Working in rain, snow, ice, wind, lightning or sunshine is an employee way of life construction. Some of the biggest problems on construction jobs are caused by wind and lightning. Wind probably causes the most accidents and lightning can be deadly.
Severe wind can catch you off guard. Be careful. When it’s windy depending how violent it is can blow items and workers off the roof. To protect yourself
- Always check if the job can safely be done.
- Allow time for the wind to die down for safer levels. If the winds do not die down do it another day.
- If you have to work in higher elevations or roofs with the wind, always be tied off with the recommended certified fall protection equipment.
- Stay away from roof edges and walls that are not secured.
- Tie or weight down supplies and materials that can be blown down or upon you.
According to the National Weather Service (NWS), “Lightning is a major cause of storm related deaths in the U.S. A lightning strike can result in a cardiac arrest (heart stopping) at the time of the injury, although some victims may appear to have a delayed death a few days later if they are resuscitated but have suffered irreversible brain damage. Over the last 30 years (1981-2010) the U.S. has averaged 54 reported lightning fatalities per year. Only about 10% of people who are struck by lightning are killed, leaving 90% with various degrees of disability.” With this in mind and the danger that lightning presents safety is necessary. The following tips will assist you. They are:
- Always seek shelter inside immediately
- Never stand or take shelter under a tree.
- Stay away from water, wet items (such as ropes) and metal objects (such as fences and poles). Water and metal are excellent conductors of electricity. The current from a lightning flash will easily travel for long distances
Employees working in the rain face additional hazards, such as poor visibility and wet, slippery surfaces. Here are work practices that will help prevent accidents and injuries when working in the rain. The Cal/OSHA Compliance Advisor provides the following tips:
- Move more slowly and carefully. When working in the rain, a natural reaction is to try to work more quickly to get back inside as soon as possible. However, because rain makes everything more slippery, you should do the exact opposite—work more slowly and deliberately to prevent slipping and falling, especially when climbing ladders.
- Use the correct equipment. Do not use electrical tools and equipment that are not specifically rated for outdoor use when working in the rain. When using hand tools, use tools with textured, nonslip grip handles.
- Wear appropriate rain gear. If you are cold and wet, you are likely concentrating more on how miserable you are than the work at hand. Rain gear which includes both a coat and pants or overalls and is ventilated should be worn for prolonged wet-weather work. If it’s cold and rainy, wool or synthetic fibers specifically designed for cold weather use are the best for wear under rain gear because it will keep you warm even if it gets wet. Also, wear rain gear that is the proper size; if it’s too large it may interfere with movement.
- Wear appropriate footwear. Footwear for use in inclement weather should have deep treads to help prevent slipping. Footwear that is in poor condition (treads are worn down or worn smooth or footwear with holes) should not be worn. To keep water out of shoes or boots, make sure the top of the shoe or boot extends above the ankle and rain gear extends to the ankles. Also, the top of the boot or shoe should be inside the pant leg (as opposed to tucking the pant leg into the footwear).
Ice and Snow
Here in San Diego we do not have to worry about working in ice and snow. I had the experience in the Midwest to do so and it is very challenging and dangerous. Colder climates, ice and snow make things slippery. According to the Safety Services Company it recommend the following tips in working in snow and ice.
- Wear shoes or boots with non-slip or non-skid soles.
- Don’t allow snow or ice to accumulate in work areas. Clear them off immediately, especially if they run off on scaffolds and roofs.
- Always wear a hard hat when going outdoors. This should protect you from falling objects, as well as impacts caused by slips on slippery surfaces.
- Before using ladders, ensure that they are completely free of ice, snow and other materials that may cause slips or falls.
- Wear proper fall protection when clearing slippery materials of high places. For double protection, consider installing safety rails on such areas.
Working safely in difficult weather conditions will provide a safe working environment for employees and a proactive approach to reduce and eliminate accidents and incidents.
Lightning Safety – National Weather Service
Cal/OSHA Compliance Advisor:
Workplace Safety Tip: Working in the Rain
Safety Services Company
Copyrighted by Matthew J. Key from his forthcoming book “The Safety Corner.