You can never underestimate the power of the wind when working on a construction site. Strong winds can occur anytime, especially during the winter, and they are more than just a nuisance. Strong winds can put the health and safety of your workers at risk – as moving equipment, opening doors, and simply walking outside can all be challenges when the wind blows at 50 mph. These tips can help you protect your crew from the dangers of high winds in construction.
Common High Wind Construction Dangers
High winds can be risky on several fronts…and the most critical danger often involves opening and closing doors. Strong winds may force doors to open or close suddenly which can cause doors to swing into a person’s body or face, causing injury. The door may fly open when you least expect it if it isn’t properly latched.
High winds can also affect your lift operations, causing debris, materials, and even pieces of equipment to blow around. Sharp objects can also easily injure someone if they are moving through the air; these items can also crash into a door or window, leading to the spread of broken glass. Workers may have trouble towing or hauling equipment when the wind is strong – and a sudden gust of wind can blow the trailer or cargo to one side, leading to spills and accidents.
Finally, in cold weather, strong winds only increase the risk of frostbite. These winds tend to be the strongest during the winter months before slowing down in the summer. High winds lower the temperature outside and can lead to workers developing frostbite in a matter of minutes if their bare skin is exposed to the wind.
Safety Tips for Working in High Wind
Always remember to focus on addressing each of the threats mentioned above, when asking your team to work in high-wind environments.
When it comes to opening and closing doors, do the following:
- Secure the door to the frame when it is closed
- Consider using a chain or latch if the door can come loose easily
- Encourage your workers to open doors slowly — they should be prepared for a sudden gust of wind by keeping their hand firmly on the handle
- Limit your team’s exposure to the wind by having them work on the side of the building where the wind is less severe
- Have your workers exit the building or vehicle on the opposite side from where the wind is blowing
- If the wind is strong enough to blow your materials or nearby debris around in the air, do your best to secure these items to the ground or store them inside…keep them away from where your team is working, including areas with glass windows and doors
- Safety glasses are a must-have, as small debris and particles around the jobsite can easily get lodged in your workers’ eyes
- When battling extreme weather and strong winds, research the temperature outside before starting the shift
- Adjust your expectations based on the wind speed — contact the local weather service to see how the wind may affect your workday and consider canceling the shift or moving your team indoors on days when the wind is above 40 mph
- Make sure everyone on your team is wearing proper PPE including winter workwear with thick insulating layers to reduce the threat of frostbite — no one should have their bare skin exposed to the wind (stay warm in winter and watch out for warning signs of frostbite, including chills, fever, dizziness, and shortness of breath)
- Eye protection like safety glasses and goggles may come in handy to work through strong winds without having debris get blown into your eyes
Keeping your team safe when working in high wind is no easy feat and your workers will need to use caution when working outdoors. Find the proper safety equipment for your lift operations to give your team more peace of mind in the field and execute these best practices to keep your team safe, no matter the weather. Until next time….Work Safe & Be Safe!