September is “National Preparedness Month” – Have a plan for keeping your job site and business safe during severe weather.
As most of us are aware, Hurricane Season runs from June 1st to November 30th each year. This means that we are only halfway through the season and severe weather can and is brewing. NOAA’s 2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook (issued August 6, 2015) confirmed earlier forecasts of a season with fewer named storms than historical averages in 2015, but don’t get too comfortable… The truth is that it only takes one severe storm to cause catastrophic damage. According to the Weather Channel’s latest, Tropical Storm Erika is currently in the Atlantic; although it’s not expected to make an impact on the U.S. at this point, it certainly is a wake-up call to be prepared for Hurricane Season and other severe weather.
As a construction industry professional, weather conditions hold significant importance with your job sites, crews and clients, even more so than other industries. Safety and communication are crucial in managing clients’ expectations and employees. For this reason, it is prudent to be ahead of the weather by reviewing your safety plan and implementing some basic guidelines:
Prepare Clients – When executing a contract, it is certainly best practice to have a clause covering the possibility of delays due to natural forces and unforeseen circumstances. Although it may be in the fine print, it is your responsibility to make sure your clients understand the potential implications of severe weather conditions on the project and construction timeline. Managing expectations is paramount in maintaining a quality and long-term relationship with your clients. Be upfront and direct about the possibility of delays due to weather while communicating your plans and intentions for following through on the original and proposed timeline. Such delays will also directly impact other outstanding projects, so make sure that you have balanced your schedule and communicated realistic expectations with all clients who may be affected.
In addition to adjusting timelines and client expectations, you should review all job sites prior to the arrival of severe weather. Are your materials and equipment secure? Are there large objects or outdoor fixtures that could damage your ongoing work? Inform the client of steps he/she can take to secure the exterior of their home and proper storage of outdoor furniture or other hazards that could be avoided.
Prepare Crews – If you don’t already have a weather safety plan and guidelines for your crews, you should. When the heat is high, scheduled water breaks and readily available water are a must. When lightning is in the area, your teams should know to seek shelter until it has passed. Your foremen and crews should demonstrate a clear understanding of all safety regulations and equipment, and all job sites should be properly outfitted with safety instructions, tools and gear. Provide crews with a checklist for securing the site in the case of severe weather. Take time each year to review your plan for applicability and effectiveness. Consider adding additional training or tools. OSHA has a free easy-to-use app (OSHA Heat Safety Tool) for calculating the heat index, and with September being National Preparedness Month, it is a perfect time to instate a new or revise your current Disaster Plan.
Prepare Office – Beyond “battening down the hatches”, your office should have a proper plan for managing employee communication, evacuations, office equipment and more. You will want to assess all possible hazards that exist and could potentially have an impact on day-to-day operations. Points of contact should be designated early on, along with proper distribution of an emergency call tree. According to the Insurance Information Institute, up to 40% of businesses affected by a natural disaster never reopen. With such daunting statistics, it is well worth taking the time to construct, implement and test a proper Disaster Plan.
Being severe weather ready is more than safety kits, canned food, water and flashlights. For construction business owners, there are various levels of liability, extending from the job site to the office. Don’t wait until a 2-day warning is issued for a severe weather emergency. Make sure you have a plan in place and that your crews and clients are aware of how your business will operate under extreme weather conditions.
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