How warmer temperatures can affect crane safety
Twenty years ago, poor weather and construction hold-ups would have been all about damp tarpaulins, machinery not working, and frozen materials. Weeks of sub-zero temperatures when the country ground to a halt, and construction employees, and site machinery were parked up unable to work. Now, the need for construction weather protection caused by climate change is beginning to affect countries worldwide. In the UK, we have to adapt our site construction and weather protection ideas to minimise construction weather delays and keep our machinery operational and reliable in increasingly high summer temperatures, as well as those freezing winter periods.
Hot weather and construction sites
At Emerson Cranes we spend much of our time checking, servicing, and maintaining our fleet of heavy lift cranes. While building construction and weather delays in the past have been attributed to ultra-cold weather which can cause seals to go brittle, extremely hot weather can soften them, thus reducing their effectiveness, and increasing the likelihood of leaks or failure, and compromising crane operations safety.
Another thing that can affect crane operations safety is overheating. A heavy-lift vehicle that is stood for hours in 30°+ temperatures with engine and generators operating constantly, is going to get very hot. Before any of our vehicles leave the yard, all fluid levels are checked and topped up as a matter of course. If the crane is on-site for prolonged periods, days or weeks, our driver/operator will ensure all levels are topped up on a daily basis. Should any levels drop below what is considered normal, operations will cease while our driver checks all hoses for possible leaks caused by poor construction weather protection.
The drier the weather, the dustier the working conditions on-site. A slight breeze, normal site activities, and vehicle movements, all contribute to filling the air with dust, coating things such as oil damp hydraulic pistons, and getting into air filters. Problems which, unless regularly checked and rectified by our mechanics, can lead to component failure and increased periods of construction and weather delays downtime.
Safe building construction and weather protection go hand in hand
Site health and safety can be a major issue during hot summer days, and site managers have to keep on top of the situation. Hard arduous site work and hot summer days can often tempt younger members of the workforce to try and ignore certain aspects of safety at work. Hi-vis jackets and hats are discarded, along with work shirts and other items as personnel try to keep cool, when in actual fact the opposite should be the case. A light shirt with a hi-vis vest or tabard should be worn to prevent damaging sunburn, and a hard hat should always be worn. The old hands will often wear a neckerchief or cotton scarf around the neck, or a piece of material hanging from the back of their hard hat, to protect the neck from burning and reduce the potential risk of sunstroke.
Likewise, our driver/operators have to be fully aware of the additional dangers of extremely hot sunny days. In some cases they have no option but to operate from an area where the sun can beat mercilessly onto the crane operator’s cab for hours on end. While our latest vehicles have air-con, our older cranes have 12v fans to help cool the operator and cab interior. Extra fluids are carried in the cab for hydration, and sunglasses are considered standard equipment.
The dangers of extreme heat and crane operations safety
At Emerson Crane Hire, we never get tired of emphasising the dangers and hazards involved in any form of heavy lifting. It’s why we spend so much time and money on maintaining our fleet of cranes in top condition, and training our operators to the highest levels. It’s also why over the years, we’ve been awarded 15 different industry accreditations.
Although on a highly specialised operation we might be contracted to use our own personnel, in most instances we work together with the contractor’s staff. This could involve employees assisting as lift directors, ground supervisors, riggers, signallers or banksman. Each of these jobs carries its own responsibilities, and any person suffering from possible heat exhaustion or sunstroke, even without realising it, could put themselves, others, or the successful completion of the lift, at risk.
Comfortable staff are happy staff, and happy staff are more focussed for the job at hand. At Emerson Crane Hire we put great store in endeavouring to provide the best of working conditions for our heavy lift operators, whether they are working in -10° in the middle of winter, or 90°+ in the middle of summer. With our high emphasis on health and safety at work – it would be remiss not to. If you have any queries regarding working in hot weather and construction site safety, please contact us today.
Looking to hire a crane this summer? Get in touch with a member of our team today to discuss the options available.