Navigating Autumn Hazards: Construction Site Safety Tips
Every season brings about its own hazards and, in the UK, Autumn is no exception. Whether you are just finishing a new build project or are embarking on a new one, you are sure to face a completely different hand come Autumn. Famous for its wet, muddy and unpredictable forecast, this season brings with it hazards that affect construction site safety like no other. During this resource, we will be identifying the Autumn hazards for construction site safety and provide probable solutions to help.
No matter your position on a construction site, it is crucial to always protect yourself. It is worth noting that all your normal health and safety procedures must continue as normal. However, the tips and information shared in this resource will be extremely valuable to help prevent accidents during this season. Let’s start by identifying all the autumn risks for a construction site.
Understanding autumn risks for construction sites
Autumn construction projects present different risks that you may not find as common in other seasons. Therefore, you must factor all risks into your method statement and compromise an action plan to combat them.
As well as the usual risks you normally cater for, during Autumn, you should look to control the following factors:
- Slips & Trips
- Visibility of Workforce
- Leaf debris
- Equipment choices
- Mental health
Autumn weather can be very unpredictable with low light and monsoon-like conditions. It is essential that you are aware of any storms or heavy downpours that are forecast. This will allow you to prepare your site and staff beforehand. It is also worth making a severe weather checklist for your site for different weather conditions. Now, let’s have a closer look at the potential hazards and ways you can implement to reduce injury occurring.
Slips & Trip Prevention During Autumn Construction Projects
By far the greatest risk in Autumn construction projects is slipping on muddy surfaces. Huge downpours can lead to insecure ground that can easily move. Over time, construction sites can become extremely muddy and pose a huge safety risk. Mud might seem harmless enough, however, it can increase the risk of slip, trips and fall, as well as the use of some equipment.
So, how can you help prevent these risks from causing serious or even fatal injury?
To limit the risk of injury you should start by improving the muddy terrain. This can be done in several ways. First is to set up drainage prior to the project starting, if you already know it you will be working throughout the Autumn months.
After setting up your drainage, you can further improve some areas by laying down gravel to increase traction. This would be ideal if you are using machinery or on heavily trafficked areas. This will ultimately lower the disruption of the ground and reduce the amount of mud being created. Less mud, less chance of slips in this situation.
Slips & Trips With Heavy Machinery In Autumn
Then we have got the stabilisation of heavy and large equipment. As you will be working with potentially uneven ground, you must take your time to steady and stabilize the machinery that you will operate in the area. This includes any lifting machinery such as cranes, telehandlers, rough terrain forklifts etc. You may wish to use trackpads to enhance the stability of the ground and reduce the amount of surface damage.
To avoid unwanted mud spreading and causing chaos across your site, always stick to your trackways. Thereafter, you should hose your machinery down to prevent caking and jamming. Always store on a hard surface to prevent the machine from sinking in the event of a severe downpour. Staff should be requested to clean the bottom of their boots before mounting or dismounting equipment to avert further slipping.
The significance of proper footwear during autumn construction tasks
When undergoing any type of project, the correct personal protective equipment should be adhered to. Footwear is one of the single most important pieces of PPE that you will find across all industries. In the case of autumn construction tasks, their importance does not waver. As we have already highlighted so far, slips and trips are some of the biggest hazards that you will have to navigate on an Autumn construction site.
The appropriate footwear is essential here. Ensure that it is adequate for the task at hand. This may include features such as steel toecaps, steel soles, waterproofing etc. Remember that outworn footwear can be dangerous in slippy conditions due to the lack of grip.
Combating Visibility during Autumn
During the Autumn months, another factor that affects everyone is lighting and visibility. This, like the other factors we will be facing; is something that is quite specific to this special season. During Autumn, we start to lose light faster as we delve into the Winter period.
Along with this is the factor of potential bad weather. Combating the visibility of workmen and their working hours is crucial to keeping a project on course for a scheduled completion. Low light conditions open a pandora’s box of opportunities for something to go wrong. Not only is it harder to see, but it also has a strain on the eyes of operators.
The best solution is to provide enough light to the whole area you are working in and ensure everyone can be seen. This can be done by using tower lightsand other illumination equipment, along with Hi-viz clothing. If you intend to use any tall retractable lighting equipment, make sure it is not left up in high winds or overnight if not in use. All lighting should be set up at ground level and in well-drained areas. You may need to reinforce the ground if you are stationing the equipment for some.
The importance of clearing leaves during Autumn construction projects
If you are not already accustomed to construction projects in the Autumn period, then one of the biggest hurdles you will come across is leaves. This natural debris looks beautiful at this time of year, but it can really pose some safety risks. Leaves hide uneven ground and become slick, leading to unforeseen accidents. Further, they also block drainage systems, air intakes and exhausts of equipment.
The best way to combat this hazard is to remove leaves daily prior to work commencing. How you do so is dependent on the size and scale of your task. Efficiency here is key. Remember this is an ongoing task and probably won’t take as long as you first might have thought. However, to combat this issue there are generally two main options. The first is by hand with a leaf rake or alternatively with a leaf blower.
By using either piece of equipment, you should aim to remove leaves from the area where you are working and all the main walkways. This will allow you to heavily reduce your risk of slips and trips, however, it is a task that needs completing daily. If your budget allows, using a leaf blower can vastly speed up this process, saving you a huge amount of time.
Navigating equipment during Autumn
Your choice of equipment use is essential, and as you have seen, in Autumn, there are many additional factors you need to bear in mind. In some cases, you may need to consider using specialised equipment to meet your targets and deadlines. Obviously, there are some things that no one can predict, however, having an action plan is crucial. Let’s have a closer look at a few of the factors you may wish to consider.
Low-ground pressure machinery
We have already noted that one of the largest risks in the Autumn season is waterlogged ground surfaces. One way to reduce your overall clean-up costs is to use low-ground pressure machinery. What this effectively means is that you can keep working with machinery that causes reduced damage to the ground. Usually, this is navigated by using tracked machinery. Machines like tracked dumpers and excavators are just some examples to start with. Having machinery like this easily available to you can make a huge difference when faced with a sticky situation.
Keeping staff safe and dry during Autumn months can be challenging. Especially when the weather can be so unpredictable. Therefore, using machinery that can keep them dry whilst working can make a huge difference in the morale of workers. This could be in the form of closed-cabbed machinery fitted with heaters. This will also aid in any unwanted illness occurring.
We have already touched on the importance of lighting and how the Autumn months affect the working hours. When navigating the correct lighting equipment, you may want to consider different power sources, heights, and efficiency ratings. Here are a few examples of different lighting solutions.
Providing a rest bite area for staff on construction sites should already be part of your method statement. Nevertheless, the type of welfare facilities you provide is totally optional. Reviewing these is important during Autumn to ensure they are adequate. Some units are unable to be moved once positioned which may not suit all construction sites. It is best to evaluate the flexibility, size and power capabilities prior to use. A fully flexible welfare unit example ideal for this time of year is our 6-man towable welfare units from Eco Fusion.
Mental health in construction during Autumn.
One area that is not talked about enough in the construction industry is the mental well-being of workers in Autumn. Out of all the sectors to work in, construction has the highest levels of suicide rates. Along with over 14,000 confirmed cases of stress and anxiety in the last year. This statistic is extremely important to be aware of especially when the months tumble towards the festive season. The risk of accidents can also rise during this period as staff can rush to complete tasks because of the cooler temperatures. Inevitably leading to an increased chance of mistakes happening.
Cold wet weather can take a huge toll on the mind and body as physically the heart has to pump harder in colder temperatures to regulate. This in turn results in workers becoming tired faster, as well as being affected by seasonal affective disorder. So what steps can you take to help improve mental well-being in Autumn?
Check in with your team daily to understand how they are doing. Monitor any unusual behaviours and provide space where appropriate. Providing easy access to support is also very beneficial for anyone who may be struggling at that time.
Issue staff take regular warm breaks
Taking regular breaks during the cooler months can aid in the tiredness of staff. Ultimately this also reduces the amount accidents happening overall. It is crucial that workers have access to a warm dry refuge and facilities to make a warm drink.
PPE is your last defence for workers to avoid injury if something is to go wrong. Ensure that all people working on your construction site have the correct equipment specific to their task. In Autumn this could vary depending on the trade you are in. This includes suitable hand and footwear.
Plan for potential illnesses throughout the team
Planning for potential illness is something that all construction businesses should be doing in the day in age. Especially when the nights start to draw in and are far cooler. The flu season runs in perfect tandem with Autumn, therefore being prepared is always key.
You may also need to make executive decisions on their return-to-work protocols after being unwell for some time. The last thing you will want to do is encourage unwell staff to return to work, as this could result in a whole gang being affected. It may even be worth revisiting your leave policies with your employees to benefit all parties involved.
Equipment rental suppliers specialising in Autumn Construction Projects
Purchasing a vast amount of the equipment mentioned in this resource can be unrealistic and unfeasible for a period of 3 months. That’s why many choose to hire equipment instead. For over 25 years WHC Hire has offered all types of machinery to help tackle Autumn construction projects. From specialised low-ground pressure machinery to everyday plant and tool hire, our vast fleet of equipment is available to both commercial and DIY outfits. View our entire collection here, or speak to one of our friendly team to get yourself kitted out for your next job. 01684377977