Severe UAE Weather Alert: How It Affects Construction

16 April, 2024
By Waddah Taweel
Severe UAE Weather Alert: How It Affects Construction

The climate of the United Arab Emirates poses unique challenges for construction sites and heavy machinery operations, due to the severe weather conditions that hit the country quite occasionally. Characterized by an arid landscape, the UAE experiences extremely hot and humid summers with temperatures soaring from April to September, and milder yet still warm conditions during the winter months from October to March. Rainfall is minimal and unpredictable, averaging between 140 to 200 mm annually, though some mountainous regions see up to 350 mm. Additionally, the region is occasionally hit by intense dust storms, known locally as shamal winds, which can significantly disrupt construction activities and machinery functionality. Understanding these conditions is crucial for safeguarding equipment and ensuring the safety of construction crews.

Understanding How Weather Impacts UAE Construction

As the UAE grapples with its unique meteorological challenges, construction sites must pay particular attention to the region's weather patterns, especially wind conditions that can drastically affect operations. Routine forecasts play a crucial role in planning and response strategies, providing essential data on wind speeds and other weather events. High winds, such as those experienced during shamal events, can impair the stability and safe operation of heavy machinery and jeopardize the structural integrity of ongoing construction projects.

Satellite view of the UAE and GCC region - Image courtesy NCM
Satellite view of the UAE and GCC region - Image courtesy NCM

Incorporating real-time data from the National Center for Meteorology (NCM), construction managers and crews can anticipate severe weather changes. This information not only aids in preparing the site before the weather hits but also guides necessary actions once the weather has passed to ensure minimal downtime and safety risks. Upcoming sections will detail specific pre-weather alert preparations and post-weather actions, using forecast warnings to underline the importance of a proactive approach in managing construction sites amid severe weather conditions in the UAE.

Pre-Weather Alert Preparations for UAE Construction Sites

In the UAE, where severe weather can arise unexpectedly, thorough preparation is crucial to protect construction sites, machinery, and personnel. The head of safety plays a pivotal role in disseminating weather alerts and ensuring that every team member is informed and ready to implement necessary precautions. Here are 15 essential steps to prepare for rain, heavy winds, or dust storms affecting construction sites and equipment in the UAE:

1. Heavy Equipment Protection

Ensure all heavy equipment exhausts are protected against severe rain to prevent water ingress that can lead to mechanical failures.

2. Secure Mobile Machinery

Park all mobile machinery in designated safe areas that are sheltered from potential hazards caused by strong winds or flooding.

3. Lifting Operations

Review and potentially halt all lifting activities. Cease operations entirely if rain is present or wind speeds exceed 35 km/hr.

4. Load and Chain Management

Remove any suspended loads and chains from cranes to prevent accidents caused by gusty winds.

5. Crane Adjustments

Lower the booms of mobile cranes when work is paused to stabilize them against strong winds.

6. Manage Loose Objects

Secure or remove lightweight and loose objects from exposed areas to prevent them from becoming airborne projectiles.

7. Electrical Safety Checks

Inspect external electrical connections and appliances for exposure risks and manage them appropriately to prevent electrical hazards.

8. Backup Power Supplies

Check the availability and functionality of backup power systems in case of a total power outage.

9. Secure Temporary Structures

Ensure that all temporary sheds and roofs are adequately secured against strong winds.

10. Chemical Safety

Secure all chemicals or hazardous materials according to safety regulations and ensure Material Safety Data Sheets are accessible.

11. Building Integrity

Ensure all doors and windows are closed and secured. Check openings in cable basements or trench areas, securing them and providing backup solutions like dewatering pumps.

12. Use of Electrical Equipment

Prohibit the use of electrical equipment in wet conditions to avoid electrocution risks.

13. Scaffolding Security

Secure all scaffoldings and dismantle aluminum mobile scaffolding if placed outdoors.

14. Coastal Work Assessment

Employees working near the sea should assess weather conditions thoroughly before commencing any activities.

15. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Ensure that all necessary task-specific PPE is available and worn by staff.

Abu Dhabi Municipality safety measures and recommendations in bad weather
Abu Dhabi Municipality safety measures and recommendations in bad weather

Implementing these measures can significantly mitigate the risks posed by severe weather, ensuring the safety of personnel and the integrity of the construction site and its equipment.

Post-Weather Assessment for UAE Construction Sites

After severe weather conditions have impacted a site, it's crucial for site foreman, operators, and safety managers to conduct thorough inspections to ensure the safety and operability of the construction area. These post-weather assessments focus on identifying and mitigating risks created by the weather event. Here are 6 key areas that need immediate attention:

1. Structural Integrity Checks

Inspect for loose cladding, guttering, signs, and tarpaulins that could fall and cause injuries. Ensure that any installed work-at-height platforms remain stable and secure.

2. Road and Pathway Safety

Clear debris that has been blown onto roads or pathways to prevent accidents. Look for large bodies of water that have accumulated on roads or walkways, as these pose significant driving and pedestrian hazards.

3. Airflow Systems

Check air conditioning filters for blockages caused by sand and other contaminants to ensure they are clear and functioning correctly.

4. Electrical Safety

Assess all electrical equipment and fittings for damage. Check for opened or flooded cabinets, flooded electrical rooms, and loose connections or wiring that could pose electrical shock risks. Immediate repairs should be prioritized to restore safe operations.

5. Water Damage Control

Inspect cellars, culverts, and other low-lying areas for flooding. Implement dewatering processes where necessary to prevent structural damage and safety hazards.

6. Erosion and Structural Undercutting

Evaluate the erosion of ground caused by water runoff, particularly along embankments. Structures near embankments may need additional scrutiny for undercutting or compromised stability.

Implementing a structured approach to post-weather assessments can help quickly identify and rectify any damage or safety hazards, minimizing downtime and ensuring the construction site returns to normal operations as safely and efficiently as possible. These steps are essential in safeguarding the site, its equipment, and personnel from the lingering effects of severe weather.

Working conditions in UAE winters can be a risk on construction sites
Working conditions in UAE winters can be a risk on construction sites

By implementing rigorous pre-weather preparations and conducting detailed post-weather assessments, construction managers and safety teams can protect machinery, safeguard personnel, and minimize operational disruptions. Adhering to these protocols ensures that construction sites remain resilient, efficient, and safe, even under the UAE’s severe weather conditions.

Construction Insights