If I’ve learned anything during my time in construction, it’s that preparation is a GC’s best friend. With temps plummeting, there are a few changes ahead aside from the temperature to anticipate. Corporations’ budgets are replenished for the new year and with new construction plans put in place, the weather isn’t the interruption that many imagine it to be as projects unroll. Some simple forethought can help you roll with the punches, whether you’re in Alaska or Atlanta. This blurb covers some of JH Greene’s best practices for the cold as our experience extends to safety, equipment protection, operations, and raw materials preparation.
I. First, the most important effort is ensuring safety in the colder months. With prevention of delays in mind, any forward-looking tools are an asset to understanding how to be wisest about timeline. Some of our team’s tips include:
(1) Paying attention to weather reports: are there dangerous conditions on-site?
If so, workers’ locations and task lists can be altered to accommodate productivity in a way that isn’t facing the elements at nasty points. Whirlwind Steel’s blog suggests, for example, strategically planning outside work to be done at the warmest point of the day, and then use colder time frames for interior trim tasks or status meetings.
(2) Becoming educated on the appearances/symptoms of cold weather-related injuries
With risks such as hypothermia, trench foot, or frostbite from exposure to the cold, foremen need to understand how these conditions appear and how to work preventatively so that they are avoided. Our team conducts safety meetings to openly discuss these topics among other concerns and thoughts to prevent disruption, but also ensure protection from harm.
(3) Keeping the site in check
The devices frequently used to generate heat can be hazardous if not kept under proper watch to prevent fire. Slippery surfaces, materials conditions, and the effect of inclement weather on a job site create a pertinent decision: is it smart to work? The risk posed by an unsafe site are not worth continuing to meet a deadline. At the same time, it is not wise to quickly dismiss a job for weather conditions when it hasn’t been deeply assessed for alternative paths to progressing a project.
II. Another area that isn’t quite as prioritized as safety, but still of importance, is equipment protection.
Equipment World does a pretty good job of summarizing key challenges of heavy equipment maintenance in winter:
With the risk of water and other materials entering a tank during a storm, operators need to keep a close eye on machines to prevent damage to the equipment’s internal systems. In addition, all filters need to be upkept for maintenance and longevity of its operation.
Watch out for frozen batteries: attempting to charge a battery when it has reached the freezing point almost always ends in explosion. Also, using jumper cables can cause extensive electrical damage if the weather conditions are unfit.
(3) Proper storage
After a day of use, it is key to allow equipment proper storage that isn’t at risk of winds, ice formation, or snowfall.
III. Raw materials considerations
Contractors Insurance brings up a valid reality that concrete won’t always set as it should in extreme cold. They provide some tips that are also integrated by the JH Greene team when needed. Author Devin states that, “In addition to the chloride-based accelerators, there are non-chloride accelerators that are both very popular and effective. Additionally, they won’t discolor the concrete, which becomes a problem when using chloride accelerators. The only problem with non-chloride accelerators is that they’re on the expensive side. Remember that accelerators do not prevent your mixture from freezing—they don’t have any anti-freeze properties at all—they just increase the rate of the hydration reaction, which helps the concrete set more quickly.”
At the end of the day, winter conditions aren’t enough justification to rule off construction entirely if planned for effectively. Sure, there are circumstances where wise GCs can deem unfit for working, but it is difficult to block off an entire season’s work because of fear of disruptions. With proper planning, these hurdles can be overcome by being proactive.