With winter fast approaching, it’s time to start adjusting your scaffolding processes for the upcoming change of weather. Over the last years, there has been an increase in incidents, and so as either an employer or employee it’s essential to protect yourself. With over 16,000 sites in the UK alone, there is a daily risk of incidents taking place. Most accidents on scaffolding sites are due to slips and trips, and naturally the risk of these increases with the winter weather.
While a lot of residential projects are seasonal in the summer months, commercial scaffolding projects very often continues throughout the winter. So if you’re working on a commercial site, here’s what you can do to stay safe:
Start every day with a thorough inspection
As a site owner or supervisor, you should start each day with a full inspection of your site. Ensure that no snow or ice has formed overnight on your structures, to create a trip hazard for your employees. As well as looking down, look up to check for icicles that could unexpectedly injure an employee. It’s very rare but extremely heavy snowfall can impact on the structure of a scaffold. For the most part however sturdy steel scaffolding can withstand this weight. You need to consider the full load on your scaffolding structure and whether what the maximum load-bearing is.
Communicate with employees
All employees working on a scaffolding structure should receive adequate training and communication in regards to maintenance and cold-weather procedures. For instance, what the maximum wind speed is they should be working in, and when they should return to the ground. Set clear ground rules for working in rain or snow, so they know when it’s appropriate to stop work. The Work at Height Regulations of 2005 insist that scaffolding should only be dismantled or adjusted with a supervisor. Teams should know exactly what they should and shouldn’t do to remain safe.
Keep an eye on the weather forecast
It’s easy in the summer months to become complacent and stop checking the weather. But now is the time to start checking the forecast each evening. Heavy rain, winds or snow are the most concerning factors for scaffolding sites. While it’s never ideal to pause or delay a project, the safety of workers should be a number one priority.
Put your staff’s welfare first
While your staff are probably hardened to working in any conditions, encourage them to take regular breaks. Supply warm drinks and extra layers of clothing during the winter months. With millions of hours worked in the UK each year, it’s easy for sites and staff to become complacent. By keeping morale high, you are more likely to get work completed safely and efficiently.
Extra lighting for dark mornings and evenings
With the days closing in on us, it’s essential to keep your site well-lit at all times. Supply high visibility clothing for your staff and add lighting to structures for those early morning shifts. December and January are the darkest months, with evenings closing in as early as 4 pm. Unfortunately, projects don’t finish as soon as it gets dark, so ensure your staff are still working in a safe environment to complete your work.
While construction workers are generally very hardened to the elements, it’s important to put their health and safety first at all times. It only takes one small pile of snow or puddle of rain to result in a huge accident, and that’s something that none of us can afford. Encourage your team to keep safety at the forefront of their minds this winter, and you’ll be on your way to a safe and pleasant working environment through the colder months.
While having a secure and safe structure from a reputable scaffolding company can give you confidence, you should never, ever be complacent on a scaffolding site. Much of the time accidents occur due to user-error rather than the scaffolds themselves, but the good news is most of these accidents are avoidable. Following some good practices will help to keep everyone safe and reduce any chance of liability, or worse, injury.