Weather can pose many threats for construction sites—from delaying work to putting employees and valuable assets at risk.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act), employers are required to provide their employees with a place of employment that “is free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees.” This includes hazards related to weather that can cause bodily harm or even death.
Let’s have a look at two of the top weather risks to construction sites — high winds and lightning — and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations surrounding these risks.
OSHA considers high winds as those exceeding 64.4 kilometers per hour (40 miles per hour), or 48.3 kilometers per hour (30 miles per hour) if the work involves material handling unless the employer takes precautions to protect employees from the hazardous effects of the wind.
This is important because a wind of such velocity could present one or more of the following hazards:
- The wind could blow an employee from an elevated location, such as a scaffold;
- 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 condition involved.
When such winds are present, experts advise that “non-emergency work be postponed as the wind could blow an employee from an elevated location or cause an employee to lose control of equipment handling material and be struck by flying debris,” according to OSHA consulting firm Diversified Safety Services.
Preparing for hazards is the best measure, including checking weather reports and monitoring conditions continuously. This can be achieved with a weather station on-site at the construction location, which can be accessed by both trained employees and management. Knowing that strong winds are imminent can indicate that work needs to be postponed so that risks can be eliminated.
Lightning strikes can severely injure or kill workers whose jobs involve working outdoors. Over 300 people are struck by lightning annually in the United States and about 50 people on average are killed by lightning strikes every year. Lightning is often overlooked as an occupational hazard, but according to OSHA, employers need awareness about lightning hazards to ensure their workers’ safety.
Employers should have an Employee Action Plan (EAP) that should include a written lightning safety protocol for outdoor workers. This lightning safety protocol should inform supervisors and workers to take action after hearing thunder, seeing lightning, or perceiving any other warning signs of approaching thunderstorms. Of course, with a weather station like the AcuRite Atlas™ with lightning detection located on-site, workers can get the most up-to-the-moment information about impending storms. According to OSHA, the EAP should also identify locations and requirements for safe shelters, indicate response times, and determine when to suspend (and then resume) outdoor work activities.
As there is simply no safe place outside in a thunderstorm, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and OSHA have provided risk management procedures for inclement weather, in order to decrease the risk of being struck, including avoiding isolated tall trees, hilltops, utility poles, cell phone towers, cranes, large equipment, ladders, scaffolding, or rooftops.
How AcuRite Can Help
Simply relying on local TV news or weather websites — which typically rely on regional data taken many miles away from a construction site — is not enough to provide a safe, compliant workplace for employees.
AcuRite provides actionable, personalized weather information, specific to one’s own home or workplace. Via advanced mobile technology, AcuRite’s Access™ offers internet-connectivity, allowing users to access their AcuRite sensor data from anywhere in the world using a smartphone, computer or tablet. The technology also allows users to customize alerts and receive notifications when conditions change, potentially requiring attention. That means you can keep an eye on your build site — and the safety of your employees, no matter where you are.