Top Tips for Working in Windy, Cold and Extreme Weather

Roofer on flat roof in extreme weather

WITH EXTREME WEATHER warnings for wind, snow and ice, Roofing Today provides some top tips for staying safe in extreme weather.

On top of the risk of slips and falls, spending a long time outdoors in the cold can increase the risks of accidents and illness.

Employers will also have to be prepared to call a halt to work completely if conditions become severe. If work is being carried out in cold weather, managers should also make sure employees still on the job are dressed appropriately. Good workwear for the cold, includes dressing with three layers, hats and gloves and good footwear.

Wind

anemometer - for extreme weatherWind can make rooftops more dangerous. For those dealing with large boards or sheets, such as many flat roofing products, extra care should be taken.

Wind speeds above 23 mph or gusts of up to 35mph, are enough to prevent the safe handling of slates, tiles, battens and felts on roofs, with the equivalent for rolls of felt being about 17mph, gusting to 26 mph or over.

You can use a handheld anemometer to check wind speeds at rooftop height.

Although it might look safe from the ground, roof work should not be carried out during periods of snow or ice. Even if the mercury does rise above freezing or the sun does come out, there could be patches of snow, ice or frost that have not thawed and remain slippy and dangerous.

Employers should also be carrying out risk assessments on site daily, paying attention to safe access and walkways, areas with roof coverings already laid and scaffolding boards and storage areas at height. Local site conditions can differ from those on the weather forecast.

Appropriate Extreme Weather Clothing 

Not only do cold hands work more slowly than warm hands, spending too much time in the cold can lead to cold exposure.

Symptoms of cold exposure include heavy shivering, uncomfortable coldness, numbness, aching, severe fatigue, confusion, drowsiness and/or euphoria. If you witness or experience these symptoms immediate medical advice should be sought.

Cold weather also increases the risk of hand-arm vibration syndrome, so keep your hands and arms warm when using vibratory equipment such as drills, nails guns and even hand tools, such as hammers, and take regular breaks. Gloves should be worn when the temperature is below 4°C.

Water resistant footwear with enhanced slip resistance is also a good idea, as is reflective PPE to improve visibility.

Take plenty of breaks in heated areas with hot drinks and consider job rotation to limit exposure to the cold.

Keep Up with the Latest Weather Forecasts

Make sure you check the weather forecast so you can ensure you have the right equipment readily available. Also know when to stop if conditions get worse. The Met Office weather app can be dowloaded for free and features regular updates and weather warnings.

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 govern all roofing work. They state that work should not be carried out if weather conditions could endanger the health and safety of workers.

Check Products

Mortar should not be used at below 2°C, so use dry fix wherever possible.

Similarly, when working on flat roofs, products like EDPM rubber membrane adhesives may not bond correctly at below 5°C. Some liquid roofing primers and covering products may not be suitable for cold weather application. Check the manufacturer’s instructions. Applying products in unsuitable conditions will leave the installer liable for consequent roof failures.

The Health and Safety Executive has more information on precautions to take for outdoor workers.

For general guidance on safely performing roof work read HSE advice here.

>>Read more on working in the winter weather

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