Following the U.S National Weather Service prediction that there is a 95-per-cent chance El Nino will affect the northern hemisphere this year, Canadians need to brace for the potential of another year of extreme weather patterns.

This reality is especially true for anyone in the business of construction and infrastructure development. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, many Canadian industries are at risk from extreme weather, including transportation, construction and housing, and energy sectors. Extreme weather brings with it a host of issues, such as extended delays, liquidated payments, and unforeseen hard costs. These risks become especially detrimental for many cities and municipalities in the midst of rapid urban development.

While the weather is out of one’s control, managing the risks of working through periods of extreme weather is possible when planners understand the risks, plan ahead and exercise constant vigilance.

Understanding extreme weather
Extreme weather can mean a multitude of different situations ranging from flooding, hail, snow storms, hurricanes, and more. But realistically, builders and developers don’t need to plan for each weather pattern but instead for the damage that could result.

Based on claims I have seen, water damage is the number one claim by general contractors during the winter season, so project managers and job-site workers can plan for this specific issue.

The human element
Another element that comes into play is human error. Extreme weather adds another complexity to the job site that construction workers need to deal with in the winter season. If tired or worn out from the extenuating circumstances of extreme weather, human error becomes a factor that will need to be mitigated.

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There are three main areas where construction managers and planners can focus to mitigate risks associated with extreme weather.

Develop a risk management plan: Once potential problems have been identified, the next step is to develop a plan to address problem areas and develop solutions. Ultimately, one of the most important elements is timing—plans need to be developed before the season of extreme winter weather hits. Developing solutions beforehand allows project managers to keep issues and solutions top of mind on the job site. By having a plan in place, issues will be dealt with swiftly and efficiently, and should limit project delays and damages.

Assign a quality-control expert: Following a risk assessment, everyone on the job site needs to be briefed on any new procedures, practices and taught to identify problem areas. When it comes to mitigating risks, everyone on the site has a role to play. However, it’s important to have a team member dedicated to ensuring that quality control and preventative measures are met. Having someone dedicated to quality control will ensure everyone is doing their part and following set procedures.

Bring in a risk engineer: If planning for a potentially volatile winter season, ask an insurance provider to have their risk engineer visit a job site to review policies and procedures to ensure the best steps are being taken. This is especially important for small and mid-sized construction companies who may not have internal risk assessment expertise. Normally, it is advised to bring in a risk advisor once every three years, but in instances where there is a greater potential for loss, it is a good measure to have them review the site sooner.

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Ryan Jones is the national risk control leader with the construction and engineering department at RSA Canada.



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