Fall means different things for different people. For some, it’s fall leaves and pumpkin spice. For others, it means leaving the dry months of the summer and entering some comparatively cool and wet days. And more rain means a higher chance of flooding.
This can be concerning for those who work outdoor jobs, especially those who work jobs in construction. Having a healthy awareness of the dangers of flooding on construction sites will help you take proactive steps to keep your site safe.
Flooding can wash away dangerous pieces of debris on any construction site, such as broken glass and jagged pieces of metal. But if your site is in a mountainous or hilly region, an even bigger concern may be debris flows, fast-moving landslides that occur after the fast rainfall associated with flooding.
Debris flows can be small, but they can also move for several miles at faster than 35 miles per hour and 50 feet deep, carrying boulders, trees, cars, and equipment with them. In the wake of a debris flow, the safest course of action is to evacuate the area immediately.
Floodwaters don’t only carry solid dangers in their rapids. Overflowing sewage and spilled chemicals can be carried throughout an affected flood area. Wading in floodwaters can potentially expose you to toxic materials. Even if you don’t touch the water directly, bacteria can cause illness in your site.
As you return to your site, it’s wise to set up a hand-washing station nearby so workers can wash after touching anything that was exposed to the floodwater. You may also need to throw out fabric materials that were soaked by the waters.
When we think of the impact of floodwaters on our equipment, we can potentially keep our focus on mechanical aspects like the potential of water-contaminated hydraulic fluid. However, damaged electronic equipment, especially electric panels or downed lines, can also put workers at risk of electrocution.
If possible, do your best to shut off all electrical components before flooding and avoid wading into flooded areas surrounding equipment until cleared to do so.
The dangers of flooding on construction sites do not end at drowning or equipment damage. By appreciating the delicate nature of a flooded site, you can avoid disastrous accidents even after the floodwaters recede.