According to WorkSafe WA as long as work at construction sites is organised so that wet weather hazards are minimised and safe work systems are adhered to, then work can continue safely.
Steps need to be taken to control wet weather hazards to protect the health and safety of workers and will be to the benefit of employers by:
- Reducing illness and injury
- Higher levels of job satisfaction and reduced absenteeism
- Increased efficiency and productivity
The risk factors
The principal risk factors that affect safe construction work in wet weather are:
- Slippery work at heights
- Slippery, wet floor surfaces, steps and footholds;
- Excavations collapsing
- Electrical hazards – wet electrical cords, cables, sockets, power points and power equipment
- Welding hazards – eg wet steelwork or the welding hand piece becoming “live”
- Slippery tools, handles and other hand grip surfaces
- Reduced manual dexterity in some tasks
- Lightning strikes during thunderstorms
- Contamination from flooded sewerage systems.
Windy conditions, whether wet or dry, involve additional risk factors for safe construction work:
- Loose roofing materials, scaffold planks, and other unsecured materials at heights
- Incomplete structures, eg roofing, sheds
- Inadequately secured scaffolding;
- Unsecured free-standing walls or framework
- Foreign matter in eyes
- Cranes becoming unstable when winds exceed manufacturers’ recommendations for safe operation.
When it is extremely cold, reduced feeling and function in the hands or feet may affect safe work. Discomfort caused by excessive cold may lead to inattentiveness and distraction.
Safety systems at work
Wet, windy or cold weather does not necessarily make construction work unsafe, provided safe systems of work can be implemented. These can include:
Reorganise construction work in wet weather so workers do more of the labor:
- Under sections where roofing or overhead cover are present
- Under sheltered structures, eg sheds
- Under temporary shelter, eg tarpaulins;
- After wet components have dried
- On tasks not made hazardous by wet weather.
If weather forecasts are monitored then the alternative tasks can be planned ahead. All electrical appliances must be safe and electrical cables need to be lifted to a safe height above the ground.
Work at heights needs to be minimal in wet weather. All fall protection measures need to be provided and used – even before wet or windy weather. Structural components may be assembled on the ground rather than at height.
Minimise the amount of wet weather work to be done at height. Ensure fall protection measures and equipment are provided and used – prior to wet or windy weather. Wherever possible, pre-assemble structural components on the ground instead of at height.
- Allocate work in dry, sheltered areas when rain makes exposed areas hazardous
- Ensure good drainage so the site dries quickly
- Plan for pumps to disperse flooding
- Erect temporary shelters, for example, tents or tarpaulins
- In windy weather, ensure loose items and incomplete structures are tied down and braced against wind pressures.
- Provide dry shelter areas where spare dry clothing can be stored and wet clothing can be changed
- For cold weather, provide a warm shelter area.
Wet weather clothing
- Preferred wet weather clothing for construction work is waterproof trousers, and jacket with hood (to be worn with safety helmet);
- Safety shoes or boots should have slip resistant soles
- Safety gum boots may be required for work in wet areas.
Health status of employees
Some employees may have medical conditions that reduce their tolerance to cold or wet conditions. In such cases, employers should consider advice from their doctor.
Employers are responsible for providing and maintaining safe systems of work in wet weather. Workers are required to co-operate in applying these systems.