As the mornings are starting to get colder, it’s easy to start getting excited for the cosy autumn and winter seasons; whether you have started putting together your Christmas plans, or you have stocked up on plush blankets and hot chocolate, there are a range of activities that you can explore to get into the festive mood.
However, despite the colder temperatures bringing plenty of festive joy; there are also a few practical things that people need to prepare for too. It is no secret that Britain can be prone to harsh winters. From numerous snow days to icy winds and weeks of wet weather (plus lest we forget the Beast from the East in 2018), and as a consequence, this can make it more likely for slips and falls, road accidents, illnesses and more.
This may not be too much of a concern for those who work in an office. However, for individuals who work outside, like building and scaffolding contractors, it is imperative that teams and individuals are taking the necessary precautions to make sure that both the work can be completed but also that their safety isn’t compromised.
With this in mind, as a leading scaffolding design and inspection company, we have years of experience in making sure that both our scaffolds and contractors are safe. And, we have worked through many cold winters – so we know how to look after our staff but also reassure clients that the work will be completed. Below, we have collated together our top safety tips for scaffolders and scaffolding companies to follow during the winter.
First and foremost, we thought it best to outline the preliminary scaffolding safety requirements as set out by the Health and Safety Executive. This is because this states the general high standard that scaffolding companies should be following regardless of weather.
Firstly, it is a requirement by the Work at Height Regulations 2005 that a scaffold should be designed by a competent person to ensure that it has accurate strength, rigidity, and stability when both erected and dismantled. During the planning process for erecting scaffolding, a comprehensive report should be supplied of the site including the following:
Period of time the scaffolding should be put in place
Height, length and critical dimensions of the site that would affect the scaffolding
Number of boarded lifts
Maximum working loads and maximum number of persons allowed on the scaffolding at one time
Type of access onto the scaffold
Whether there is a requirement for sheeting, netting or brick guards
Any specific requirements that need to be considered before construction i.e obstructing a pedestrian walkway
Nature of the ground conditions supporting the structure
Any restrictions that would affect the erection of the scaffolding
After this, another report would be created discerning the type of scaffolding needed, the maximum amount of loads, minimum lift heights, maximum tie spacing and more regarding the scaffolding design.
Yet, with the above considerations in mind, you need to take into account the weather forecasts before scaffolding erection. For instance, if you are planning to complete a build or renovation during the winter – it will be advisable to include this and perhaps include netting over scaffolding. Netting is used to contain both debris and shield workers from harsh winds and bad weather.
It is vital that at the start of the day before work begins that scaffolding checks are performed by the competent person or site manager to detect that the site is safe to work from. Even though this should be performed no matter the time of year, it is imperative that these checks, as well as further checks, should be carried out from late September.
This is because as the temperature drops during the night, water and dew are more likely to freeze over causing slippery surfaces – a potentially very dangerous issue if scaffolders are working at a height.
Though the ice would melt as the temperatures heat up throughout the day, this could mean that the scaffolding boards are still slippery to work from depending on the weather. If this is the case, then make sure that your scaffolders are not working from a height or that they start later in the day.
Alongside performing extra scaffolding checks, scaffolding companies should take weekly and monthly precautions to get accurate weather updates of the week ahead. For instance, if snowfall is predicted, high winds, and minus temperatures then you can take the necessary precautions to inform staff, make decisions and keep good communication with the client.
Though winter brings plenty of festivities, it also is accompanied by dark mornings and dark evenings. During December, it can feel like it is starting to get light at 8am and dark at 3pm, not ideal for scaffolders and contractors who have to work before, during and after this time.
This is why it is imperative to make sure that you take the precautions to create a well-lit site. Not only does this ensure the safety of your contractors by being able to see the work they are doing, but also it will make the site visible to other persons outside of the site like pedestrians and drivers – especially important if the work is taking place in a commercial building or in a busy pedestrian area.
Alongside extra lighting, you should also make sure that high visibility clothing is worn by the contractors too. This will help enhance their presence on-site and make it safer to work.
If deadlines are tight, but you are hit with a case of bad weather, it can be frustrating to make your contractors work. A way to remedy this is to make sure that your employees take extra breaks, are well fed and hydrated, and they spend time in a warm building to avoid risk of illness and build morale amongst the employees.
This one may sound obvious, but you should make sure that your contractors are wrapping up warm for work. This could include stocking extra-thick high vis jackets that are designed for outdoor work in mind, or stocking thermal underlayers for them to wear.
You could also produce a pamphlet that you can hand out to employees as cold weather approaches informing them what they should wear to stay warm and why it is a requirement to do so.
Like wrapping up warm, you should make sure that the scaffolders are wearing non-slip footwear when erecting and working on scaffolds. Work and combat boots are specially designed to provide good grip and resistance to icy temperatures. After all, bad footwear can be a catalyst for a range of awful accidents that you could be liable for.
Make it a requirement to wear these throughout the winter, and don’t allow any scaffolder to work from a height if they don’t wear them.
Of course, if heavy snowfall is predicted for a few days – it is vital that you do not allow work to continue. This is because this can create incredibly slippery and icy surfaces, freezing temperatures and also slowed productivity. It is simply not worth it to compromise the safety of your scaffolders and force them to work. What’s more, it is likely that public transport will be disrupted and driving conditions will be less than favourable – so, if you scaffolders have to travel far to get to work, you could be simply putting them at risk before the day has properly started.
If you do get any unexpected weather changes, or you believe that it is simply too cold for your scaffolders to be working outside, then you need to make sure that you keep good communication with the client. Simply giving them enough notice that work won’t be carried out, and giving them a timeline for when work will presume and how this will affect the renovation or construction overall will mean that a good working relationship will be established.
Having good communication with the client is recommended anyway, simply because this will mean that you will get a positive testimonial, it is good practise and you are more likely to get future work.
Here at DH Scaffold Services, we want to make sure that scaffolders remain safe during harsh autumn and winter weather. That is why we offer high-quality scaffolding inspection service to make sure that safety is never compromised. We can make sure that your scaffolding structure is sturdy and rigid from the outset, as well as providing top tips to make sure that contractors remain well and at no risk from accidents.
Alongside this, we offer a range of other services including scaffolding design and as-built scaffolds to hire. To find out more about us, simply contact us today.