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How to Prepare Your Construction Project for Winter

construction project winter
Construction
By Paul Netscher | Read time: 4 minutes

With the short days and long nights, it’s not hard to tell that winter is upon us. Weather conditions have rapidly gotten harsher and even the simplest tasks have seemed more difficult. Many projects will see snow and some will get rain. Winter is in full swing. Is your project ready for the season? 

During poor weather, production may be slowed, or even have to stop for safety reasons. Materials can’t be lifted in high winds. Workers have to take more frequent rest breaks when working at extreme temperatures and their movement could be hampered by cold weather or rain clothes. Concrete could take longer to set and reach sufficient strength to strip forms.

Rain slows and even stops production. Stormwater can flood excavations, damaging equipment, causing excavations to collapse and generally delay construction work. Rain can penetrate partly completed buildings damaging finishes and equipment. Stormwater flowing from the project can erode away neighboring properties, or deposit silt or contaminated material from your project site onto neighboring properties.

Preparing your project for winter

There is much to be done on projects while the weather is still good.

1. Make your project weathertight

For those on building projects, your aim should be to get your building weathertight, which will allow work to continue inside even while temperatures outside plummet. Working additional hours now to ensure your building is weathertight could be well worth the additional costs.

2. Groundworks

Complete all groundworks before the onset of poor weather.

3. Drains and gutters 

Check stormwater drains and gutters before the onset of wet weather. Often construction debris blocks stormwater drains. Sometimes drains are damaged by construction work or connections aren’t done properly. While the weather is still good clean and test drains and gutters to ensure there aren’t blockages and that they are all functioning. Blocked drains can lead to flooding and property damage. Nobody wants to go outside in a fierce winter storm to fix a problem that should have been sorted when the weather was still good.

4. Gear

Ensure that there’s sufficient stock of wet weather and cold weather gear. Unfortunately, your team often has to work in wet and cold conditions. Without the right gear, your project will lose productivity and time.

5. Weatherproof coverings

It could be prudent to have a stock of weatherproof coverings and tarpaulins available to protect unfinished work. It may even be advisable to have water pumps (with sufficient pipes) available in case excavations and basements become flooded.

6. Reduce work hours

The sun is rising later and setting earlier, with less daylight to work in. Consider reducing working hours to fit the new daylight hours. Otherwise, check that there’s sufficient lighting to enable work to safely proceed.

7. Roads

Check the site access roads to ensure they will be accessible even in the worst weather.

8. Hazard assessments

Review hazard assessments to ensure that they take account of the changed weather conditions. Hold tool-box meetings (tailgate, pre-start or safety meetings) to discuss the new risks with your crews.

9. Materials

Check that all materials are stored in such a way that they won’t be damaged by unfavorable weather.

10. Weather Warnings

In areas prone to severe winter storms, allocate someone to regularly monitor weather warnings. Sometimes, even a few hours warning could provide sufficient time to lock the project down, ensuring materials and equipment are safely stowed away, new work is protected and workers are safely out of harm’s way.

11. Shortage materials

Remember, bad weather can sometimes close transport routes for days, so ensure there is always sufficient stock of critical materials such as fuel. You don’t want your crew standing around because of a shortage of materials.

12. Recording

Ensure that the project records all weather events which could be the reason for a delay claim. It’s difficult to ask for an extension of time because of poor weather if you don’t have all the facts and figures that contributed to the delay. It’s important to maintain accurate weather records.

13. Schedule

Check that your construction schedule has allowed slack for the anticipated poor weather of the next few months. It may pay to try and get ahead of the schedule while the weather allows, especially items that’ll be impacted by poor winter weather.

14. Water pipes

Check that water pipes are protected from freezing

15. Get ready

Ensure that all equipment is ready for the cold weather, and check that there’s stock of snow chains for tires if they’re required.

Note, that even weather events far from the project could cause delays by blocking transport routes and preventing materials reaching the project. Work in offsite facilities could be impacted by poor weather at these locations.

Milder climates

Of course, some states are fortunate to have milder climates without rain and freezing temperatures. These cooler dry days offer opportunities to maximise productivities and progress. Ensure your crews make the most of the good weather.

Conclusion

Project managers are quick to blame poor weather for delays and damage to their project. However, with a little planning and preparedness, it’s often possible to limit some of the damage.

Over and above the changing seasons there seem to be more freak weather events. How prepared is your project for sudden and unexpected ferocious weather events? Well we can’t be prepared for all of these, however, it may be worth thinking about them, and at least formulating an emergency plan in case your project is about to be hit by a freak storm.

Is your project ready for the new season’s challenges and opportunities?

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