I was sitting here this morning trying to decide what to write about next when a bolt of lightning struck right outside the office. We all know (or should know) we should not use scaffolding during a lightning storm, but what other weather conditions could be considered too dangerous for scaffolding use? In this blog article, we will talk about using scaffolding in different situations.
In many places, Summertime is the ideal season for working outdoors. Many do not realize there are dangers to be aware of when the sun comes out. The first and most evident of these dangers is heat. Some areas of the country do not get as hot as others, but heat is a real danger in most places. OSHA sets these guidelines for working in the heat:
91°-103° Be alert and aware of possible heat-related injuries
103°-115° Take extra precautions to prevent heat-related injuries
115°+ Aggressive measures should be used in extreme heat
Heat can become deadly quickly. Heat stroke and Heat exhaustion can overcome workers when they focus more on a task than their own health. Prevention is key. You should take extra measures to prevent heat injury when the outside temperature becomes 90° or above. Preventative measures include:
Additional water/electrolytes available at all times
Frequent breaks Cooling areas (these should be shaded areas, possibly with fans or coolers) Cooling areas should be located outdoors and not in air-conditioned buildings, as the extreme change in temperature can cause shock.
Change the working hours to avoid the hottest parts of the day. For example, come in earlier and leave earlier.
Be hyper-aware of the symptoms of heat exhaustion and treat them accordingly. The symptoms of heat exhaustion are:
fast pulse or weakened pulse
If any worker exhibits any of these symptoms, stop work immediately and have them cool down. If needed, call 911. Heat can also cause the scaffolding to become extremely hot, causing burns to the hands or other exposed skin areas. Sunlight can burn unprotected eyes. It is highly recommended that tinted protective eyewear be used on sunny days, regardless of the temperature.
Freezing temperatures can easily cause injury and accidents. In climates that have a long cold winter, there are different ways to deal with the cold than in more temperate climates. For Example, Texas does not stay below freezing for long periods. By the time we set up the heaters and blockades, it would be warm again, so instead of worrying about the frigid temperatures, we often do not work unless it's 40° and rising. We may lose one or two days in winter and rarely more than a week. In the Northern States, winter may be more dangerous. Scaffolding is often used using heaters and tarps, even in the coldest weather. In either situation, freezing weather can be hazardous to workers. The leading causes of injury in the winter are Hypothermia and Frostbite. Hypothermia happens when a person's body loses heat faster than it can produce it, and Hypothermia can potentially freeze the person to death. Hypothermia is particularly dangerous because it affects the brain and causes the person to become confused to the point they do not realize they are freezing to death. Everyone on the job site must know the symptoms and how to treat Hypothermia. Several factors can cause Hypothermia on the job. It does not have to be below freezing for someone to become Hypothermic either, and Hypothermia can set in temperatures as high as 50°. People who work outdoors are particularly vulnerable, as are those actively sweating throughout the day. Symptoms of Hypothermia are:
Shaky or restless hands
Shivering or chills
Hypothermia is an Emergency. The person must be warmed up as quickly as possible. Until help arrives, you should:
Find warm shelter. A heated building is best, but get them out of the weather.
If their clothing is wet, remove it.
Warm the person by whatever means is best. If you have a heated blanket available, that would be the best, but you can also use skin-to-skin contact, dry blankets or clothing, towels, or sheets.
Warm drinks will help raise internal temperatures. Warm water or coffee is best, and No alcohol.
Call 911 if the person is not breathing, start CPR till help arrives.
Frostbite is another possibility in the winter months. Frostbite is common on exposed skin, especially the face, hands, and feet. If feet and hands are protected (gloves, boots, etc.,) they can still get frostbite, especially in frigid temperatures and when a person sweats. Symptoms of frostbite are:
White, grey, or yellow skin
numbness or tingling in extremities
firm or waxy skin
How to treat frostbite:
Check that Hypothermia is not present.
Get the person into a heated building or room.
Place the affected body part in warm, not hot, water or use body heat.
To prevent burns, do not use a heating pad, fire, Gas heaters, or radiators to warm the person.
Another danger in winter and cold weather is slip/fall accidents and collapsing scaffolding. Ice and snow can accumulate on the deck. When this happens, you have slip/fall accidents. It also adds to the load on the deck, causing a possible collapse of the scaffolding. The deck should be shoveled and removed from snow and ice to prevent these dangers. You can wait to work on the scaffold until the snow and ice melt.
Each safety person on a job will need to use their own judgment as to when to pull workers on windy days. There are no actual rules for scaffolding. Some use the crane operator rules, which is 40 mph. Most, however, pull guys way before that point. It is important to note that workers will start to lose balance at around 20 mph, depending on height. We also should remember the structural integrity of the scaffold itself. Even the best-built scaffolding will sway, which can cause collapse.
Most jobs shut down when it rains, and it just makes sense. Rain can be miserable, depending on temperature, can cause Hypothermia and makes an extremely slippery deck. If you decide to use scaffolding in the rain, follow these precautions:
Scaffolding WILL be slippery. Use caution when climbing. Maintain three points at all times.
Check the stability of the scaffolding before use.
Check weather conditions daily, especially during tornado and hurricane seasons.
If there are storms in the area (or near the site), DO NOT use the scaffolding at all, this includes dismantling and erecting scaffolding. Please Note that lightning can strike 200 miles from a storm. This means if there is a storm leaving the area or one headed toward the area, it will still be dangerous to use the scaffolding. Hurricanes usually have plenty of warnings before they hit. If a hurricane is warned for your area, dismantle the scaffolding and secure it safely.
Always use scaffolding in the way it was intended. Keep an eye on the weather and your crew, and always use caution in inclement weather.