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Are You Ready for a Hurricane?

Hurricane Irene is set to hit the east coast of the United States within days…do you know how to prepare your construction sites to minimize damage not only to your site but to the public areas surrounding your jobsite? Keep reading! The following information is a good plan to help you out!

The following plan outlines steps to prepare your site in the event of a hurricane or tropical storm. Keep in mind, when a hurricane watch is issued, hurricane or hurricane conditions (winds of 74 mph or greater) may threaten your area within 36 hours with notification 3 days out. A hurricane warning is a warning of sustained winds of 74 mph or higher expected in your area within 24 hours.

During severe weather, you are responsible for securing your job sites for the protection of your employees, the public, property, as well as yourself. Materials such as plywood, shingles, and scraps of 2x4s become missiles capable of impaling thick oak trees, brick walls or anything else in its way. Construction debris can cause severe damage to property and cost lives. Any failure to take necessary measures may result in lawsuits, fines, loss of license, or other actions permitted by state laws or local ordinances.

All sites should develop a “telephone tree” of phone numbers which will include the project manager, project superintendent, and subcontractor foremen. The purpose of this list will be to keep all parties in contact with each other during an emergency situation.

When a hurricane or tropical storm watch is initially issued, a person on site should be assigned to monitor weather reports for changes in the storm situation. This includes monitoring while on the job site and while at home. The project superintendent should make an evaluation of the amount of work necessary to secure the project site. A meeting with subcontractor foremen should also be held to outline your expectations for securing the job site, explain your contingency plan, and share phone numbers.

WHEN A HURRICANE IS APPROACHING

As a general rule, keep all jobsites clean, arrange for timely pick up of trash dumpsters, only keep materials on the job site you actually will install at any given week, and keep construction equipment secure or remove them from the job site. Once you become aware of any impending hurricane, or a hurricane watch is issued, arrange to have dumpsters removed, and postpone any planned supply deliveries.

Keep a watchful eye out for missing materials and unauthorized persons on site. Plywood becomes a necessity during a hurricane warning and has the possibility of being removed from the site.

When a hurricane warning is issued, remove all dumpsters and scaffolding, and remove, or safely secure, all building materials and equipment. Alert all subcontractors of their responsibilities to secure or remove their materials and equipment. Stop job processes that will likely become damaged by the hurricane, such as window installations, housewrap, or landscaping. On the other hand, complete those construction tasks that will likely prevent damage, such as concrete work, closing in a house, or filling in foundation excavations. Finally, follow through with a quick inspection of your job sites. Do not wait until the last minute to inspect your job sites, as you may need that time to evacuate.

Keep your computers in a safe location, with surge-protection, and if you deem important, an uninterruptible power supply. To avoid delays due to closed or inaccessible office supply stores, have extra supplies of ink cartridges, paper, and computer disks. Keep important office supplies stored in a secure location, possibly offsite if needed. When a hurricane warning is issued, back-up all important computer files and keep the back-up tapes or disks in a secure location.

Immediately make preparations to return rental equipment to lessen liability concerns on site. Subcontractors should remove their heavy equipment, if possible, off site as soon as possible. In the event the equipment cannot be returned or moved or is owned, ensure all equipment is secured in the following manner:

Rough terrain cranes, lifts, loaders, trucks, etc: This equipment should be parked against any permanent structure on site with all outriggers, buckets, hoes, etc. in the parked position. This equipment should be parked in groups. Ensure all fuel tanks are filled prior to storage.

Conventional Cranes: Lower the boom to lay on the ground and secure the headache ball using the winch and hook.

Tower Cranes: Clean all loose materials from the upper platforms and out of the cab. Release the swing break so the boom will be in a freewheeling position.

Scaffolding: Disassemble and store all pipe and stage scaffolding that is on site. This equipment should be removed from the project site if there is not proper shelter or storage on site.

Unanchored fuel tanks can be easily moved by flood waters. These tanks, if moved, pose serious threats to the site, public and environment. An unanchored tank can be driven into walls or can be swept downstream into other properties. Even a buried tank can be pushed to the surface by the buoyant effect of soil saturated by water. Straps and anchors should be utilized on all above ground tanks to ensure their safe keeping.

Proper construction material storage must be a high priority since the loose material will become projectiles in any high-speed wind conditions. Lumber, metal studs, sheetrock, plywood, drywall compound buckets, fifty-five gallon drums, gravel and sand piles, etc. present unique danger to anyone or anything in the immediate area of the project if this material is not stored properly. Temporary off-site storage of these materials should be considered in the event of an impending hurricane. The superintendent must have a strategy plan to disperse this material to rental storage units or rental equipment yards off-site and out of the direction of the storm. Ensure all tools are secured in conex containers or off site. All conex containers should be inspected and secured by additional means if needed.

Any excavated areas on site must be inspected for possible additional shoring needs.

AFTER THE HURRICANE

Once the hurricane is over, return to the job sites for damage inspection only when it is safe to do so. Make sure digital photographs are taken of all damaged areas. Subcontractor foremen, if possible, should also be included on the inspection walk.

Keep in mind that damages from hurricanes such as fallen trees, damaged utility poles and lines, and flooding may impede efforts for immediate repairs, and some areas may have been hit worse than others. Make sure that your employees keep a safe distance from fallen power lines and electric utility restoration work crews. If the job site has been flooded or saturated with water, be careful in and around any open trenches or excavations.

Make sure the proper local authorities are immediately notified about any health and safety issues, including but not limited to, chemical spills, downed power lines, washed out roads, smoldering insulation, and dead animals.

Train your employees today in how to ready their construction sites for a hurricane!

It’s better to be prepared than caught off guard!

 Questions or comments? Contact L.A.W. Construction Safety Consultants, LLC today for all your construction safety needs.

1 Comment
  1. Very interesting information!Perfect just what I was looking for!

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