We’re all aware of how extreme the weather can be in Australia particularly during the summer months. Undertaking construction work using scaffolding can be a risky activity if proper care and precaution is not taken. While correctly erected scaffolding should serve as a stable and safe working environment, extreme weather conditions can deteriorate the working conditions of scaffolding and create hazards which must be addressed as soon as possible.
Ideally, scaffold should be dismantled and tied to the ground for any extreme weather events, however this isn’t always possible due to insufficient notice. While contractors should be monitoring websites such as the Bureau of Meteorology for any extreme weather, there are certain measures to take once a severe weather event has passed over a construction site.
Scaffolding is designed to minimise the effects of rain by allowing water to easily flow over the edges of working platforms. Additionally, platforms are designed so that the surface is not large enough for pools of water to accumulate. The only exclusion to this is encapsulated scaffolding, however contractors generally create a sloping roof that allows water to run off easily without generating any standing water hazards.
It’s highly unlikely that any type of rain will damage the integrity of a scaffold, regardless of its severity. In any case, care must always be taken when using scaffolding after rain as platforms, stairs, and ladders will be slippery.
Most Australians are quite familiar with hail and its damaging effects on the roof of our cars! While sometimes we experience very large hail, it’s rarely large enough to affect the integrity of scaffolding components. Despite this, it’s always advised to carry out a complete inspection of the scaffold before starting work again as there could be dents or buckles on the surface of various components along with cracking on adjacent welds.
Before starting work again, check for any chunks of hail which may be resting on scaffold platforms as they present obvious hazards. Also, any hail which has melted will again create slippery hazards on platforms, stairs, and ladders.
The most common source of problems from extreme weather comes from high winds as scaffolding is vulnerable to wind damage particularly when there is cloth screens or encapsulation attached. These attachments create a solid sail area where the force of high winds can do a lot of damage. Keep in mind, however, that most encapsulation is attached to scaffolding with rubber straps which are designed to break in heavy wind.
With standalone scaffolding that isn’t tied to other structures, the scaffold should be braced or weighed down adequately to ensure the wind doesn’t cause banners or signs to collapse or lift the scaffolding due to the sail effect. It’s not uncommon to have at least two tonnes of counterweight to provide stability in heavy winds.
If you’ve hired scaffolding then you should speak with you scaffolding supplier to get extra bracing in case of a storm. Banners and signs can easily catch wind which puts a great deal of force on the top of a scaffolding structure. A standard three metre banner in high winds can create the equivalent force of two men pushing against the side of the structure!
While there’s only a few regions in Australia where snow readily falls during the winter, it has a considerable affect on scaffolding structures. Snow is surprisingly heavy and around 10cm of freshly fallen snow on a 2.5 metre platform can weigh between 23kg and 50kg! After the snow starts to compact, it gets even heavier which not only puts additional weight on the platforms, but it becomes like ice and creates slippery surfaces on platforms, ladders, and stairs.
A great deal of precaution must be taken whenever scaffolding is exposed to snow and a thorough inspection should be performed prior to the commencement of any work.
Scaffold use during extreme weather
Naturally, it’s highly recommended to stop work activities on scaffolding during extreme weather events. Once the severe weather has ended, it’s best to perform a complete inspection of scaffolding for any changes or movements caused by these events, and extra precaution should be taken on stairs, ladders, and platforms. Professionally erected scaffold structures are sturdy and safe and should be able to endure most weather events without adverse impacts.
If you have any further questions about how to manage scaffolding in extreme weather, reach out to the scaffolding experts at Uni-Span by phoning their staff on 1300 882 825.