The main purpose of scaffolding in construction, building or repair projects is to improve the safety of those working at height. This is achieved by providing a protected area in which to operate at higher levels.
But whether you’re erecting a scaffold or working on one, it’s still a dangerous task. And the risks are dramatically increased during adverse weather and stormy conditions.
Unfortunately, the stark reality is that storms are becoming ever more frequent in the UK. February 2020 was the wettest February on record. We’ve already seen Storm Arwen and Storm Barra batter our coastlines and cause damage across the UK and Ireland this winter. This has led climate scientists to warn that Britain must brace itself for more storms in the future. It’s clear safety on scaffolding must be a top priority on any project.
Battling against the elements
Stormy conditions present many risks to scaffolders and construction workers alike.
Whatever type of scaffold you’re using, even light rain will increase the risks of slips, trips and falls. Wooden scaffold boards are a particular slip hazard. If the rain is too hard, or your team is concerned about the working conditions, it’s vital you bring your employees down until the weather has passed and the scaffold has been deemed safe to use again. Of course, we understand there are tight deadlines to be met, but worker safety must always be the first priority. It's not worth risking an injury or death to meet a project deadline.
We’re all used to a bit of wind too, and granted, a light breeze may not be a good enough reason to postpone a job. But if the wind speed becomes too high, risks are significantly increased. There are many examples of scaffolds overturning or collapsing in high-wind situations, especially if they haven’t been appropriately fixed or tested. For example, the recent Storm Barra had a devastating impact in Ireland, with a scaffold collapsing in Derry due to the high winds.
Scaffolding can be erected for weeks or months, and is therefore subjected to an array of different weather conditions. It must be properly erected and prepared for all scenarios. The Work at Height Regulations 2005 require scaffolding to be inspected by a competent person every seven days, as well as immediately after extreme weather events such as storms or high winds, to ensure they are safe to use going forward.
Always check the weather
Keeping a close eye on the weather forecast in your local area will help prepare you and your team for the worst of the storms, and hopefully give you adequate time to conduct any safety checks before the unfavourable weather sets in. Heavy rainfall, icy surfaces and snowfall are massive safety concerns for a scaffolder. Knowing in advance that you may need to postpone a project before a storm takes hold will ensure your team is not put in a precarious position.
Take regular breaks
Even if the storm isn’t strong enough to postpone the work, it’s still important your team takes regular breaks. The cold and rain can negatively impact health and safety, but also productivity. Giving your team the opportunity for a warm cup of tea will improve moral and safety significantly.
Increased health and safety checks
A critical part of staying safe when scaffolding should be regular safety checks. These must be increased in winter and certainly before and after any storms. The drop in temperature and unpredictable weather will put a greater strain on your equipment, raising the risk of certain aspects failing. Frames especially must be more frequently risk assessed and cleaned regularly to prevent rust, ice, or a build-up of muck.
Product guide - Is your scaffold safe?
Scaffold sheeting plays an important role in keeping your site safe. It can help protect those working on scaffolds from the elements so work can continue safely. That said, if the storms are too severe, it’s always best to ensure work is paused until safe to resume.
To ensure your scaffold sheeting performs during stormy weather, it should conform to BS7955. The best practice advice when using compliant sheeting is that it should be installed as advised by the manufacturer. The installation process should never take place during windy conditions. Furthermore, if too few fastening ties are used, sheeting could detach prematurely. Your sheeting should be inspected at regular intervals, or straight after a storm, to ensure that it's still securely tied. Any damage should be rectified.
If you’re working on a scaffold structure that could be subjected to stormy conditions, you’ll need to be confident your scaffold fixings are strong. The BIGBEN® Pull Tester Kit establishes the safe working loads or validates the correct installation of existing fittings, giving you confidence your scaffold will hold strong.
If you need to quickly secure scaffolding or other temporary structures to the ground, the BIGBEN® Hurricane Ground Anchor is just what you need. It can be installed in seconds too, and reused again and again. Perfect to quickly secure structures when a storm is on the way.
Ensure your scaffold fittings remain in tip top shape before the storm arrives. Scaffeze is the perfect solution to inject new life into your fittings.
During adverse weather, your boards may become loose and could cause serious injury. Leach’s Scaffold Board Clamps are designed to enhance safety on sites by ensuring scaffold boards remain in a secure position, especially during stormy weather.
We make scaffolding safe during storms
The scaffolding profession is a dangerous one if the right precautions aren’t taken. The winter season brings increased risks of stormy weather – we’re here to help you make sure your site is prepared. Contact our sales team on 01432 346890 for further guidance.