Protect your workers, your jobsite and your schedule with severe weather preparedness checklists.
Floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, windstorms and other weather-related emergencies cause billions of dollars in damage in the United States each year. On construction sites, severe weather can destroy work, disrupt schedules and injure workers. An emergency response plan for construction sites that includes a severe weather preparedness checklist is a must.
Below are some tips for setting up an emergency response plan and preparing for inclement weather on construction sites. Knowing the steps to take before and during a storm or wildfire can help you protect your workers and your investment.
OSHA severe weather guidelines
OSHA does not offer specific severe weather guidelines, but it does require employers to provide working conditions free of recognized weather-related hazards that could cause death or serious physical harm. To that end, employers must have an emergency action plan that spells out what the company and employees must do to keep workers safe in the event of an emergency.
A construction emergency action plan includes site-specific evacuation instructions. Most companies are required write down the action plan and share it with employees, though companies with 10 or fewer employees can communicate the plan verbally. OSHA offers an eTool to help contractors create an emergency action plan.
Basic severe weather preparedness checklist
Some extreme weather protection measures apply to most severe types of weather, so start with these basics.
Determine the right time to stop work and secure the site. For a hurricane construction preparedness plan, for example, that could be 24 hours before the storm is due to hit.
Procure the materials and equipment (generators, tie-downs, rope, plywood, etc.) you’ll need to weather the storm.
Make sure your emergency response equipment is in working condition and fueled up, ready to go.
Protect electronic equipment and back up any data it has collected.
Designate people to oversee each task in your severe weather checklist to make sure it gets done.
Have all insurance information readily available.
Have a team ready to assess the damage after the weather event has passed.
Develop a plan to keep your workers informed about what’s happening and alert them when it’s time to return to the jobsite.
Windstorm preparedness checklist
When heavy winds are predicted:
Clear the jobsite of debris that could fly away and cause damage.
Remove any dead limbs from nearby trees that could become flying missiles.
Remove or safely secure any hazardous chemicals.
Protect materials or equipment that could be blown away or moved. Store them indoors if possible.
Follow manufacturers’ instructions for securing equipment such as cranes in high wind conditions.
Brace any building components and secure any roofs that are under construction.
Cover windows and doors.
Flooding or heavy rain preparedness checklist
Evaluate the potential for flooding on each new jobsite so you’ll be ready to react on short notice. If heavy rain or flooding is predicted:
Store materials as high off the ground as possible or relocate them to another site.
Move equipment to higher ground or offsite.
Move chemicals to a location where they won’t be swept up in flood waters.
Turn off the electrical supply to the site.
Use sandbags to prevent water from entering buildings.
Hurricane preparedness checklist
Hurricanes bring both high winds and heavy rains. Fortunately, advanced forecasting often offers time to secure your jobsite and, if necessary, evacuate your team to safety.
Don’t assume your site will be safe because it isn’t in a hurricane’s predicted path. Hurricanes frequently take last-minute detours, so if you’re within a few hundred miles, assume you’ll be hit and prepare accordingly. Here’s a basic hurricane preparedness checklist for construction sites to get you started.
One week before expected landfall
Review material or equipment deliverables that could be impacted by the storm and reroute or delay as needed.
Ensure that all onsite materials and equipment are secure and protected from potential damage.
Review your construction hurricane preparedness plan with jobsite workers. Make sure your contact list of employees and subcontractors is up to date so you can keep in touch after the storm has passed.
Two to three days before expected landfall
Lower ground-based crane booms and follow best practices for securing tower cranes.
Board up windows and doors of any structures.
Move critical project documents to a safe location.
24 hours before expected landfall
If you haven’t done so already, advise all workers and subcontractors to leave the site and not return until contacted.
Make a video or photographic record of the jobsite in its pre-storm condition for insurance purposes.
Secure or remove all flammable tanks or bottles. Disconnect all electric, water and gas.
Monsoon preparedness checklist
Monsoons are notorious for bringing heavy rainfall, flooding, lightning and heavy winds, sometimes for long periods. To prepare your jobsite for these seasonal storms if you work in an area of the world where monsoons occur, include these actions in your severe weather plan:
Stay informed of local weather conditions and related weather alerts.
Ensure all water drains are clear of debris and able to handle large volumes of rainfall.
Ensure all structures or trailers are adequately raised to avoid flood damage.
Review shutdown and disconnect procedures for electric, water and gas lines.
Move construction equipment, tools and materials away from low-lying areas. If possible, secure them in a weatherproof storage area or under heavy tarps.
Consider renting an industrial pump to remove muddy water, sludge or greywater if you’re working in an area that experiences long-duration monsoon events.
Tornado preparedness checklist
Tornadoes have occurred in every U.S. state. Unlike hurricanes, they strike with little warning, so be ready to respond immediately in the event of a tornado alert.
Assess each jobsite with an eye toward keeping your workers safe. Is there a basement or sturdy building nearby where they could take shelter?
If there is no underground shelter, identify places where workers could go. Avoid buildings with flat, wide-span roofs such as auditoriums, cafeterias and gymnasiums. Look for rooms constructed with reinforced concrete, brick or block that have a heavy concrete floor or roof system. Advise workers to stay in the center of the room, avoiding doors, windows and outside walls.
Keep jobsites tidy and materials secured to limit damage from flying debris.
Review tornado procedures with your crews frequently so you can quickly take organized action to prepare and/or evacuate the site.
Thunderstorm preparedness checklist
Lightning safety on construction sites is critical. According to OSHA, thunderstorms always include lightning, so take these actions whenever you hear thunder:
Get workers off any tall structures, such as rooftops, scaffolding, utility poles and ladders, and off heavy equipment such as bulldozers, cranes and tractors.
Identify safe locations where people can wait out the storm.
Keep everyone away from materials or surfaces that conduct electricity, including metal scaffolding, utility lines, water, water pipes and plumbing.
Unplug any sensitive electronics, such as computers.
Wildfire preparedness checklist
For jobsites location in areas vulnerable to wildfires, take these steps to be prepared for the worst:
Review your site-specific evacuation plan with workers to avoid confusion and help prevent injuries in the event of a wildfire.
Store surplus materials off site.
Consider moving critical equipment to a safe location after work is done for the day.
Keep heavy-duty fire suppression equipment on standby.
In the event of an active wildfire threat:
Clear brush and other combustible materials from around the jobsite if time allows.
Turn off any natural gas and propane gas sources.
Wet roofs, walls and any surrounding vegetation if time allows.
Move all critical documents to a safe location.
Prepare for restoration by partnering with a one-stop-shop equipment vendor
Once you’ve created your emergency response plan, think about how you’ll get your jobsite back up and running after a severe weather event.
Rental emergency equipment such as generators can be scarce when severe weather is predicted, so it pays to establish a relationship with a temporary equipment provider who has a large inventory of equipment and provides customer service you can count on. If no one answers the phone when you need equipment the most, it may pay to shop for a new vendor, one with a dedicated HVAC emergency phone line, for example.
A one-stop-shop equipment vendor can provide not only generators and other temporary power equipment but also temporary heating and cooling equipment and disaster recovery equipment such industrial dewatering systems for flooded jobsites and portable dehumidifiers and air scrubbers. The United Rentals Climate Solutions team leverages a national network of locations and equipment to quickly give managers access to disaster aftermath resources.
While it does take time to prepare for severe weather events, your efforts will pay off when a dangerous storm or wildfire occurs. Having a standard operating procedure for inclement weather means your workers, materials and equipment be better protected and you’ll be able to get back to work sooner.