As Storms Ophelia and Georgina demonstrated earlier this year, weather events can impact significantly on construction projects. Ireland was fortunate in that the storm was flagged well in advance, allowing precautions to be adopted. This included significant works over the preceding weekend to secure scaffolding, add tie-in points, and remove loose objects and materials.
We may not always be so lucky. In many countries, wind is one of the major issues for construction projects. Sudden gusts and the force of winds present a real risk, particularly to temporary structures and areas where falling objects present a serious threat, causing planks to lift from scaffolding, flash flooding of excavated areas and collapsed hoardings on to public areas. Other risks include very heavy rain, extreme temperatures, lightning and fog.
The unpredictable nature of extreme weather events poses not only a general threat to safety, but a particular danger to members of the public around high-rise construction sites. These risks do not go not unaddressed, and temporary works, including scaffolding, should be designed to appropriate standards. For example, under ISEN 12810, connections and anchors can be subject to specific code of practice requirements, and a risk assessment for both the project and specific areas of works can be conducted at any given time.
Extremes of temperature can cause problems, even in Ireland. Asphalting roof areas in extreme heat while breathing in fumes, for example, can create a health risk over a prolonged period.
For works to existing tall structures, lightning protection during construction is a consideration, particularly with large amounts of metal and high level objects, such as scaffolding and cranes, potentially acting as conductors.
While weather events may not directly cause accidents, they can certainly increase existing risks, through reduced visibility, increased noise levels during strong winds, and presenting increased dangers within a fast-moving construction project.