11 September 2017
As autumn approaches, the great British weather will inevitably take a turn, and for businesses in the construction, engineering and manufacturing industries in particular, severe winds is a must to lookout for.
Under the Work at Height Regulations 2005, you’re legally required to check that weather conditions are conducive to working at height. And remember, ‘height’ doesn’t just mean scaffolding on the 10th floor of a building, it could be an employee up ladders on a two story terrace house.
When a gust of wind hits, workers can easily lose their balance which can have catastrophic consequences – in 2016/17 alone, there were 25 fatal injuries due to falls from a height.
Severe winds may also make it more difficult for employees to carry materials and equipment to their work station without compromising their stability. And then there’s the mobility of things like roof sheets, tiles and slates – to name just a few – to contend with too.
Mobilised materials not only pose a risk to those working at height, but it endangers those on ground level in close proximity who could be struck as well.
Last but certainly not least, consider the impact on driving – particularly so if employees are behind the wheel of tall vehicles, like a lorry, for example.
Before you start
Before and during times of severe wind, you should assess the following before coming to a decision as to whether planned work activities should commence:
It goes without saying that you should always take care when working at height, but during severe winds it’s critical that you pay particular attention to the knock-on effects the weather may have.
The Beaufort scale
If you’re not already familiar with it, the Beaufort scale exists to explain how various wind speeds cause objects to behave:
|No||m/s||mph||Description||Effects on land|
|0||0||0||Calm||Smoke rises vertically|
|3||4||8-12||Gentle breeze||Gentle breeze, small twigs in constant motion|
|4||6||13-18||Moderate wind||Dust, leaves and loose paper raised. Small branches move|
|5||8||19-24||Fresh wind||Fresh breeze. Small trees in leaf begin to sway|
|6||10||25-31||Strong wind||Strong breeze, large branches move. Whistling heard in phone wires. Umbrellas become difficult to use|
|7||14-16||32-38||Very strong wind||Whole trees in motion|
|8||18-20||39-46||Gale||Twigs break off trees. Difficult to walk|
|9||22-24||47-54||Severe gale||Slight structural damage occurs – chimney pots and slates removed|
|10||26||55-63||Storm||Trees uprooted. Structural damage|
When planning any work at height, you should always check the weather forecast first, marry up the predicted wind speed with known effects, and then make a sensible decision as to whether work can go ahead in accordance with this.
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