Do you face weather hazards in the construction industry on a regular basis? The environmental impact of greenhouse gases has made extreme weather more common and consequently, workers in the construction industry are more vulnerable to sudden weather events.
Risk management is so important for project success that the Project Management Institute dedicates a whole chapter of its Body of Knowledge to the topic. This applies to the construction industry, where the weather is one of the main risk factors since technical personnel are working outdoors with heavy equipment around partially-built structures. Tower cranes, in particular, are vulnerable to harsh winds, and should never be allowed to operate under unsuitable conditions.
Our 5 top tips can help to reduce the threat of weather hazards in construction.
Tip 1: Know the Weather Hazards in Construction
You cannot address a risk if you do not know what to expect. Therefore, you must be aware of the types of weather events that threaten construction projects. Wind gusts are a key risk, capable of tearing structures or making workers lose their footing. In cold weather, strong winds also have a chilling effect that can threaten staff caught outdoors in the open.
Effective risk management requires a planned approach to prevent and mitigate weather hazards in construction. To ensure effective risk management when planning a construction project it is important to answer two key questions:
- What potential risks are present in the project?
- During what stages of the project does each risk appear?
It is important to note that some risks are only present during certain project stages. For example, crane collapse is an important risk to address in high-rise construction, but the hazard is nonexistent during preliminary activities that do not require a crane.
Whilst high priority is given to the project schedule in construction, a risk management schedule is also very important. It gives construction managers a timetable for addressing risks.
Tip 2: Have Proper Risk Assessment Processes in Places
Not all project risks are equal, so they must be assessed appropriately.
- Each risk has an impact, which determines the extent of damage it can cause if it materialises.
- There is also a probability associated with each risk. This refers to the likelihood that it will occur over the course of the project.
You can determine the level of risk by mapping an impact-probability matrix. The first step is to define a scale for each attribute, for example from 1 to 10. Each risk is then assessed based on a weighted value that is the product of multiplying both numbers.
- For example, a strong gust is mildly threatening, so let’s assume an impact of 6/10. However, it is almost certain to occur during the winter (probability 10/10). In this case, the level of risk would be 60/100.
Although the values above are based on a partially subjective assessment of the situation, this approach is particularly useful to manage the risk of weather hazards in construction. The procedure can be repeated for many risks to fill a table, as shown in the following example:
Tip 3: Use a Full Weather Management Tool with Live Data
Weather forecasts provide a general idea of what to expect. However, they do not provide specific data for each location and do not reflect short-duration events such as wind gusts. To manage weather hazards in the construction industry you can only take accurate decisions based on live data that is specific to each project site.
A full weather management tool is far superior to weather forecasts when you want reliable data for each project site. In addition, measured data can be stored to justify missed deadlines and other project delays. Contractors are typically charged penalties for unjustified delays in the project delivery date, and logged weather data is valid justification if the weather was particularly harsh.
Tip 4: Train Your Staff on Hazards
Construction managers cannot be everywhere at once. Therefore, risk management must be an organisation-wide process, not a task for just a few staff members. Make sure the risk management plan is made clear to everyone during the project kickoff meeting, and you can also offer quick training in case someone is not familiarised with the concept.
If you will be using an integrated weather monitoring solution such as WINDCRANE make sure everyone installs the application on their smartphone and knows how it works. You should inform your staff members that the system will send them automatic notifications when dangerous weather conditions are detected.
Tip 5: Use the Data to Make the Right Decisions and Mitigate Risk
When managing weather hazards in construction projects, live data should be the basis for decisions. The weather can be subjective and what seems like bad weather for one project manager may not appear so threatening to another. Data eliminates this issue since all decisions to pause and resume a project are based on measured values.
In a construction project weather management is continuous, not an activity that can be addressed once per day and forgotten until the next day. Smart data makes weather management both easier and more effective.
Weather hazards are a real risk for the construction industry. To ensure worker safety, you need live and up-to-date weather information in the palm of your hand. Reliable data eliminates subjective judgments and allows you to make decisions based on measured data for the good of your workforce.