How to Maintain a Safe Building Site in Severe Weather
An unexpected storm can quickly compromise the working conditions on a building site. With little warning, a construction crew can find themselves swept up in heavy rain, high winds and other hazards that endanger their safety. It's often challenging to think clearly and logically in these intense situations.
Fortunately, construction professionals can take preliminary measures to ensure the security of their crew. They don't have to wait until the storm is on top of them to take action. Instead, they have methods of risk management that'll reduce the likelihood of accident and injury during extreme weather events.
That said, project managers and supervisors also need to remain firmly in the present. When the rain is beating down on their site, and their crew is looking to them for direction, they have to maintain their composure and provide guidance. If they don't, they may place their workers in jeopardy.
So what should architects and construction professionals keep in mind when developing a plan for emergency preparedness? How can they prevent and respond to safety issues on a building site? It starts with the necessary precautions, the strategic weatherproofing of the site itself with personal protective equipment for the staff.
Before the Storm
Building professionals should take a proactive approach to safety in areas that see a lot of precipitation. They can start by weatherproofing their site, creating the optimal conditions for their equipment and materials. In doing so, they'll effectively manage an emergency with fewer distractions.
When their supplies are secure, construction professionals should turn their attention to their employees. Extreme weather events call for more than year-round safety equipment, and it's crucial to outfit a crew with proper gear. This personal protective equipment, or PPE, will help reduce the risk of injuries.
On the subject of risk management, it's also vital to check that the proper safety mechanisms are in place. These include guardrails for strong winds, covered areas in case of lighting and emergency kits for various purposes. Training and support materials in multiple languages will also prove useful.
These materials are a valuable asset, as they'll inform a crew of proper protocol for severe weather. A project manager should set aside time to review this information with their team. If they have the opportunity, they can organize practice drills to reinforce their workers' knowledge of emergency procedures.
During the Storm
Every employee should have a specific task to perform in the event of a sudden storm. By working together, they can manage the many moving parts of a construction site and ensure the safety of their peers. They should have access to an action plan they can easily reference if they're unsure of their task.
Concerning those tasks, a project manager will need their workers to perform multiple duties. The following list is only a rough approximation, and a construction site management team may have more responsibilities depending on the scale and type of operation. Regardless, they should give thought to these items.
1. Relocate heavy equipment to predetermined areas.
2. Cover materials that may break, like glass in windows.
3. Safely disable any power lines or similar connections.
4. Secure the contents of dumpsters to avoid flying debris.
5. Dismount scaffolding and make sure it has proper support.
6. Remove debris, hazardous objects and other obstructions.
7. Fully disassemble and store any temporary structures.
8. Protect the underground pipes and drains in the area.
9. Lower booms or hook the load line to a low point.
10. Close any open excavations to prevent a fall.
In addition to these safety measures, workers should report all accidents and near-miss accidents and incidents that occurred during the storm. By doing so, they can determine the cause of the issue and prevent future problems. It's one of the standard safety tips for construction professionals, and it's critical to follow.
After the Storm
After the storm has passed, a supervisor should conduct a thorough inspection of a site before they allow the crew to resume work. They may come across a potential hazard — like a weakened guardrail — something they need to address to preempt problems. Only then can they greenlight the workers.
This opportunity is also a prime one to make notes on areas of improvement. A supervisor that comes across an instance of damage should record the issue and devise a solution. It's an important measure to preserve the safety of the crew and decrease the likelihood of delays if the weather takes another turn.
Managing a Building Emergency
An unexpected storm can quickly compromise the working conditions on a building site, but project managers and supervisors can take precautions to ensure the safety of their crew. When they adhere to protocol and prepare their sites, they'll deescalate emergencies and reduce the risk of accidents and injuries.
With that in mind, architects and construction professionals working on the jobsite should review the information above and adjust their practices as necessary.