SafeWork NSW recently issued a safety alert warning employers and principal contractors to proactively manage the risks associated with high winds on construction sites in order to reduce the risk of serious injuries and fatalities.
The alert said principal contractors, site supervisors and workers need to be aware of the risks often associated with very low-pressure systems, thunderstorms, squalls, willy-willies, mini cyclones and cyclones.
Construction sites can have varying levels of risk from strong or gusty winds, depending on the stage of the build, the associated plant and materials on-site and the general environmental conditions of the site.
In recent years, there have been serious incidents involving the collapse of masonry walls and scaffolds reported to SafeWork NSW.
Walls under construction or demolition can be at risk of collapse in high winds due to the lack of lateral support usually provided by permanent wall returns or other sections of the final structure.
Newly built masonry walls have a reduced mortar strength and can have a line of weakness through damp course membranes.
Scaffolds can collapse, fall sideways or have loose items blown off work platforms in high winds and adverse weather.
The alert said site managers must make adequate preparations to deal with high or strong gusty winds in their workplace.
And for masonry and other walls special note:
Do not seek shelter behind walls of incomplete structures during extreme weather events, even if temporary supports are in place