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  7. How Does The Weather Affect Construction Site Safety?

How Does The Weather Affect Construction Site Safety?


Introduction

Along with all of the other health and safety risks on a construction or demolition site, the weather can play a significant role in increasing the chances of an accident or incident occurring. The most obvious weather conditions which pose a danger are:

  • Strong Winds
  • Temperature
  • Lightning
  • Heavy Rain
  • Fog


Strong Winds

One of the main dangers from strong winds will be to people and loose material which is at a height, as it is likely to be more exposed and therefore more susceptible to high winds. Cranes and towers are particularly at risk. People working at height can be blown to the side, increasing the chances of them falling if there is insufficient side protection or harnesses to stop them from falling. If the wind is strong, there can be a risk of materials such as roof tiles and fast-moving debris striking a person. Also, the wind can whip up dust which can damage or irritate eyes, as well as aggravating conditions such as asthma.

Strong winds can also make it difficult to hear properly, so much so that workers may be oblivious to approaching vehicles if they cannot hear them coming.



Temperature

Two hot and exhausted construction workers sat down taking a break

Extremes of temperature can directly or indirectly increase the probability of an accident. Work taking place in extreme cold runs the risk of poor visibility through frozen up windscreens, as well as creating slip hazards from ice.

In hot temperatures, workers may suffer from conditions such as dehydration and sunstroke which can affect their judgement and reaction times, and is particularly perilous when driving a heavy vehicle around or operating machinery. They may also give in to temptation to cool down by not wearing protective equipment such as hard hats or high-visibility jackets, which increases the odds of them being injured or killed by a moving object or falling item.

Along with causing issues for people, high temperatures or the intense glare of the sun can cause overheating and fire risks to machinery and flammable materials on site. This makes the safe storage of hazardous substances all the more essential for preventing accidents.

Extreme temperatures can also cause machinery to not operate correctly, or sometimes even break down completely. Not only will this cost time and money, but it can also be extremely dangerous if the temperature were to damage or cause a failsafe feature not to function whilst in use. Rubber seals are one such component that are particularly vulnerable to cold weather as they become hard and do not expand and contract as they are supposed to.



Lightning

The abundance of metal on a construction site means that the risk of lightning is very real, particularly for objects that are tall and higher up such as cranes and scaffolding. Acting as conductors, there is a chance they could be struck by lightning, causing electrocution, fires, or explosions as a result.

Although not always, the presence of lightning in the area is usually accompanied by some of the other potentially dangerous weather conditions mentioned in this article such as heavy rain and strong winds.



Heavy Rain

Apart from being unpleasant to work in, the presence of heavy or torrential rain will reduce visibility for the drivers of vehicles, and will turn the ground into mud which poses its own risks to the health and safety of site workers.

In some countries, rain can be so torrential that flash floods can occur with very little warning. Not only can this put equipment at risk, but fast moving deep water also poses a danger to life. An industry that is particularly at risk in this regard is mining, as the deep pits and shafts can quickly become overwhelmed.



Fog

Fog can be particularly dangerous for the workers on a construction site as it greatly reduces the visibility of everyone. The drivers of vehicles will not be able to see very far ahead, meaning that they may not be able to react in time if a person or object is in the roadway. The driver may even drive off the road if they cannot see where the edge is, increasing the chances of them colliding with something or driving over the edge of a steep drop. Along with the visibility issues for the drivers, workers on the ground will also find it difficult to see approaching vehicles and get out of the way in time.



Conclusion

Storm clouds gathering near a construction building site

The unpredictability and power of the weather can create unforeseen problems and delays. Even with the most comprehensive project management and all of the health and safety courses and training in the world, there are still risks of injuries and accidents occurring, which will be greatly increased with the presence of one or more of the weather conditions listed above.

The weather can change dramatically quickly. What started as a nice calm day can turn into one where the weather poses a very real threat to the health and safety of everybody working on the construction site.

Not only do construction site managers and supervisors need to keep a close watch on changeable weather conditions at all times, but there also needs to be in place suitable plans and proactive safety measures to keep people safe, rather than solely relying on the site manager spotting a change in the weather and warning everybody. For instance, this can include measures such as always storing harmful substances away when not in use rather than leaving them lying around whatever the weather, ensuring that all loose objects and material are securely fastened down when not in use, and ensuring suitable drainage channels are dug should heavy rain fall.

Just as in other industries and places of work, conducting thorough risks assessments and taking a proactive approach to dealing with potential problems before they occur is one of the most important and effective methods of preventing harm befalling people at work. Whilst it is true that weather events are notoriously unpredictable by their very nature, having suitable measures in place before it hits can drastically lessen the impact they can have on people’s health, safety and well-being.




Selected Courses

Please see below for a selection of health and safety courses and qualifications which you may be interested in:

NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety

The NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety is the flagship NEBOSH qualification, and is the first UK vocational qualification to be developed specifically for health and safety professionals.

The NEBOSH National Diploma provides the core health and safety knowledge (transferable across industry, commerce and the public sector) which, combined with understanding and appropriate application, underpins the competent performance of an occupational health and safety practitioner.

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NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety

The NEBOSH General Certificate is one of the most popular and widely-held health and safety qualifications in the UK. It is intended to be taken by managers, supervisors and any other employees who require an understanding of general health and safety issues.

The NEBOSH General Certificate covers the main legal requirements for health and safety in the UK, along with the identification and control of workplace hazards, and the practical application of this knowledge. The general content of the NEBOSH General Certificate syllabus means it is suitable and relevant for those working in virtually any industry, and is often used as a solid foundation for those going on to further study and specialising in a particular area such as construction site health and safety or fire safety.

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IOSH Managing Safely Course

The IOSH Managing Safely course is designed for managers and supervisors of organisations in virtually all industry sectors, in order to give them all they need to know to effectively manage health and safety in the workplace.

Recently updated, the new high impact programme covers key health and safety issues, and includes references to international case studies.

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CITB Site Management SMSTS Course

The Site Management Safety Training Scheme (SMSTS) is one of the most popular health and safety training courses, and is intended for construction site managers, project managers and senior supervisors, as well as proprietors of smaller companies.

Client-based personnel would also benefit from attending the SMSTS course.

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