No one can control the extreme weather and environmental conditions that have the possibility of greatly impacting productivity of teams that work outdoor from one day to the next. What we can control however, is how we prepare for these types of conditions. With Autumn well underway, the cold and wet weather isn’t too far away and we know it is time to prepare for winter. Is your project ready for the season?
We have all seen the impact that bad weather has on a project. Rain slows down and can even stop excavation works. Stormwater can flood construction sites, damage equipment and in result delay the project. It could also deposit silt or contaminated material onto neighbouring properties. Materials could be lifted in high wind. Your workers may have to take more frequent rest breaks and their movement could be affect by cold weather or rain clothes. These things matter, so preparation is key. By preparing for both likely and unlikely situations, your team will work more efficiently to eliminate the possibility of workplace accidents and injuries.
Keep your team safe
Your number one priority as a construction manager is to keep your team safe. A good way to do this is to carry out up to date risk assessments for different scenarios. You could also monitor and assess the construction site at the start and end of each day for new hazards in order to deal with them and avoid potential risks.
Watch the weather
Allocating someone to regularly monitor weather warnings is another way to reduce risk. Regular weather updates can help you plan in advance, whether you can keep working in caution or put the project on standby. Here in Auckland, you may just need someone just checking when you will have the most rainfall and frost.
Keep a daily diary
It is a good idea to record all weather events accurately during your project so that you know the reason for a delay claim. If you do not have the facts and figures that contribute to the delay, it is difficult to ask for an extension of time.
Allow space for setbacks
It is unreasonable for a construction company to assume that during the winter there will be no problems with working a regular schedule. There are going to be those days where there will be high winds, big storms, bad visibility, and more. Even the most experienced contractors know that it is better not to fight against bad weather. With that in mind, make sure you have allowed space for setbacks in case you do come across poor weather during the winter season. When you do have good days, it may pay to try and get ahead of the schedule.
Look after your equipment
It is important to always look after your vehicles and equipment, however during the winter months you need to be even more vigilant. You could do this by implementing effective maintenance programs and driver safety policies to minimize risk and help ensure a problem free construction site. Be sure to check your machines tyre pressure, batteries, engine, brakes, and wipers are all in good working order before going ahead and operating.
Have a warm base
You need to make sure you have a warm place where any team member can come and sit indoors. This is especially critical when you have a construction site in the middle of nowhere and your workers are in the cold all day. Maybe you have a portable office which you could turn into a break room so that your team can get a bit of extra warmth. This not only can be their escape, but it can also reduce the risk of them getting sick while portraying that you appreciate their hard work and care for the team overall.
Use protective clothing
You need to prepare your construction site by investing in protective and quality clothing. Check your wet and cold weather gear to ensure whether there is sufficient stock for your team. It is vital that they stay warm and maintain a safe body temperature at all times. Make sure you invest in protective clothing that is reflective so that your personnel can be seen in the dark, especially if they are working around big machinery. Avoid loose clothing as much as you can as this can cause a dangerous accident. Ensure your workers get changed as quickly as possible if their clothes get wet, otherwise their body temperature lowers meaning they could eventually get sick. If you do not have the right gear for your project, the risk of accidents could increase and you may lose productivity and time.
You need to ensure that your team are eating full balanced meals so that their body has enough energy to get through the workday. This is because the body demands more energy when working in colder temperatures as it works harder to maintain a normal body temperature. Also, the body is physically exerting more energy while you work, due to added weight and constraints of cold weather protective clothing. Additionally, keep the body hydrated and warm by drinking plenty of water or non-alcoholic beverages.
Is your project ready for winters challenges and opportunities?
Sit down and think of your own construction site, taking in account key areas such as clearing spaces, storing materials and equipment, protecting workers and making sure they are trained for winter. It could be useful to do a winter weather risk assessment before you begin your plan so that you can determine key areas for preparation.
Although it is easy to blame poor weather for delays and damage to projects, it is possible to limit what could go wrong with preparation. Have a think and go over these points in relation to your own construction site and consider how prepared you are. Make sure you are protecting your team from any risk they could face on your site so that they are safe at all times. Remember if something happens that you did not prepare for, don’t beat yourself up, just deal with it accordingly. We are human, life happens. Lastly, it isn’t always a pleasure working in the freezing cold but to get the job done it is often necessary. Be sure to look after your team, work hard and stay safe!