Working in Severe Weather - Maintenance and Safety Tips
With the extreme weather (La Nina 2021 weather event) recently that’s seen heavy rain cause flash flooding across parts of rural Queensland from the tropical north right down to the QLD/NSW border at Inglewood and Goondiwindi, many construction business and equipment owners will now be maintaining equipment that’s been submerged or has been affected by excessive water or mud contamination. If you’ve invested in high-quality Cat® machinery and equipment that empowers your team to get more work done and complete your projects on time and budget, you’ll recognise just how important it is to ensure that it’s protected.
While there can be a high financial cost associated with cleaning and repairing machinery after an extreme weather event, it’s essential to bear in mind that such events also put employees at risk, both during a severe weather event and afterwards when preparing the site and operating affected machinery. Additionally, work can be delayed further after an event if the site wasn’t adequately prepared, resulting in the project not meeting key milestones and deadlines.
As such, business owners need to prepare their equipment and employees in readiness for weather changes that bring about severe weather conditions. Here in Queensland and Northern Territory, this typically involves storms, heavy rain, high winds and cyclonic conditions that result in flooding, along with heat waves that can pose a significant risk to the health and safety of your employees and cold snaps that affect machinery.
Preparing for Extreme Weather
Effectively preparing for extreme weather events like flooding, thunderstorms and heat waves can help construction and other businesses that operate outdoors avoid workplace accidents, avoidable injuries and potential lawsuits. Naturally, the safety of your employees should be your primary concern when severe weather strikes but it’s also important to prepare the site to safeguard equipment and avoid preventable property damage that can result in significant repair bills and delay the return to work longer than necessary.
Monitoring the Weather
As most extreme weather events in Queensland and Northern Territory occur in summer, you can prepare some things on-site to ensure your equipment and personnel are ready for these. However, you should still monitor the weather at all times so that you can put essential preparations in place, with the most efficient way to keep your team informed is to appoint a team member, for example, a supervisor or safety officer, who’ll be responsible for monitoring the weather for each shift. Generally, this simply entails checking the weather at the beginning of the shift, except when severe weather is known to be approaching and then there may be the need to monitor it throughout. Staying informed of the weather helps to ensure your team is ready when inclement weather is on the way and final preparations need to be put in place.
Backup Power Supplies
Having the necessary backup power equipment to respond to an unexpected power outage during a severe weather event minimises the likelihood of avoidable personal injury and property damage. This makes pre-storm season generator maintenance a must, so ensure you’ve serviced your Cat generators before the tropical cyclone season hits so you’ve got a reliable power source if the electrical grid goes down or solar power fails. Professional Cat generator servicing is recommended at least once annually and you should also follow a comprehensive generator maintenance routine that covers petrol and oil levels, and all components, including electrical components, fan belts, radiators, air grilles and vents, and the crankcase.
Prepare a Flood-Safe Location
As flooding is the most common severe weather event locally, businesses operating in high-risk areas need to prepare or identify a flood-safe location where their employees can gather safely and machinery can be stored should a flash flood occur. This may involve installing drainage pumps to move water away from the site and like backup generators, these need to be checked and serviced in readiness to ensure they’re operating correctly.
Employee Training and Action Plan
As part of your ongoing workplace health and safety training, incorporating an action plan that outlines exactly what your team needs to do to safeguard their safety and protect equipment helps to ensure readiness for an extreme weather event that could potentially put lives and property at risk. Your action plan should include mapped-out local flood zones and emergency escape routes, along with routes to the nearest medical facilities if any employees or on-site visitors required medical treatment.
Returning to Work Post Weather Event
In some cases, preparing the worksite post severe weather event will require your workers to perform tasks that are outside of their usual duties, like cleaning equipment that has been affected by water or debris. If an item of equipment has been submerged and is waterlogged, it’s essential not to move or operate until it’s been cleaned and tested.
While your employees will have adequate knowledge to clean their machinery and remove any debris, it’s highly recommended to have a professional Cat technician provide a thorough systems test, including testing for water content in machine fluids. Additionally, if a machine’s engine has been submerged in water, it may need a complete overhaul, which means it must be tested before it’s moved or operated to prevent further damage. Scenarios like this can be extremely expensive and highlight the importance of preparing your site and employees for heavy storms, flash flooding and other extreme weather events.
Hastings Deering is the official Cat dealer for Queensland and Northern Territory. In addition to new Cat equipment sales, used equipment sales and Cat rentals, we can assist your business with scheduled servicing that protects your investment, Cat generator servicing to ensure you have reliable backup power, and diagnosis and repairs should your Cat machinery become waterlogged or damaged during a severe weather event. To find out more, contact your local Hastings Deering branch.