Keeping an eye on weather conditions is, of course, a pretty crucial task on most work sites. Potential injuries from worker slips or falls, along with the risk of damage caused by improperly secured loads or machinery, are among the most pressing health and safety concerns on busy sites – and inclement weather conditions, particularly strong or changeable winds, will typically intensify these types of risks.
While there isn’t much we can do about bad weather once it sets in, anticipating and preparing for these spells is absolutely key. Organisations such as the NOAA, Fugro, Freese-Notis and the UK Met Office all now provide bespoke project planning and delivery forecasting services specifically tailored to the construction industries, making for a good first port of call when looking ahead to an upcoming job.
Once on site, the ability to monitor fast-changing weather conditions is hugely important. Rain, for example, is relatively simple to predict and react to in this regard: operational conditions for power tools, vehicles and walkways can generally be assessed visually on the ground. Wind is a little trickier – it’s extremely changeable, unlikely to be consistent across all areas of a site, and some of the safety concerns it gives rise to won’t always be immediately apparent.
Worker well-being obviously the chief priority, and special attention must be paid to anyone operating at height, where wind speeds can be considerably higher than on the ground due to their increased exposure. Cranes and towers are at particular risk, as are roofers and anyone working on scaffolding. Remember that maximum recommended operating wind speeds aren’t always given in equipment safety manuals, so if in doubt, always contact manufacturers prior to use.
The best solution for monitoring wind speeds at various locations across a site is using an anemometer, which will allow you to measure both prevailing speeds and sudden gusts via either mechanical or digital means. You’ll also be able to keep an eye on any shifts in wind direction, which is especially relevant when planning tasks involving crane operation, heavy lifting, load transportation and loose material storage. It’s particularly important to factor in situations where loads and equipment will be being raised significantly above ground or building level – again, bear in mind that wind speed, as a rule of thumb, tends to increase with altitude. For cranes, attaching an anemometer to the boom point is a sensible way to monitor the different wind speeds at operating altitudes.
Remember too that even at ground level, windy conditions can dangerously limit hearing and visibility, which can create serious risk on high-traffic sites. As well as posing a threat to physical safety, increased wind speed presents additional problems for any inadequately secured materials and site debris, and can also have wide-ranging implications for the use of any potential pollutants or site cleanup on completion of a project.
If inclement weather does force works to stop temporarily, an anemometer is also an extremely useful tool to have on hand as it allows the team to show precisely how the conditions impacted on the progress of the job. By keeping full and accurate records of anemometer read-outs, companies will be able to log the specific tasks affected by prevailing conditions at the time, to suggest any potential mitigating steps that might be taken, and to provide detailed information to clients on exactly where and why any delays or losses have been incurred.