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Adverse Weather Toolbox Talk

What is adverse weather?

The changing seasons can bring a whole host of hazards that are sometimes hard to determine and work around. Cold/warm conditions, dark nights, sun-rays, heat, low/high temperatures, snow, ice, high winds etc. can all lead to site shutdowns which can all throw a real spanner in the works, which is why proper workplace safety monitoring is crucial.

To make sure you’ve got everything covered, we’ve put together some information for you to use to engage your employees.

By making suitable considerations and completing proactive checks, this will allow us to expose any risks and hazards to help keep staff safe.

Specific industries affected by adverse weather.

  • Construction (domestic and commercial)
  • Roofers and scaffolders
  • Groundworkers and landscapers
  • Gardeners
  • Facilities management
  • Maintenance teams
  • Roadside workers / Civil engineers
  • Delivery business
  • Any outdoor work

What do I need to remember when working?

  • High winds lead to damage and deterioration of objects in the surrounding area, including buildings, trees, plants, vehicles etc. Once airborne, these objects present a high risk to health from individuals or plant etc. being struck, causing further harm. Be vigilant and proactive: if you spot anything that might come loose or cause harm, stop work and report it.
  • Plan work around changing weather conditions. Should weather reports issue an amber or red warning, consider your work activities or stopping work altogether.
  • Monitor the changing situation and make an informed decision to stop work if you feel that conditions are dangerous.
  • Colder or warmer temperatures (particularly for those working outside) can be a real risk to health. Make sure everyone has adequate warm/cooling clothing (PPE) and access to hot drinks and suitable welfare facilities when they need them. Wear layers of clothing so you can remove as/when necessary. Ensure you have sufficient water to drink as you don’t want to become de-hydrated. Sun cream and sun hat if applicable.
  • Should employees be exposed to airborne objects/materials, ensure they are wearing suitable PPE, such as head, eye, face and body protection.
  • Changing weather can mean changing surface conditions. Regular monitoring alongside a thorough risk assessment will help prevent the risk of slips, trips, and falls. Being aware of changing traffic conditions and acting accordingly can assist with get everyone home safely.
  • Where you are responsible for site fixtures and materials (even temporary structures), ensure they are correctly moored to ensure the safety of anyone in the surrounding area. That might include anchoring or lying down. Housekeeping is a priority here.
  • Strictly avoid work at height or on a non-secured structure such as ladder, MEWP or scaffolding. (30% of fatal falls happen from a height of less than 2 metres, and 50% from less than 3 metres).
  • Where manual handling activities are conducted, ensure the load is adequate secured and make consideration for the object catching wind. Do not operate hoisting equipment in winds exceeding 31mph. Winds in excess of 18mph can cause instability.
  • Cease a crane operation in high winds.
  • If you’re shutting a site down due to the weather, make sure there’s a solid plan in place to still carry out the same, regular inspections on things like fire detection, site security and any structure that may become unstable.
  • Adverse weather can affect and damage scaffolding or temporary structures on your site if they’re not properly inspected before, immediately after, and every seven days from the first inspection as a minimum. In the summer of 2022 a few of my clients finished work at 1pm to avoid the heat.
  • Road conditions can be poor and result in added traffic or vehicles becoming temporarily stranded. Make sure checks on the vehicles are completed before leaving and on a regular basis, including making sure you have adequate provisions onboard in case anyone gets stuck.
  • Don’t wait for things to happen or get better. If conditions are too wet, cold, or indeed dangerous, STOP before something happens.
  • The minimum workplace (indoor) temperature should be at least 16C, or 13C for those doing a physically rigorous task.
  • Risk assessments, method statements, and particularly safe working procedures should consider changing workplace temperatures.
  • Introduce a system for more breaks to keep warm, hydrate with hot drinks, and rest potentially more strained muscles.
  • Consider your own personal safety as well as that of others around you.
  • Suitable training on safe ways of working in cold conditions will go a long way.
  • Staff should carry out any workplace monitoring assigned to them by management to always ensure site safety.
  • Can the work be avoided, delayed, or done in a way where individuals are not exposed to cold weather?
  • Make sure to have a suitable provision of PPE, like gloves, snoods, fleeces, and coats accessible. These must be worn on site, and you are responsible for your personal safety in regard to keeping warm with the provisions provided.

What Management need to do:

  • Complete or review risk assessments to consider adverse weather conditions.
  • Consider and implement new controls (PPE, training, hot drinks etc.)
  • Make sure all staff know who to call in the event of an emergency or incident, plus some handy reminders to stay safe in cold/warm conditions.
  • Create a plan for monitoring changes in workplace conditions.
  • Conduct documented checks and inspections, reviewing the results to ensure all measures are suitable.
  • Check mental equipment does not cause hand burns.
  • Have fire procedure actions in place.
  • Ensure regular breaks are taken in cool areas during the heat.

Some frequently asked questions:

Answer: Before work commences / regularly throughout the shift.

Answer: Completed on handover, every 7 days and after any significant activity (adverse weather/incident/change in operation/load)

Answer: Warm/cool clothing, head, eye, face and foot protection.