Working at height poses a range of unique challenges. One of the most unpredictable scenarios involves knowing how to address the concept of wind safety. This is particularly the case if weather conditions are unpredictable or if you happen to be working in a location known for shifting wind directions and strong gusts. High wind safety should, therefore, a critical element within your on-site guidelines. While it is important to know some of the most common mistakes to avoid, it is just as logical to point out a handful of professional recommendations so that employee safety is never called into question. What are the hazards of working at height during windy conditions? How can we learn to fully appreciate high wind safety techniques and practices?
Working at Height in Windy Conditions: Common Mistakes to Avoid
Many workers fail to fully appreciate the importance of working at height safely in relation to the wind. After all, other hazards such as moving objects or swinging booms are much more noticeable distractions. This is why wind can be particularly hazardous. On-site employees need to know when to say when. In the event that wind gusts become too strong or they begin to impact the stability of nearby equipment such as cranes, all work should cease immediately until conditions improve. Failing to appreciate the proper wind speed limit for working at height can result in serious injuries and even fatalities on occasion.
A second mistake is attributed to not performing the appropriate working at height risk assessments in advance of any project. This often involves the type of machinery used and the maximum winds that it has been designed to sustain. Never forget that even the strongest of structures (such as tower cranes) can easily fall victim to the forces of nature if the relevant guidelines are not followed. Inspections are therefore a critical aspect of high wind safety. Failing to thoroughly inspect structures or not identifying elements that may have become loose can lead to an accident that could have otherwise been entirely avoidable.
High Wind Safety Guidelines and Recommendations to Follow at All Times
As we can see, human error can play a significant role when dealing with high on-site winds. This is why management and supervisors need to make certain that the appropriate practices are adopted by all personnel.
The first recommendation involves knowing the limitations of specific machinery such as cranes. Crane wind speed will often depend upon the type of configuration being used, its working height and the type of load being manipulated. Failing to adhere to the guidelines stipulated by the manufacturer can cause structural elements to weaken and in some cases, even collapse. When dealing with heavy loads, it is just as important to mention the concept of inertia. If high winds cause an object to move in a certain direction, it can be difficult to counteract this force. This is once again why no lifting should take place if the maximum wind speed for working at height has been surpassed.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) will also come into play when dealing with the intricacies associated with high wind safety. Employees who are planning to work higher than 1.5 metres off of the ground will be required to wear some type of safety harness. Eye and ear protection is also wise in order to avoid dust and debris that may become airborne. Hard hats and similar loose gear should be tied down so that it does not suddenly fly off in the event of a high gust. Above all, be sure that the PPE in question is rated to be used during such conditions.
Dealing with Blowing and/or Falling Objects
There can be times when tools or other important equipment begins to blow away when working at heights. Never attempt to catch these items or to prevent them from falling (regardless of your initial instincts). This action can cause you to lose your balance and fall. Only retrieve the equipment when it is safe to do so. If possible, employ an extendable lanyard to keep important items close by.
Flat objects (such as a sheet of plasterboard or plywood) pose significant threats, as they can be easily picked up and blown considerable distances. They could also injure nearby workers or cause them to lose balance. Be sure that flat objects are securely fastened in order to avoid them turning into veritable "sails". While the use of a ground-based wind meter can come in handy, remember that these gauges may not reflect the true wind speeds higher up.
In order to fully embrace the recommendations mentioned above, it is important to contact Powered Access Solutions. We stock a wide range of access platforms which will help to ensure on-site safety.
To find out more information about the products we have available to hire, contact us today