Safety alert issued over strong and gusty winds

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Sunday, 6 September, 2020 - 12:15
Policy & legislation
New South Wales

SafeWork NSW recently issued a safety alert after the Bureau of Meteorology forecast strong and gale force winds for parts of NSW.

The regulator advised construction companies to proactively manage the risks caused by high winds as they can cause death and destruction.

The alert reminded 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,” the alert said.

WorkSafe Victoria also issued a safety warning which urged employers to ensure their work sites are secured as potentially damaging winds moved across the state.

A severe weather warning was issued by the Bureau of Meteorology, with peak gusts of around 100km/h possible over western and central Victoria before extending to parts of Gippsland and the state’s north-east.

Loose objects on sites need to be removed from exposed areas or suitably secured to prevent them from blowing away, said Worksafe Victoria’s acting director, construction program Tony Cockerell.

“Buildings under construction, temporary fencing, roof sheets, scaffold planks and unsecured tools can become dangerous, airborne objects in high winds if not secured properly,” Cockerell said.

Winds at low elevations are expected to ease slightly for a period this afternoon before increasing again overnight.

Cockerell said it is, therefore, critical employers ensure work sites are properly inspected to reduce the risks associated with high winds before workers head home.

“Where there is a risk of objects being blown around, there is a risk that workers and the general public will be harmed,” he said.

The SafeWork NSW safety alert said 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.