make checking both short-range and long-range forecasts for your area a habit. That, in turn, will allow you to take the necessary precautions before extreme weather strikes.
Note that these last-minute Jobsite preparations can prevent loss of productivity and damages to your construction equipment. Also, construction safety in severe weather can spell the difference between life and death for your workers, which is why it is necessary.
Severe Weather Varieties
There are many forms of severe weather, and it can strike any time of the year. Sometimes, extreme weather is predictable by following forecasts. Other times such conditions create dangerous situations one can hardly notice. For that reason, you should always be ready for sudden weather changes that may require rapid response to prepare your construction site for severe weather.
Here are details of the different types of severe weather.
Workers can suffer heat illness due to hot weather. The strenuous nature of construction work and the heat output of equipment cause heat to affect construction crews more than office workers. So, sudden heatwaves that do not allow your employees to acclimate to hot weather can be quite risky.
Planning for snowstorms is possible, and that allows you to ready your equipment. Note that snow and ice can block airflow or cause components to freeze when it covers your heavy equipment. Also, digging out your machinery after a heavy snowfall may be inevitable if you fail to protect the same.
Heavy rains and lightning are characteristic of thunderstorms. Both conditions make working on a construction site dangerous for your workers. It is worth mentioning that storms are not just a summer phenomenon because they can occur any time of the year.
Heavy rains cause slow flooding, while flash floods make flooding sudden. Being ready to quickly move your equipment and workers to higher ground if your job site is near a water body is advisable since flooding can occur all year.
One thing that makes preparing for hurricanes a challenge is the fact that they are rare. However, you should always have a plan to prepare your construction site for these tropical storms. If your job site is anywhere in the Atlantic, note that storm tracks can change suddenly. For that reason, always be ready to protect your jobsite from hurricanes.
Although heavy winds can result from storms, they can occasionally happen without accompanying other weather phenomena. Also, high winds can appear unannounced. Failure to protect your job site can cause high winds to topple heavy equipment or walls.
Interestingly, your Jobsite can suffer more damage than you think due to freezing weather. The reason is that wintry weather significantly affects diesel engines because it makes oil move slower and engines work harder. When that happens, winterize your equipment if you want to continue working through the cold.
Beyond weather awareness, you need to know when construction safety risks are highest for particular types of weather. You can get your site ready for the elements with the help of seasonal weather risks.
Unpacking Seasonal Weather Risks
Since certain weather events only occur during a few months of the year, preparing some things on your construction site to get your personnel and equipment ready is a wise decision.
High winds, snow, freezing weather, and ice can devastate a worksite. For instance, ice poses a fall hazard for workers, heavy snowfall can collapse incomplete structures, and freezing temperatures affect your diesel equipment. That means that your winter action plan will differ significantly from the one you have for warmer months.
Summer and Spring Risks
Training your employees to recognize signs of stress and heat illness and emphasizing the need to take water breaks and ample rest is a wise idea. The reason is that protective clothing and working hard puts workers at higher risk for heat illnesses. Heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke if one does not access necessary treatment, which is the worst effect of heat.
You should also watch out for thunderstorms when the weather warms because they pose lightning, wind, and rain hazards. On the other hand, flash flooding risks due to melting snow increase as water flows downstream. So, although it may not be raining in your immediate area, your construction site may suffer flooding from upstream snowmelt.
In that case, you should be ready to move to higher ground and engage pumps if necessary. Additionally, heavy rains, thunderstorms, and high winds are the risks posed by hurricanes. The best part is that hurricanes offer some warning before striking. However, you need an action plan even before the local weather service or meteorologist issues storm warnings.
How to Prepare Your Jobsite for Severe Weather
First, make your equipment ready. That calls for winterizing your machinery by changing the fuel and oil to avoid winter blends. You should also consider switching coolant for antifreeze in the diesel engines you operate. Note that fall is the best time to ready your workers for winter operations.
Consider training employees how to safely work in ice and snow, recognize stress and cold injuries, instruct them on winterizing procedures, enforce safety rules for wearing personal protection, and add salt to roadways and footpaths around your worksite to prevent slips.
Your hurricane plan should be in place in advance, and you need to secure any loose objects and tie-down heavy equipment when a storm watch affects your area. Also, cover mulch, piles of sand, topsoil, and other free items with heavy tarps to ensure they do not blow away and brace walls in place to prevent them from blowing over.
Chances of flash flooding also increase with heavy spring rains and warming weather. As such, identify a location on your site where you can move workers and equipment in the event of flash floods and install drainage pumps too. You should also provide a protected area away from metal equipment and trees for employees to take cover during lightning events.
Training workers to recognize and prevent heat illnesses is part and parcel of spring preparations.
Avoid Overlooking The Effects of Severe Weather
Heat and lightning pose a risk to your employees, and without training and preparation, such individuals may pay the ultimate price for working in adverse weather conditions. You should not overlook the impact of severe weather because flooding damages property, heat sickens and kills, high winds lead to losses, lightning is dangerous, snow causes death, and cold temperatures maim.
Severe weather may not have injured or killed a single individual, but it can still cause significant delays in your project. Adequate preparation can protect your Jobsite and workers.
A Jobsite Checklist Prior to Severe Weather
Besides seasonal and pre-storm preparations, you should get your job site ready for anything through daily checks. Here are some of the actions you should consider taking in this case.
•Ensure you post critical information like emergency services numbers and the action plan in a spot that is accessible.
•Instruct your employees to focus on finishing one project before starting another.
•Have action plans for all types of weather with details on how to safeguard equipment and workers.
•Take daily pictures of your Jobsite as proof of any losses for your insurance company if the unexpected happens.
•Ensure you stock emergency supplies like first-aid kits, tie-downs, bottled water, braces, flashlights, among others.
•Create a contact flowchart and train workers on how to use it in the event severe weather hits.
Severe Weather Jobsite Checklist
•Schedule workers to stop working at least 24 hours before the storm and identify those to help with last-minute storm preparations and who will assist with recovery after the storm.
•Secure lightweight materials.
•Cover windows with plywood or storm shutters and avoid using tape because it does not prevent glass from shattering.
•Get workers off scaffolds and secure the scaffolding to the building to prevent its collapse.
•Lower any onsite booms and remove temporary structures like fencing around your jobsite.
•Prevent drain blockages and flooding by unclogging drains and clearing stormwater inlets.
•Move equipment into a sheltered area to secure it during a storm.
•Prevent flooding of subgrade areas by keeping water pumps in top condition.
•Disconnect temporary power connections and have a working generator on site to help you restart operations when the need arises.
•Protect excavation holes on your jobsite from flooding by covering them.
How Do You Recover from Severe Weather?
Getting your job site back up and running requires your workers’ input. That goes beyond their typical jobs. Call your employees to identify those who cannot return to work due to storm damage or blocked roads where they live. Also, consider the following.
•Consult with your insurance agent for policy-specific questions.
•Assess the areas of damage after cleaning the debris around your jobsite.
•Take pictures and make notes if you have suffered any losses.
•Rent equipment to finish your project as you await repairs on your machinery and payment for your claims.
The details above give you the foundation you require to create an effective severe weather preparedness plan for your construction project. That, in turn, protects your equipment, worksite, and employees. If you need more information on planning construction projects around severe weather, contact us today!