How to Deal With Weather-Related Issues During Excavation Projects

a bulldozer digging a dirt pile with a rainy weather

Wondering how to deal with an upcoming weather disturbance during your excavation project?

Residential excavation contractors face numerous challenges when dealing with weather-related issues during excavation projects. It’s one of the big challenges of the job in the PNW – dealing with consistently wet weather.

Severe weather can cause significant delays, safety hazards, and damage to the site, making it crucial for contractors to have effective strategies in place.

Dirt Guys Excavating is an expert excavation company serving Yamhill County, Oregon. They have years of experience navigating how weather can impact a dirt project.

In this article you will learn learn about the strategies they employ to mitigate the impact of weather on excavation projects.

How Do You Mitigate Weather Conditions?

a blue excavator digging a hole in the ground during sunny day

The best strategy to protect your jobsite from the weather will change based on the weather systems on their way. How you protect your site from flooding, wind, basic soil compaction, frost, or lightning may be different depending on the dirt you are working with and the severity of the weather.

Heavy Rains

Heavy rains are the most common in the Pacific Northwest. Rain quickly saturates the topsoil, making it difficult for equipment to operate effectively. Wet soil becomes unstable, increasing the risk of cave-ins and slips, which can endanger workers and damage machinery.

Part of project planning for an excavating contractor is monitoring weather forecasts. When a powerful thunderstorm or downpour is expected, an excavating contractor has 3 options:

Delay workPostpone excavation until the site dries out sufficiently
Install drainageSet up temporary drainage systems to divert water away from the sitework or excavation area
Use specialized equipmentEmploy machinery designed for wet conditions, such as tracked excavators with wider pads

The team onsite should be trained and prepared for hazardous conditions. Proper safety gear, such as slip-resistant footwear and rain gear, can help mantain a productive and safe work environment during and after a large weather system rolls through.

Strong Winds

Strong winds become the biggest problem for those team members operating heavy machinery or working at heights. Gusts can cause equipment to sway or tip over, increasing the risk of accidents and injuries.

Strong winds can be accounted for by being tracked. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) consider winds above 40 miles per hour as hazardous. When the winds do get that high, remember to secure loose materials and equipment to prevent them from being blown away or cause damage or injury.

Extreme Hot or Cold Weather

It seems like in the last decade extreme temperatures has become one of the big items to mitigate against. From our ice storm winters to the blazing days of summer, we have to be more prepared than in years past. In hot weather, heat exhaustion and dehydration are the threats to workers’ health and safety. High temperatures can cause equipment to overheat and malfunction. As the lead excavation contractors there is a duty in making sure the rest of the team has adequate hydration, frequent breaks, and shade (when possible) to protect their team members during hot weather.

Cold weather presents its own set of challenges, as freezing temperatures can cause the ground to freeze, making excavation much more difficult and time-consuming. If ice starts getting persistent where you work, consider investing in specialized equipment, such as ground heaters or insulated machinery, and ensure that their team is equipped with proper cold-weather gear.

Snow and Ice

Winter storm, snow, and ice can create significant challenges for excavation contractors out in the field. For Portland and the surrounding areas it feels like we get a couple weeks of frost and that’s about it. But during that time it can be extremely uncomfortable driving the excavator. If we do get heavy snow, it’s easy to forget how many potential hazards, such as uneven terrain or buried utility lines, can be buried. Ice alone can make surfaces slippery and treacherous for workers and machinery.

To mitigate the impact of snow and ice, excavation contractors may need to:

Clear snow and iceRemove snow and apply de-icing agents to ensure safe access to the site
Use specialized equipmentEmploy / Rent machinery with winter tires or tracks for improved traction on slippery surfaces
Insulate and heat equipmentProtect sensitive components from freezing temperatures to prevent malfunctions

Training the team in the fall about what should occur when snow falls is a great step to make sure hazards are mitigated as much as possible.

Strategies to Deal with the Impact of Weather on Excavation Projects

a man checking weather forecast on phone

Even the best excavation contractors should develop comprehensive strategies for weather on their projects. By planning and training ahead they can minimize delays, ensure worker safety, and maintain the quality of their work.

Monitoring Weather Forecasts

The best heavy equipment operators in the field that I’ve met rely on a combination of local and national weather services to stay informed about upcoming conditions. This information helps them determine when to delay work, implement additional safety measures, or deploy specialized equipment to mitigate the impact of severe weather:

Weather ConditionPotential ImpactMitigation Strategy
Heavy rainSaturated soil, unstable conditionsDelay work, install drainage, use tracked excavators
Strong windsEquipment instability, flying debrisHalt work, secure materials, monitor wind speeds
Extreme temperaturesHeat exhaustion, equipment malfunction, frozen groundProvide shade and hydration, use insulated and heated machinery
Snow and iceSlippery conditions, hidden hazards, access difficultiesClear snow and ice, use winter tires or tracks, insulate equipment

In addition to monitoring weather forecasts, operators rely on their experience and knowledge of local weather patterns to anticipate challenges and delays.

By proactively monitoring weather forecasts and adapting their strategies accordingly, they can ensure the safety of their teams, protect their equipment, and maintain the quality and efficiency of their excavation projects, even in the face of severe weather conditions.

Flexible Schedules for Weather

open pipes ready for excavation dirt guys

Weather can really mess up a project schedule. There are too many instances to count where some important project was delayed because of weather. Sometimes investors or homeowners don’t understand how a storm can impact dirtwork. But there is a big difference between what you imagined on paper and what happens onsite when the storm systems roll through.

When it is our turn to create the schedule we are careful to consider not just material scheudles but also factor in what could occur with the weather. And even then it’s not always accurate enough to keep a project finish date within a week of what was projected. But when there are changes we always are open about what is causing it and how we can make that time up to get us as close as possible. Some of the ways we can factor in inclement weather are:

– Site preparation and clearing during dry periods

– Excavation and grading during mild temperatures

– Drainage installation and waterproofing before heavy rains

– Backfilling and compaction during stable weather conditions

By remaining flexible in the face of weather-related challenges, we can minimize disruptions to the overall project scope, ensure the safety of our workers, and maintain the quality and efficiency of our projects.

Safety Protocols for Bad Weather

checking safety guideline before excavating to follow OSHA

We want to give some examples of safety protocols worth having in place for inclement weather. There are a lot of conversations around this topic but here are some that have worked for us and we recommend to other teams for extreme weather.

On the jobsite of any professional outfit there should be regularly held OSHA-compliant trainings that establish protocals and review them before the weather impacts any jobsites. These trainings can include:

– Specific weather-related hazard protocals

– Proper use of specialized equipment and tools

– Safe work practices in wet, windy, or extreme temperature conditions

– Emergency response procedures

Workers should have access to appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) suitable for different weather conditions, especially the ones most common to the area they work in.

Regular site inspections and safety meetings should be conducted to identify and address any weather-related hazards promptly. By promoting a culture of safety and empowering workers to report concerns, experts can effectively manage the risks associated with weather-related issues such as health problems or incidents, and maintain a safe work environment throughout the excavation project.

Effective Drainage Systems – Protect your Site

effective drainage system during excavation

if the rain system coming your way gives you enough warning then you may have enough time to plan out a solid drainage system for your construction site. Effective drainage systems are crucial for managing water-related issues. A good drainage system is designed to divert water away from the excavation area, preventing soil saturation and maintaining a stable work environment.

Proper drainage systems may include a combination of surface and subsurface components, such as:

– Grading and sloping to direct water flow away from the excavation site

– Trenches and channels to collect and redirect surface runoff

– French drains and perforated pipes to capture and remove subsurface water

– Sump pumps to remove accumulated water from low-lying areas

Your client may know how water tends to run or accumulate on their property. So work closely with them to develop drainage plans that meet the specific needs of each site. They consider factors such as soil type, topography, and local climate patterns to ensure that the drainage system is effective and sustainable.

By implementing well-designed drainage systems, experts can minimize the impact of heavy rains and groundwater on excavation projects, reducing the risk of delays, safety hazards, and costly repairs. Effective drainage also helps to protect the long-term integrity of the completed project, ensuring that the foundation and surrounding landscape remain stable and functional for years to come.

Cold Weather Construction Techniques

There are a whole series of construction techniques built for icy winters. Luckily here in Yamhill County we don’t need these solutions but once or twice a year. Sometimes it’s worth it to maintain project progress and quality during the freezes. These strategies help to mitigate the impact of freezing temperatures, snow, and ice on excavation work.

One common technique is the use of ground heaters, which thaw frozen soil and maintain optimal conditions for excavation. Experts also use insulated blankets and tarps to protect exposed soil and prevent frost penetration overnight.

Cold-weather concrete placement is another critical aspect of winter excavation work. We may use heated enclosures, insulated forms, and accelerating admixtures to ensure proper curing and strength development of concrete in low temperatures.

These cold weather techniques help to minimize project delays, ensure worker safety, and maintain the structural integrity of the completed excavation services in Yamhill County, Oregon, and the surrounding areas.

When All Else Fails – Halting Work

workers ordered to stop construction due to extreme weather

To work in this industry in anywhere that has weather you must be ready to pull the abort switch and halt work. Hopefully you built in a flexible schedule and goals that are still attainable with a few stopped days. Some excavation contractors can get caught up in their billable hours, making poor decisions to continue a job site when it makes more sense to stop. As a GC or contractor, you should know when it’s better to put the job on pause than risk your team and your equipment.

Work stoppage shouldn’t be a guessing game. There are clear guidelines created by OSHA for work stoppage based on factors such as wind speed, precipitation levels, and temperature extremes. When these thresholds are met, work should be promptly halted, and workers are directed to seek shelter or leave the site until conditions improve.

If work is stopped there’s always more that you can do. Check your jobsite for weather damage, check your equipment for damage, re-stack your project schedule and timeline to accomodate for the lost days, or work on your marketing for the next project.

This approach helps you to stay on top of your project numbers and focus on continuing to provide a world-class experience on this project and future projects.

Soil Stabilization For a Safer Jobsite

soil filtration man handling soil

If the weather is heavy enough to matter but not enough to halt work there are a couple of techniques related to the excavation process itself that you should employ. You cannot go digging without a plan and a tough climate only makes organization more important.

Soil stabilization is a group of techniques to help to improve soil strength, reduce erosion, and maintain the integrity of the excavation site, even in challenging weather conditions.

One common soil stabilization method is the use of geotextiles, which are permeable fabrics that help to reinforce and stabilize soil. Contractors install geotextiles at strategic locations within the excavation site to:

Separate soil layersPrevent mixing of different soil types
Provide filtrationAllow water to pass through while retaining soil particles
Reinforce soil structureIncrease soil strength and stability

Another effective soil stabilization technique is the use of chemical additives, such as lime or cement. These additives are mixed into the soil to improve its engineering properties, increasing its strength and resistance to water infiltration. This process helps to create a more stable foundation for excavation work, even in wet or unstable conditions.

In some cases, excavation experts may also employ mechanical stabilization methods, such as compaction or soil nailing. Compaction involves using machinery to densify the soil, while soil nailing involves installing reinforcing bars or anchors to provide additional support to the excavation walls. These techniques help to ensure the stability and safety of the excavation site, even in the face of weather-related challenges.

Erosion Control Measures

Erosion control is another section of excavation knowledge that has to do with minimizing soil erosion, which can lead to soil instability, water pollution, and damage to the excavation site.

One common erosion control measure is the installation of silt fences around the perimeter of the excavation area. These temporary barriers are designed to intercept and filter sediment-laden runoff, preventing it from leaving the site and causing environmental damage. Silt fences are particularly effective in controlling erosion during heavy rain events.

Your construction can also benefit from other erosion control techniques, such as:

MulchingApplying a layer of organic material over exposed soil to reduce erosion and retain moisture
Erosion control blanketsInstalling biodegradable mats to protect soil surfaces from erosion while allowing vegetation to grow
Temporary seedingPlanting fast-growing vegetation to stabilize exposed soil and reduce erosion

By implementing effective erosion control measures, we can minimize the impacts of weather-related issues on soil stability and protect the environment surrounding the excavation site. These measures also help to ensure compliance with local and state regulations governing stormwater management and erosion control in construction projects.

Need help on your Excavating project? Call Dirt Guys.

If you have any concern about the success of your project because of weather-related issues, give us a call. We’ve been doing it for years, are well trained to handle complex logistical projects, and are one of the top rated excavating contractors in all of Yamhill County.

Give us a call to schedule your estimate or have a simple conversation over the phone at (503) 997-8412.

Frequently Asked Questions

Contractors closely monitor weather forecasts to plan excavation work effectively. They consider factors such as precipitation, temperature, and wind conditions to ensure the safety and efficiency of their projects, adjusting schedules and implementing protective measures as needed.

Safety protocols help excavation contractors deal with weather-related issues by providing guidelines for assessing risks and implementing appropriate measures to protect workers and equipment. These protocols may include monitoring weather conditions, securing job sites, and having emergency response plans in place to minimize the impact of adverse weather events on excavation projects.

Specialized equipment used by excavation contractors to tackle weather-related challenges includes heavy-duty excavators with all-weather cabs, heated hydraulics, and winterized components. Contractors also utilize specialized attachments such as frost rippers and snow blowers to break through frozen ground and clear snow from job sites.

Soil stabilization techniques help excavation experts maintain worksite safety and efficiency during adverse weather conditions. By improving soil strength and reducing erosion, these methods allow projects to stay on schedule despite challenging environmental factors.

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