Managing Bad Weather During Civil Construction

May 20, 2015

Managing bad weather is easily one of the most difficult, yet important aspects of good civil construction practices. Properly managing the effects of bad weather on civil construction projects is key for protecting worker safety, completing the project on time and on budget, preventing costly damage to the worksite, materials, and equipment, and ensuring that the quality of the project is not compromised. Yet Mother Nature is notoriously mercurial and sometimes even the best experts and modeling predictions are confounded. Nevertheless, taking the following steps into consideration will provide an important starting point for successfully managing bad weather during civil construction projects.

Make Informed Scheduling Decisions

One of the most important steps to take is to plan construction in a given area to coincide with times during which the weather is most likely to be favorable and to avoid scheduling major projects during times when it is most likely to be unfavorable. Begin by analyzing historical weather data for the worksite location. Consider how different types of common weather phenomena for the area would affect construction progress. For example heavy rainfall may make the area inaccessible. Residual moisture may muddy the ground and delay a cement pour. Lightning or high winds could pose safety hazards for workers.

The Gulf Coast region of the US is susceptible to hurricanes in the fall. Meanwhile “Tornado Alley” may be most at risk during the late spring and early summer, while northern and eastern regions of the US could be subject to blizzards and ice storms during the winter. A well-managed construction project will consider these risks and plan major benchmarks around them so that the site and overall project are least vulnerable at the most hazardous times of year.

During Bad Weather Shift to Weather-Independent Tasks

While it’s certainly true that construction is largely an outdoor activity, not all aspects of a construction project will necessarily need to be performed outdoors. Thus a well-informed construction company can often keep the project on task by working on indoor projects even if the weather prevents outdoor work. For example indoor shop fabrication can continue regardless of weather, with the parts and equipment transferred to the construction site later. Likewise depending on the stage of construction, specifics of the project, and severity of the weather construction may be able to continue on stairwells, internal walls, plumbing systems, and other areas that are not directly exposed to the elements.

Establish and Maintain Good Communication

Employees, project managers, key personnel, clients and project owners should be apprised of severe weather forecasts and should disseminate that knowledge accordingly. It is crucial that effective communication methods be established prior to the weather incident and, if possible, be maintained throughout and following, the incident. Workers will need to know when it is safe for them to return to work and how the weather incident will affect their schedules. Likewise, clients and project owners will need to know what effect the incident will have on the project budget and timeline.

Protect the Site from Damage

Prior to storms and other severe weather it is imperative to secure the construction site as thoroughly as possible. Equipment and materials that can be moved indoors should be while larger items should be covered and tightly secured.

Following a bad weather incident it is crucial to carefully evaluate the damage. It may be necessary to perform cleanup. Debris, excess water, and other foreign materials will need to be carefully cleared away to prevent the risk of accidents. Additional repairs and remediation may be needed on damaged equipment or materials and access roads may need to be restabilized. Preemptive steps prior to storms and thorough cleanup after storms will help minimize delays and setbacks.

Consider the Impact on the Schedule

Once a clear picture emerges on how the weather incident has affected the jobsite it is important to begin considering the implications it will have on the work schedule and project timeline. Will it be necessary and possible to make up for the delay with overtime and extra work-days or will the entire timeline need to be pushed back? What will be the financial and budgetary implications associated with these effects? What if there’s another weather incident or other unforeseen delay?

Protecting the construction site and project from bad weather is difficult but it is one of the most important elements of good project management. Construction companies may have no control over the weather, but they can control how they manage the project. Ultimately the success or failure of a project in the face of bad weather will come down to how well the construction company can work around unforeseen delays. STI Group is highly experienced in project management and will create and implement a comprehensive plan for mitigating the effects of bad weather.