Construction and Severe Weather: Keeping Workers Safe


Weather safety on construction sites is essential for protecting lives and maintaining operational efficiency. There are many areas to consider regarding construction safety, including the safety of outdoor workers in locations that are prone to high amounts of lightning.   

How Does Weather Impact Construction?

Construction workers spend long hours working outdoors, in all types of weather, creating many risks. Operating construction machinery in a thunderstorm endangers the lives of construction workers. High winds can cause equipment to come loose or cranes to collapse. Heavy rains can cause flooding and erosion.

Thankfully, automated alerting for dangerous weather like lightning, precipitation, and temperature is low-cost and easy to use at your construction sites. In this blog we will focus on simple solutions to reduce the risk of weather-related injuries by providing alerting for severe weather, lightning, and other dangerous environmental factors.

Preparing for severe weather on construction sites not only protects employees, but equipment and progress on construction projects as well.

Outdoor Construction Site

Weather Risks on Construction Sites

What types of severe weather risks are construction workers susceptible to? There are many different weather factors and conditions that outdoor workers are exposed to, including:

• Lightning and Thunderstorms
First, lightning is a huge occupational hazard for outdoor workers, especially people in the construction industry. Lightning risks increase with heightened exposure to outdoor open spaces, working near tall objects, or metal.

• Extreme Weather
Also, severe weather can take many forms, especially on a construction site where workers are exposed to the elements for long hours. Whether it is a downpour of flooding rains, blistering high winds, heavy snow, hurricanes, stiflingly hot temperatures, or even hurricanes.

• High Heat
Finally, working in extreme heat poses a threat to the wellbeing of construction workers who are outside for long periods and are vulnerable to heat-related illness and fatigue.

Construction Worker Suffering From Heat Stress

Recent Weather-related Incidents at Construction Sites

Heat illness is a major concern for construction crews working outdoors for long periods of time. In fact, a construction company owner in Pennsylvania reported this summer’s heat waves caused concern, including the fear of heat stroke for his crew.

In 2018, a construction worker was struck and killed by lightning and fell from the roof where he was working in Kansas City, MO. The force of the lightning strike caused another construction worker to fall from the roof, but he was able to survive his injuries.

Last Spring a construction worker was struck by lightning in China, Texas while working on a construction project in a subdivision. Texas experienced the highest amount of lightning out of all 50 of the United States for 2020, measuring in at 63,683,799 total lightning pulses and 278 total thunder days.

In Middleburg, Florida , three construction workers were hospitalized after being struck by lightning in Clay County in May of 2020. The construction worker that was directly struck by the lightning went into cardiac arrest, but was fortunately revived by first responders. Collier County, Florida experienced the highest number of total lightning pulses in a U.S. county in 2020, at a whopping 2,178,694 total lightning pulses.

 

Pictured on the map above, you can see historical lightning data from the Earth Networks Total Lightning Network (ENTLN) from the Sferic Maps Lightning Archive for May 28, 2020 in Middleburg, Florida. The purple dots represent in-cloud lightning strikes, and the yellow dots represent cloud-to-ground lightning strikes.

 

These tragedies underscore the importance of lightning safety protocols, precautions, and preparation on construction job sites. Although no solution is foolproof, there are many safety measures one can take to avoid these calamities.

Read more about how many lightning pulses ENTLN detected in the Earth Networks 2020 U.S. Lightning Report.

What can you do to protect your construction workers from severe weather and lightning? 

An important part of weather safety for construction workers is preparedness. When safeguarding your construction employees from severe weather and lightning, there are several weather safety factors you should consider. Earth Networks offers a variety of effective solutions to protect your organization and its employees on the construction site, such as:

1. Sferic Siren – on-site lightning warning system, 360 audible & visual signals, all-clear countdown
Earth Networks automated outdoor alerting system for lightning is a key solution for lightning safety at construction sites. Sferic Siren provides facilities with an outdoor mass notification system that is fully integrated with in-cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning detection technology. You simply set a radius around the construction site (we recommend three rings, as seen below) and when lightning enters the radius, the Sferic Siren will sound a loud horn and activate a visual strobe warning those outdoors to head inside for safe shelter. In addition, Sferic Siren can be mounted on a trailer or other construction equipment, making it portable for use at multiple sites.

Range Rings for Lightning Detection

Sferic Siren Outdoor Lightning Warning System

2. Detailed forecasts and support from trained meteorologists
A 24/7 meteorological services team of expert forecasters can provide around-the-clock support via phone or even chat. This service will benefit your construction company’s early AM start times and late nights.

3. Heat stress safety plan with the most advanced wet bulb globe temperature technology and automated mass alerts.
Per the National Weather Service, wet bulb globe temperature is a measurement used to estimate the most accurate level of heat stress in direct sunlight. WBGT accounts for five factors, including:

  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Wind Speed
  • Sun Angle
  • Cloud cover (solar radiation)

The purpose of wet bulb globe temperature as a heat measurement tool is to keep construction workers safe while performing strenuous job functions at high temperatures.

4. Weather Stations & Sensors
Built to withstand and measure all kinds of threats, a weather station quietly records crucial information about the environment and turns it into useful data for your construction business. Requiring little maintenance, the Earth Networks weather station is fully automated with components that interface seamlessly with our tools and applications.

– Monitor heat and humidity levels or ice cold temperatures in order to protect construction crew working outdoors

– Measure rainfall to plan daily operations

– Access real-time, local weather intelligence

– Prepare for severe weather

– Protect people and property

– Automate and streamline operations

– Make it portable – solar power, cellular communications are available

4. Automated Alerts to Warn Construction Workers of Severe Weather Approaching
How can you communicate to your construction team that dangerous weather is approaching? Earth Networks automated lightning, Dangerous Thunderstorm Alerts (DTA), and weather warnings come directly to your mobile phone, desktop, or other device via text message, email or push alert.

How do Dangerous Thunderstorm Alerts work?

DTAs provide warnings for the most dangerous of storms and are the most critical type of severe weather alert delivered by the Earth Networks Total Lightning Network. The use of total lightning (in-cloud and cloud-to-ground) detection provides significantly better indication of storm severity over cloud-to-ground strikes independently. Earth Networks uses total lightning data within sophisticated algorithms to generate DTAs automatically.

Earth Networks uses both in-cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning to provide construction companies with technologically-advanced alerts to protect construction workers and plan for operations. DTAs are a great solution for reducing severe weather risk, by:

– Taking the pressure out of decision-making, regarding site closures, equipment use, etc.
– Protecting your construction company’s critical assets
– Improving the continuity of your construction business

Lightning at Night

Ways to Stay Safe from Dangerous Weather Conditions on Construction Sites 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides a fact sheet on lightning safety when working outdoors, which you can view here. Protect your construction team from lightning and dangerous weather conditions by practicing the following safety steps:

1. Avoid tall objects

2. Avoid isolated trees, hills, cellphone towers, cranes, large equipment, ladders, scaffolding, or rooftops, and bodies of water

3. Avoid wiring, plumbing, and fencing

4. Seek indoor shelter— you are never fully protected from lightning while outdoors— if you cannot get inside a building, a vehicle with rolled-up windows is sufficient

 

Lightning Across Power Lines

Preventive action is most effective for avoiding the hazards of lightning on construction sites. According to the United States Department of Labor, construction companies should implement Emergency Action Plans to provide outdoor construction workers with a lightning safety protocol, per regulation code 29 CFR 1926.35. Some of the OSHA EAP itinerary includes:

• Inform supervisors and workers to take action after hearing thunder, seeing lightning, or perceiving any other warning signs of approaching thunderstorms

• Have a plan for how workers are notified about lightning safety warnings

• Identify locations and requirements for safe shelters

• Indicate response times necessary for all workers to reach safe shelters

• Specify approaches for determining when to suspend outdoor work activities, and when to resume outdoor work activities

• Account for the time required to evacuate customers and members of the public, and the time needed for workers to reach safety

Construction Worker Communicating Weather Safety Info

Keep your construction organization safe

Working outdoors will always have its threats from Mother Nature. However, Earth Networks advanced weather tech offerings will keep you and your construction team safe and efficient throughout any severe weather predicament.

To learn more about our products and services, feel free to check out our resources page.

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