Construction & Severe Weather

Is Your Job Site Safe?

Construction workers understand the hazards that strong storms can create at a job site. The 2013 catastrophic tornadoes that ripped through the Midwest are reminders to employers to review the policies and procedures they have in place for handling severe weather on the job site. While work injuries can occur at even the safest of construction sites, advance preparations can drastically reduce the number of serious injuries or fatalities when bad weather strikes.

Among the concerns that must be covered are the following:

  • Strong winds and icy or wet conditions increase the chances of workers falling from elevated areas and suffering severe, permanent, or fatal injuries;
  • Icy or wet surfaces also contribute to a variety of injuries from ground-level slips and falls and equipment or vehicle accidents;
  • Strong winds may topple untethered equipment and even field trailers, resulting in severe or fatal injuries;
  • Flying, falling, or swinging materials, including from debris and small equipment to cranes and scaffolding, put workers and the public at risk; and,
  • Lightning or wet electrically powered equipment may cause shocks or electrocution.

According to OSHA, all companies, regardless of size, should have a weather emergency plan that includes conditions best served by sheltering-in-place, conditions that warrant a site evacuation, and site evacuation procedures. OSHA also recommends the plan include a clear chain-of-command and the designation of a worker with the authority to suspend work or evacuate a site. All trade or shift supervisors should have access to a checklist of emergency tasks to secure the site for bad weather and shut down. This checklist may include:

  • Assignment of tasks to specific trade workers competent in those actions
  • Stocking supplies, such as batteries and flashlights, for use by assigned emergency response workers
  • Securing items from becoming airborne during winds, including scrap materials and equipment
  • Anchoring all field trailers at the onset of the project
  • Specifying the securing of different types of crane booms
  • Designation of who, if anyone, will remain on site briefly to shut down gas and/or electrical, and the procedures involved for those tasks
  • Procedures for helping site visitors to evacuate
  • Accounting for employees during sheltering-in-place or following an evacuation
  • Clearing emergency vehicle access routes

Returning to the job site offers its own hazards. Post-storm recovery checklists can help workers resume work safely and avoid trips, slips, and falls over construction materials and natural debris, such as fallen tree limbs. A post-storm safety list also helps workers avoid electrocutions from damaged wiring or downed electric lines, falls from damaged ladders and scaffolding, and lacerations and puncture wounds from sharp debris. All sites and equipment should be inspected before employees re-enter. Contractors and subcontractors should carry out equipment and structural inspections and basic site housekeeping before any work resumes. All site recovery personnel should be equipped with appropriate Personal Protective Equipment.

Despite the best efforts of employers and employees, severe storms can cause situations that lead to work-related injuries, from sprains and mild concussions to permanently disabling injuries or even death.

If you are injured on the job, be sure to contact Styka & Styka, LLC, at (312) 358-8000 for help obtaining your full worker’s compensation benefits, including lost wages, future lost wages, and medical bill payments.

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