Windy conditions become an unpredictable safety hazard

by on July 7, 2011 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network
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Windy conditions can play a significant role in accidents, particularly at construction sites. Take the weather into account before it becomes a safety issue:

On a day that grew increasingly windy, Phil Morris was rigging and lifting steel plates weighing up to 2,000 pounds each.

As the wind picked up even more, crane operator Josh Fine left the load suspended and exited the crane cab. He met with supervisor Lee Williams to decide whether to stop work until the wind died down. Suddenly, an extra-strong gust of wind caused the plates to shift abruptly. Phil and Lee ran to stabilize the plates while Josh jumped back in the cab. The suspended stack of plates hit Phil, breaking his arm.

Wind power
“Phil’s going to be out of commission for a while,” Lee later said to Josh. “We should brace ourselves for questions, and maybe a lawsuit.”

“Perhaps we should have done some things differently,” Josh said.

“The wind was picking up, but conditions weren’t dangerous at all until that sudden gust,” said Lee. “I mean, we were just at the point of doing something because of the unsafe weather, and then suddenly it was too late.”

“Sometimes accident just happen,” said Josh.

“Well, I think we should have planned for severe weather a little better,” said Lee.

Phil sued the site owner, saying it knew the conditions were dangerous, but didn’t act. Did the owner get the case dismissed?

Decision
Yes. The court said that no one on the site, including the owner, knew that the wind was that much of a danger. So no one was “on notice” that a dangerous condition existed – at best, one was developing.

Supervisor’s take-home: Keep in mind windy conditions can quickly turn a situation from perfectly safe to extremely dangerous.

Also, in this case no one was at risk until workers got too close to a load during a strong gust of wind. It would have been better for the load to drop than for a worker to get too close.

On days when you expect severe weather, talk with workers about how you expect them to react – it’s easier to replace equipment than bones.

Cite: Boyd v. Packaging Corporation of America, No. A08A0272, Ga. App.

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