The Hazards of High Winds

When March comes in like a lion as it has this year, high winds pose especially dangerous conditions for construction workers. There are numerous statistics of injuries and death caused by working in these conditions and one of the primary culprits of accidents is the sudden and unpredictable event of flying debris during a high wind gust.

OSHA routinely considers high winds as those exceeding 64.4 kilometers per hour (40 miles per hour), or 30 miles per hour if the work involves material handling, unless the employer takes precautions to protect employees from the hazardous effects of the wind.

When such winds are present, experts advise that non-emergency work be postponed as the wind could blow an employee from an elevated location or cause an employee to lose control of equipment handling material and be struck by flying debris.

In one OSHA investigation of a wind-related fatality, the agency found that while the worker was wearing a fall protection harness, it was useless, as the workers were not provided with a means to connect to an independent anchorage point to stop a fall. The company failed to train employees to recognize fall hazards, ensure adequate anchorage for lifelines and secure the decking against displacement by the wind.

To prevent unnecessary workplace injuries and tragedies, it is imperative that workers know the appropriate measures to take ensure their own safety, and that of their co-workers and bystanders around them. As always, preparing for hazards is the best measure:

  • Check weather reports and monitor conditions continuously. Do not schedule work at elevations on days where high winds are forecast.
  • Wind can pick up quickly and sudden gusts can take you by surprise – always wear a harness when working at heights over 1.5m and ensure workers are connected to an anchor point at all times.
  • Ensure partially built structures are properly supported at all times regardless of weather conditions and that walls are adequately braced until building is complete.
  • Ensure scaffolding and other temporary structures are secure and could not be blown over.
  • Never work on scaffoldings, roofs or other elevations during strong winds.
  • Ensure that tools are packed away safely and that roofing sheets, cones, signage and other loose materials are safely secured.
  • Wear eye protection to keep dust, debris and other foreign particles from blowing into the eyes
  • Ensure hard hats are securely fastened and cannot be blown off.
  • Use extreme caution when picking up large sections of plywood or similar flat materials, as these can act as a sail.
  • Do not operate hoisting equipment (personnel or material) in winds exceeding 40 miles per hour.
  • Cease all crane operations until wind speed returns to acceptable levels

For more safety and compliance information, contact our offices at Diversified Safety Services.






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