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Springtime Construction Safety

- March 20, 2017 by Dan Heinen, ASP (View all posts by Dan)

With winter slipping away and as we ease into spring, we typically see construction projects kick into high gear. Often, these projects were started during winter and delayed by weather conditions, so the change to warmer weather and increased daylight tends to put a “rush” on projects so new ones may begin. What can (and often does) happen is an increase in weather-related construction site incidents. Rain, mud, freezing and thawing ground can be a cause of slips, trips and falls.

Let’s say the ground is frozen in the morning when a contractor erects scaffolding or moves a scissor lift next to the building to do some elevated exterior work. As the temperature rises throughout the day, the ground can thaw on the outermost side of the building leaving the two base plates or tires next to the building on frozen (solid) ground since it can still be shaded and not exposed to the sun. However, the two furthest base plates from the building are now on exposed, thawed and unstable ground. A shift in employee movement or an addition load placed on the outer part of the scaffold or lift can cause it to tip and/or collapse due to the changing ground conditions. If the ground has been back-filled and not compacted properly this can be a contributing factor as well.

Another likely scenario is when an employee enters the building in the morning while the ground is frozen. Then as the day goes on, the ground thaws and becomes slick due to mud. When the employee leaves to go to lunch, break, or the restroom, she or he steps outside then slips and hurts their back, knee or ankle as they didn’t realize the ground conditions have changed.  Or, when the employee enters the building with muddy boots they step onto the concrete floor and slip and fall.

Anticipating and planning for the changing weather conditions can help offset these types of incidents from occurring. Several methods to help mitigate these include:

  • Use extra-large base plates or even planks to set your scaffolding on. Your designated competent person for scaffolding should be able to recognize what is needed and incorporate them into the erection procedure.
  • Examine the scaffolding and ground conditions throughout the day. Make adjusts as needed. Perhaps outriggers on the scaffolding may be in order.
  • Consider planks for your scissor lift. This can help distribute the weight along the length and width of the plank sand provides a more stable resting surface.
  • Consider using outriggers. Many lifts come with outriggers; consider using these as that style may be more suitable to utilize.
  • Use rock around entrances and exit doors of the building. Rock can help minimize the amount of mud tracked into the building and also provides an excellent transition area for employees as they come and go.

Being aware of changing conditions around your site(s) and not just having plans in place but actually addressing these issues can save you time and money not only by reducing lost time incidents but increasing employee morale by making sure they know their safety is a high priority.

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