Top Takeaway: Heat stress and the risk of falling are both serious hazards when working at height in the summer. Combined they can be deadly, so stay cool and plan ahead to keep everyone safe this season.
Summer is synonymous with construction. Its consistent weather and sunny days make working outside significantly easier and safer than harsher seasons. The heat, however, is not always your friend.
Heat stress is a major problem on jobsites throughout the warmer months and can complicate already hazardous jobs, such as working at height. Here are five rules that must be followed if your site involves working at height this summer.
1. Watch the weather.
Summer weather is typically reliable. It’s hot, maybe humid, and has significantly less precipitation to worry about. While this reduces the risk of slipping, summer brings its own hazards, like heat stress and lightning storms. Keep an eye on the weather and make sure your site is prepared for anything the season can throw at you.
2. Cover up.
Heat stress occurs when your body warms up faster than it can cool down. Although it feels nice to lose the layers, exposing your skin to the sunlight increases the rate at which your body heats up. Instead of going sleeveless, wear light, loose clothing with long sleeves and legs, UV-blocking sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect yourself from the worst of the sun’s rays.
3. Stay hydrated.
Staying hydrated is the most important factor in preventing heat-related illness. Keep a water bottle close at hand throughout the day, refilling it every time you empty it. Drinking water will cool you down and keep you alert, and refilling your bottle will give you regular opportunities to step out of the sun.
4. Use appropriate fall protection and prevention.
Drier weather reduces the likelihood of slipping, but it’s still crucial to utilize the appropriate fall prevention and protection equipment for the height you’re at (WorkSafeBC has a simple guide here). Take time to lay out a fall prevention and rescue plan, making sure everyone on site is familiar with it. When you’re not wearing your PPE, store it in a cool, dry place to prevent any damage from the sun or heat.
5. Don’t wait to get help.
Getting dizzy or passing out while still at height could put yourself and others in extreme danger as they try to rescue you. Heatstroke can progress quickly, so if you start to feel symptoms such as a headache, dizziness, or you’ve stopped sweating, get back to the ground as quickly and safely as possible to get treatment.
Worried about how heat stress will affect your jobsite? Learn more about what it is and how to prevent it in our Summer Jobsite Safety article.
If your going to working with any form of tower crane you had best know your hand signals to ensure safe and effective communications.
Download our new “Tower Crane Hand Signals” chart here.
Wind is a major hazard when working at height, even on days that seem calm. Be prepared by keeping objects and tools that are not in use well secured, and always wear the appropriate PPE for the job you’re doing.
Windy days can make working at height dangerous for everyone on the job-site. Strong gusts
can cause you to lose balance, blow tools and materials off of platforms, and weaken structures. Follow these best practices to ensure a safe job-site, no matter the weather.
DO Use a wind meter.
General wind readings are usually taken at ground level and cover a large area, like a city or
neighborhood. This makes them a useful tool for planning, but they don’t provide enough
information to ensure safety on your job-site, especially when heights are involved. Wind speeds
can increase by up to 50% at 20 meters above ground, which means a manageable breeze on
the ground can translate to near gale force winds at height. Use one of our NAVIS wind meters
to get accurate readings that reflect how your site is affected by gusts and how the surrounding
buildings and landscapes are influencing wind currents.
DON’T Underestimate gusts.
Even on calm days, gust of wind are still hazardous, as they can come out of nowhere and
travel up to two times faster than the average wind-speed. Again, use a wind meter to monitor
conditions, as you may need to quit working at height if gusts are too strong, and store
materials and tools securely when not in use.
DO Treat flat materials with caution.
Flat materials like sheets of plywood can easily turn into sails if hit by strong enough winds,
and can drag people off heights or fall onto those working below. On windy or gusty days, make
sure to carry flat materials horizontally in pairs and secure them tightly when not in use.
DON’T React to blowing objects.
Strong winds can blow away tools, hard hats, papers, and more, but at height it’s important to
fight the immediate urge to catch blowing objects. It sounds counter-intuitive but reacting too
quickly could cause you to lose your balance or could distract you from other hazards blowing
toward you. If something begins to blow away, take a beat before retrieving it to ensure you can
do so in a safe way.
DO wear the right Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).
The right PPE could make the difference between a close call and a trip to the hospital. Wear eye
protection on breezy days to keep out dust and debris, and make sure your hard hat is securely fastened to keep it from blowing off your head. Most importantly, always wear a harness at heights of 1.5 meters and above, as 30% of fatal falls happen at heights of 2 meters or lower, and 50% happen at 3 meters or less.
DON’T Make covers without holes.
It may be tempting to create a sheltered area in windy conditions (especially if they’re coupled with
cold weather) but like sheets of material, covers made of tarp or plywood can tear away whatever anchor or platform they’re attached to if caught by a strong enough wind. We don’t recommend making these kinds of shelters, but if you must make a cover for yourself, cut holes in it to allow the wind to pass through without carry it away.
DO Know when to stop working.
Losing a day of work is manageable, losing a co-worker to injury or worse is not. Create a plan to deal with windy conditions. We’ve found Wilkins Safety Group’s Beaufort Scale Safety Guide, which details
the precautions that should be taken at various wind speeds, is an extremely helpful tool in creating
DON’T Assume, inspect your structures.
Strong winds over extended periods of time can cause structures to weaken or lean at unsafe angles.
Always check over scaffolding, platforms and their anchor points after a wind storm to ensure they are
still secure to work on, and that nothing has shifted that will cause them to fall or collapse.
Working at Height in the Spring: 10 Ways to Stay Safe
Written by: Jen Adams
Key Takeaway: Be prepared for unpredictable spring weather by keeping the job-site clean,
planning for the forecasted weather, using the right PPE, and taking thorough
Temperatures may be rising, but spring brings its own set of risks (and borrows some from
winter) that need to be taken seriously. Keep these best practices in mind while you’re working
at height this season to stay safe while enjoying the breeze.
1. Always check the weather.
The only thing consistent about spring weather is that it changes consistently. Be prepared for
the heat or cold by checking the weather ahead of time and plan accordingly, and always be
prepared for sudden changes that could occur.
2. Complete thorough safety checks on all large equipment.
With inconsistent weather comes loose earth, mud that gets everywhere, and a higher risk
of rust when equipment is repeatedly soaked and left to dry. Always make sure to check
equipment and machinery before using it and stay up to date on safety regulations by
checking WorkSafeBC.com and using tools like Bigfoot’s Crane Academy.
3. Secure your materials.
High winds can pick up quickly in the spring and are often stronger the higher you work, as the
site is usually more exposed. Make sure the materials you are working with are secure at all
times to avoid injuries or falls from loose materials or objects blowing around.
4. Avoid using power tools in rainy or wet conditions.
Water is an excellent conductor of electricity. By using power tools in the rain or wet after a
rain, you not only run the risk of damaging your tools, but risk electric shock or electrocution if
any wires become exposed while you work. Play it safe and use hand tools where possible or
set up cover over your work area to keep the area dry.
5. Be wary of thunder and lightning storms.
Spring storms are especially dangerous to those working at heights, as lightning is drawn to
metal and tall structures. Monitor the weather report, be aware of your environment, and if the
weather looks dicey, don’t risk working in a storm.
6. Give yourself some traction.
Slipping is always a risk when working on the job-site but becomes even more so when working at
height on wet surfaces. Wear boots and gloves that fit well (make sure they are tight enough that
they can’t slip off, but not so tight as to cut off circulation) and have a lot of traction and grip to
7. Always wear appropriate fall PPE, even if working at a lower height.
Most fall-related accidents occur at 30 ft. or less because people view lower heights as less
dangerous, but it takes very little height for a fall to cause injury or even death. Height should be
treated seriously and with caution in any season, but mud and rain make it especially important
to utilize fall PPE in the spring.
8. Let your fall PPE dry naturally before its next use.
Drying equipment with an electric dryer or heater can weaken or melt the material, ruining the
equipment and putting its user at risk. Blot your equipment with towels and hang it up to dry
completely on its own whenever it gets wet, and always check it carefully before each use.
9. Dress warmly enough, and cool enough.
Spring weather may feel warm compared to winter, but its unpredictable nature means that
temperatures can drop to hazardous temperatures, especially when coupled with consistent
cold rains. Dress in layers to ensure you can always keep up with whatever cold or heat the day
throws at you.
10. Train staff to identify weather-based illnesses.
Heat and cold stress occur when the body either warms up faster than it can cool (resulting in
heat exhaustion or sunstroke) or cools down faster than it can warm up (resulting in frostbite
or hypothermia). While they happen more often in summer and winter, they can also strike in
temperatures that don’t seem very extreme. People working at heights can also be at a higher
risk as they tend to be more exposed to the elements. Make sure there are staff on site who are
trained to recognize and treat signs of heat and cold illnesses.
Click here to download: Working at Height in the Spring: 10 Ways to Stay Safe
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Bigfoot Crane Company Inc.
2170 Carpenter Street
Abbotsford, BC V2T 6B4
Toll free: 1-877-852-2192
Local: (604) 854-3218
Fax: (604) 854-5716