Construction workers spend long hours working outdoors all year-round and in all types of weather, exposing them and the project site to a variety of possible risks. Severe weather events can impact all aspects of a construction project – budget, schedule and the workforce – which is why being prepared for bad conditions is imperative. To protect project sites and workers, it is crucial to evaluate site-specific risks, properly secure all materials and equipment and put the thought-out plan into action.
At KWA Construction, our dedication is to safety. Finding the best possible solutions for protecting all aspects of our project sites, especially our team members, is an ongoing commitment we are passionate about.
Why Weather Awareness is Important
Since 2017, the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Risks Report has ranked extreme weather as the top global risk in terms of likelihood. Combine that with its high rank for impact and it is clear that inclement weather is a major current global risk. In construction, weather not only impacts the overall timeline of the project, but also the budget and the workforce. In fact, the first six to twelve months are key to ensuring the project gets off on the right track and stays on schedule – meaning “simple” weather issues like rain or mud can completely shut down the start of a project, resulting in costly delays.
“Even half an inch to an inch of rain can impact our work – equipment gets stuck, it’s difficult to move around and pour slabs and even transfer materials – and that’s just with a little bit of rain,” explains KWA Senior Project Manager Julian Sontag “Especially with larger garden-style jobs, delays with courtyards, large amenity space, the rain completely kills production.”
Weather is unpredictable and influenced by many variables. While forecasts provide a general picture of what to expect, reports cannot always accurately predict short-term events such as wind gusts, hail and turbulence. Not to mention that wind speeds up when it passes between large buildings, which in turn can create microclimates that are not reflected in weather reports.
In an effort to prepare for possible setbacks due to undesirable weather conditions, KWA utilizes technology solutions as a more accurate way to track and manage weather related impacts. “Our team uses cloud software that automatically loads data that they can review consistently and have easy access to reporting,” said Sontag.
Safety Should Always be the Priority
In North Texas specifically, the most common types of severe weather conditions that come to mind are high heat and wind, hail, and, of course, thunderstorms. For example, Texas’ extremely hot temperatures during the summer months often cause heat-related illnesses like heat stroke and dehydration. To help remediate these warm weather risks, KWA provides shaded areas to eat, cooling stations and we make sure all workers stay hydrated. On the other hand, Julian adds that, “although we don’t deal with a lot of ice and snow in Texas, the important thing is to make sure everyone is mindful and careful to not slip.”
Wind can lead to significant damage and project delays to structures under construction, including masonry walls, framework and roof coverings – “Once we start experiencing inclement weather, project teams worry a lot about wind. If there are 15 to 20 mph wind gusts during framing, no one is allowed on the upper floors or permitted to continue framing,” Sontag elaborated.
Additionally, a “standard” thunderstorm comes with a variety of hazards that can leave the open-air work environment, conductive equipment and workers especially vulnerable during this type of storm. With heavy rain and severe thunderstorms, Sontag shares that KWA “makes sure to get our teams out of open areas. If they are working in a finished or covered area, we have shelter in place to ensure the well-being of our employees.”
Always Take Your Equipment Into Account
While keeping our team members physically protected is KWA’s top priority, severe weather can also have a detrimental impact on equipment. Heavy machinery can seize systems and when a project experiences unsteady ground conditions, it can cause materials to get stuck. In this case, being proactive is always better than being reactive – there should always be systems in place in case the project site needs to be altered to accommodate the forecast. “When we worked on The Village at Rayzor Ranch in Denton, that was the most impacted project I had ever experienced. During the construction phase, the area experienced heavy rain and the project featured a large courtyard and pool, so there were some light flooding issues. We even installed temporary drainage in the pool to help control the area,” said Sontag.
During extreme weather conditions, a site can become dangerous causing many teams to fear that equipment can be toppled over by high winds or torrential downpours limiting visibility when driving equipment. These examples can cause damage to materials and, worst of all, possible severe injuries to team members. As Senior Project Manager, Sontag sticks to one guiding principle when the weather could be an issue: “always keep an eye on the forecast and be aware. If it gets too severe or there are extremely high winds, make sure people are not in an unprotected place.”
Recovering Lost Time After a Weather Event
After ensuring all team members are safe and the onsite equipment is operable, the next priority following a major weather event is cleaning the site so it can be inspected and deemed safe to return. For example, after heavy rain and thunderstorms, de-watering is a big and timely step. Sontag explains that “the process of removing water is done to allow the soil to harden up so it can be firm enough to continue driving heavy machinery once again.”
Knowing the weather history and patterns in an area can help construction teams and sites be more prepared when starting a build. When making the initial project plan, it is best practice to allot time and backup measures for inevitable weather events. This allows construction teams to provide a more accurate timeline for clients. “When those weather delays occur, capture them on the schedule because even the smallest delay can add up over time,” Sontag shared. “That’s why it is crucial to properly log delays and use systems to help predict possible events.”
Within the industry, it is widely accepted that inclement weather is a major cause of delay for construction activities. While every contractor has to meet various deadlines, delays caused by weather events cannot be controlled. Weather can damage some worksites, but keeping meticulous account logs and working with smart technology-driven companies that use intuitive solutions can help ease the stress of handling severe weather events as they arise. KWA’s committment to making safety our top priority and not letting inclement weather negatively impact the result of our projects is a testament to the quality, hard work and care we put into all of our client’s projects.