High Winds When Working at Height

High Winds When Working at Height

15th May 2019

A freak accident in the American city of Seattle has highlighted the importance of considering wind speeds when working on construction projects, an issue that we should all be aware of here in the UK construction industry.  It seems that a construction crane fell from the roof of a building, killing four people and injuring four more.  Two of those who lost their lives were ironworkers in the crane and the other two were in two of the six vehicles on the street below which were crushed in the accident.

The accident occurred on a property that is destined to house a Google campus and several apartments.   The crane, which was on the roof of the building, was being disassembled by workers when tragedy struck.  With windy weather in play, a powerful gust of wind which reached 23 mph was reported in the area at that time and this is currently being blamed for the collapse, although a thorough investigation is underway.  The crane fell across the street below, crushing cars and causing mayhem.  Outside investigators are currently speculating that improper removal of pins during dismantling could be the cause of the incident.

Our sympathies are with those who were killed or injured during this incident, which reinforces the requirement to take into consideration the power of the wind when working at height, whether this is in the construction industry or any other sector.  Measuring and monitoring windspeed is an essential element of any risk assessment where work at height is involved.  There are plenty of methods available nowadays for measuring windspeed, so there is no excuse for not doing so.

There are anemometers available that can be used to measure and monitor windspeeds on a round the clock basis and deliver the information digitally in real time which enables a level of accuracy only dreamed about in times gone by.  Digital weather measuring instruments enable automatic data processing which avoids repetitive and confusing calculations.  When combined with internet connectivity, all processed data is immediately available to all project managers and other personnel, including the crane operators. 

When cloud technology is added, smart devices such as smartphones and tablets can be used to communicate accurate, up to the minute updates to make informed decisions on safety during windy weather.  Wind speed is a critical issue when it comes to crane and lifting operations, whether the crane is in operation or in standby mode.  With an anemometer installed at the crane’s highest point, the crane operator will be provided with the accurate, real-time data necessary to make a decision on whether or not to halt operations due to windspeeds.  In general, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommends a maximum windspeed of 38 mph for tower cranes in order to minimise the risk of an accident.