The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast strong and gale force winds for parts of NSW.
You must proactively manage the risks caused by high winds on construction sites, as they can cause death and destruction.
This safety alert reminds managers, supervisors and workers of the risks associated with high or strong gusting winds in the building and construction industry and the actions required to ensure those risks are eliminated or minimised.
High or strong gusting winds are often associated with very low-pressure systems, thunderstorms, squalls, willy-willies, mini cyclones and cyclones.
Recently a building company and its subcontractors were fined a total of $620,000 for breaches of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 after a brick wall fell on two men, killing one and injuring another at a building site in Carlingford.
A bricklaying subcontractor was fined $500,000, the principal contractor was fined $60,000, and another company director, was also fined $60,000 following a prosecution by SafeWork NSW.
In 2017, the principal contractor was contracted to build a two-storey duplex at a site in Carlingford. The company hired a third party to manage activities on the site who in turn engaged a subcontractor to build a wall to divide the duplexes. The company built a 6.5 metre wall that was subsequently found to have been inadequately braced.
On August 16, two carpenters were working near the base of the wall. It was a poor weather day with wind speeds of up to 74 km/h recorded.
The wall fell on top of the pair, pinning them both. One worker was unresponsive and died at the scene, while the other suffered scratch marks to his face and was treated for shock.
In this case, risk assessments were not completed at this site, nor were temporary supports installed, safe work method statements implemented, or adequate supervision provided to workers.
All these things put the workers on site at significant risk. The SafeWork NSW codes of practice outlines how to manage construction risks in line with the legislation and all employers are responsible for complying with this guidance.
If you find yourself working unsupervised on a dangerous building site, stop and report it to SafeWork on 13 10 50 or via the Speak Up Save Lives app.
Prosecuted parties have the right to appeal their sentences.
Measures for controlling the risks
Ensure all your workers and others are warned about the dangers of high or strong gusty winds on the construction site.
Site managers should make adequate preparations to deal with the high winds or strong gusty winds in their workplace:
- Check weather forecasts and monitor conditions regularly.
- For sudden or short-term weather events cease work until high or gusty winds have subsided.
- Ensure structures under construction such as brick/block walls, partition walls, prefabricated concrete panels are adequately braced or otherwise supported from collapse due to wind loads.
- Ensure temporary structures such as scaffolds, screens, formwork/falsework, site fencing or similar are adequately designed for wind loading and check they are securely tied to the building or structure. Particular attention is needed if containment sheeting, cladding or signage has been added due to the additional forces on the scaffold. Consult the designer or an engineer if you are unsure.
- Cease crane operations when the wind speed exceeds the manufacturers specified limit. The manufacturer may specify different limits depending on the activity.
- Do not use indoor rated elevating work platforms outdoors or in partially completed structures where the lack of walls or roofs leaves them exposed to winds.
- Do not operate hoisting equipment (personnel or material) in high or gusty winds, refer to manufacturers’ guidelines.
- Ensure dusts are controlled or minimised in high or gusty winds.
- Ensure that tools are packed away and building materials secured to prevent them from becoming airborne.
- Wear eye protection to keep dust, debris and other foreign particles from blowing into the eyes.
- Where hard hats are a falling object hazard, ensure chin straps are worn.