Using Plant in Cold Weather
24 September 2018
Operating plant and machinery in winter is the same as running a car. It needs extra love, extra attention, and nurturing through winter. Without TLC, plant and machinery will deteriorate and productivity will considerably decline.
This year, the winter months are expected to be even worse than they were last year, with news outlets reporting the UK is set for the “coldest winter in a decade.”
Before we delve into specifics, it must be stated that site safety is everyone’s responsibility. If you see a potentially unsafe operating condition, such as snow covering a hazard or a frozen lake, it must be addressed immediately.
Alert a supervisor and remove the risk. Failure to act could lead to serious injury, especially during harsh weather conditions, where there is limited visibility.
Plant equipment such as excavators, diggers, telehandlers, and rollers are essentially big vehicles. They have a similar internal system to the cars we drive on the road. Before winter sets in, check your coolant levels and engine oil to ensure the machine operates at optimum performance.
When plant and machinery is stored in a heavy duty, ventilated, wind-tight, and weatherproof container, it will operate at peak performance every time it’s asked to perform.
Site storage can be hired through PAL Hire – we’re experts at ensuring you’re set for winter. You can also read more about our winterised operations here, which mentions the need to hire warm areas for labourers and installing lighting towers if your site will operate through the night.
If it is a large construction site, several welfare facilities need to be set up close to operational sites to limit the amount of time workers have to spend in the cold and for them to get to warm areas quickly without developing frostbite or other cold-related illnesses.
During Winter Sites
Operating heavy plant equipment requires care, possibly more care than it does to run a normal road car. At the start of every day it is important to check all equipment. PAL Hire recommends you turn on the engine at the start of every day to allow sufficient warm-up time. This allows machinery to operate at peak performance through the day.
Construction equipment have batteries that need to be maintained during winter to prevent low performance and, in a worst case scenario, a dead battery. Battery terminals must be checked to ensure they are free of debris and rust.
Never, ever, ever attempt to charge a frozen battery. It will explode.
When plant and equipment are not in use, where practical, they must be kept out of the elements. This makes them easier to maintain and ensure you are not time wasting by having to clean off snow.
Alongside starting the engine, check your tyre pressure for the day ahead. It’s a well-known fact that low temperatures reduce tyre pressure, and ensuring all tyres are at the right level will save you time in case of a mishap. If you need to inflate your tyres, do so in a heated area as this helps settle the tyre bed.
It is also recommended, machinery be parked on raised surfaces such as planks, as track tyre and rubber tyre plant can be severely damaged if frozen to the ground. When parked, remember to check exhaust systems, fuel levels, as well as lights and signals to ensure they are working. These checks should be completed at the start, during, and at the end of the day.
When operating machinery, be sure you can see clearly out of the windows. Like a car, the windows can become icy or fogged up, reducing visibility and making it hard to see obstructions. Wheels can slip more easily on frozen ground, potentially causing the machine to collide with other equipment.
After the Working Day
At the end of every day, PAL Hire recommends you fill your fuel tank. A full tank reduces the chance of the fuel tank freezing overnight, which will save you considerable amount of time in the morning.
The most important thing you can do is to check with your own eyes. There’s nothing more reliable than the eyes which are attached to your body. Checking your machine at the start and end of every day will confirm if it is at peak operating level. Alternatively, it will help you see what potential hazards need to be rectified before the plant can be put in operation.
If you require maintenance of hired-in plant, speak to our support team and we will send a maintenance team who can inspect all machinery and ensure they are ready for winter use.