So is your construction project ready for the changing season?
In the northern hemisphere many are packing away their cold gear after a prolonged winter, which has often hampered production, and they are now looking forward to some sunshine. But are you prepared to make the most of the good weather before the season inevitably, and often too soon, changes again?
So why do we need to be thinking about the changing seasons?
Changed weather conditions can have a big influence on safety.
Heat brings the risk of heat exhaustion and bush fires.
Dry conditions increase the risk of bush fires, dust and a shortage of water for construction.
Wet conditions pose flood risks, slippery conditions on walkways and roads. It can also make project access roads impassable and ground conditions could become soft, even resulting in cranes toppling should their outriggers settle in the softer ground. Sides of excavations may become unstable and buildings could become undermined.
Wind creates dust, flying debris, unsafe lifting conditions for cranes and the risk of poorly stacked materials being blown over. Partly completed structures could be toppled in high winds. I’ve even had people blown off their feet into excavations or off access platforms. Cranes can be blown over.
Storms bring lightening, heavy rain and high winds which cause damage to buildings and injury to people.
The changing season could also bring a decrease in the hours of daylight which could reduce construction productivity and cause safety concerns. Even the changed position of the setting sun could make driving conditions unsafe on some site access roads.
During poor weather production may be slowed or even have to stop for safety reasons. Construction materials may not be lifted in high winds.
Workers have to take more frequent rest breaks when working in extreme temperatures and their movement could be hampered by cold weather or rain clothes.
Concrete could take longer to set and reach sufficient strength to strip forms, while in hot conditions there could be the risk of cold joints forming.
Equally important is to review procedures and set new targets when weather conditions improve. Often people become used to doing tasks in a certain manner, taking numerous breaks as required by the weather conditions and achieving certain targets. When weather conditions improve they continue to do the tasks as done to suit poor weather conditions without modifying their actions to achieve the better productivity they should in the good weather conditions.
Damage to the work
Stormwater can flood excavations, damaging equipment, cause excavations to collapse and generally delay work.
Rain can penetrate partly completed buildings damaging finishes and equipment.
Dust can enter equipment and damage it.
High winds can tear away objects and materials not fully installed.
Stormwater flowing from the construction site can erode away neighbouring properties or deposit silt or contaminated material from your project site onto neighbouring properties.
Dust created by the construction work could be blown onto neighbouring property, causing damage, irritation and a safety hazard.
Heat, wind and cold all impact curing of concrete.
Some materials can be damaged when exposed to extreme heat or cold, or if they get wet or covered in dirt.
So what can we do to prepare our projects for the new season?
- Carry out a risk assessment to understand what weather the new season will bring and what risks this could create for your project.
- Prepare your project to meet these possible events. This may include cleaning stormwater drains, digging new drains, having a storm plan in place, removing vegetation that could be a fire risk, checking new buildings for water leaks, testing gutters and downpipes.
- Hold tool-box meetings (tail-gate, pre-start or safety meetings) to discuss the new risks with the project work force.
- Put effort into completing work that is most at risk – for example make buildings water tight before the onset of rainy weather and complete work in deep excavations before the rains.
- Study the project schedule and amend it if necessary to get high risk work done during the good weather, for example lifting materials and equipment during times when the wind has the least impact.
- Amend working hours to take account of the changed amount of daylight, or temperature (for instance in areas that experience high temperatures you could schedule work to start earlier to make use of the cooler morning temperatures, and you may need to schedule concrete pours to happen at night or in the morning when it is cooler).
- Tasks may have to be scheduled to happen at a particular time in the day – For instance some regions may experience regular afternoon thunderstorms, others may experience high winds during the day which die down in the late afternoon, so tasks may have to be scheduled around these events and work in some cases may have to occur afterhours to make use of the better weather.
- Procure suitable protective clothing and other equipment for the expected weather conditions. Additional tie-down chains for windy conditions, tarpaulins to cover openings and materials to keep the rain out, etc.
- Where high risk events such as tornados, hurricanes and thunderstorms can be expected you may have to have a person dedicated to watching for these weather events.
Over and above the changing seasons there seem to be more freak weather events. How prepared is your project for sudden and unexpected ferocious weather events? Well we can’t be prepared for all of these, however, it may be worth thinking about them, and at least formulating an emergency plan in case your project is about to be hit by a freak storm.
Is your construction project ready for the new season’s opportunities and challenges?
Other useful articles by the author:
The importance of planning your project
Understanding the real cost of delays on your project
How useful is your construction schedule on your project
Will your construction project be completed on schedule?
(Written by Paul Netscher the author of the acclaimed books ‘Successful Construction Project Management: The Practical Guide’ and ‘Building a Successful Construction Company: The Practical Guide’. Both books are available in paperback and e-book from Amazon and other retail outlets. This article is adapted from information included in these books. To read more about Paul Netscher go to, or find out how Paul Netscher can help you go to )
© 2015 This article is not to be reproduced for commercial purposes without written permission from the author.