5 Tips for Spring Weather Safety
As we say goodbye to colder months and welcome the warmer, sunnier days of spring, the construction industry is introduced to an entirely different set of safety hazards.
Although OSHA does not have a specific standard that covers working in these particular environments, employers have a responsibility to provide workers with a place of employment free of hazards, including spring weather-related hazards (5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970). Though there are several practices to pay special attention to during these few months, here are five quick, simple ways for construction site teams to keep safety first on jobsites this season.
Rain and Flooding
The most common weather condition seen in the spring is rain. Rain itself causes slippery, dangerous conditions both on and off of jobsites. With heavy rain comes flooding, and it doesn’t take long for streams to become full and run over their banks. This occurrence can wash-out bridges and roads, creating very dangerous working and driving conditions. As a rule of thumb, don't drive into water that's too deep to see the painted markings on the road. Additionally, heavy rain prompts mud. It’s important to be aware of slippery surfaces on site to prevent any slipping accidents: walking on site, climbing into equipment and driving machinery. Mud creates the risk of machines haphazardly sliding down slopes. According to proActive Safety Services, a company providing safety consulting, inspections, training and staffing services, slip-resistant boots are an easy preventative measure during the rainy season.
Spring thunderstorms are prevalent and can be especially dangerous. They can appear with almost no warning, which means having a plan for when they materialize is critical. Lightning is responsible for dozens of deaths every year in the U.S., making it a true safety hazard. “Rain and thunderstorms increase the chances of lightning strikes, so workers should be kept away from cranes, exposed steel framework and other equipment or building features that can act as lightning rods,” said Whirlwind Steel, Buildings and Components. If there is any risk of atypical weather, track the weather conditions with a local weather station or an app, such as WeatherBug. The technology today allows us to tell exactly where lighting is striking and how close to us it may be.
Although tornados are most common in south-central United States, also known as Tornado Alley, they can absolutely happen anywhere with little or no warning. “Taking precautions in advance of the storms, such as developing an emergency plan, learning the warning signs, and monitoring tornado watches and warnings, can help you stay safe if a tornado occurs in your area,” as stated in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)’s Tornado Preparedness and Response regulations. Remember, OSHA encourages employers and employees to practice tornado response actions regularly, especially when working with a transient workforce.
High wind events are prevalent in spring months. It’s important that during this time of year materials are secured on elevations. This may also include additional temporary bracing for buildings. According to OSHA, high wind is defined as, “a wind of such velocity that one or more of the following hazards would be present:
- The wind could blow an employee from an elevated location,
- The wind could cause an employee or equipment handling material to lose control of the material, or
- The wind would expose an employee to other hazards not controlled by the standard involved.”
In these instances, it is essential that the employer takes precautions to protect employees from the hazardous effects of the wind.
It’s quite common for construction employees to travel frequently. Before getting on the road, it’s advised to check the road report for your planned travel route. Roads can become impassable, due to weather events. Remember, weather conditions vary drastically by location. It may be a bright, beautiful day in a departure location, but there may be tornado warnings or active thunderstorms present in the travel destination.
Given these five ways for construction site teams to keep safety first this spring, this list is not exhaustive, nor can you ever be too cautious or too safe. For more comprehensive information on how to better prepare for and respond to severe spring weather, visit OSHA’s webpage.
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