With temperatures in the early thirties being recorded in the South & East Anglia, and meteorologists predicting that the thermometer is likely to hit at least 35C over the weekend, the UK is basking in Mediterranean style temperatures. Great for ‘staycationers’ congratulating themselves on choosing Cromer over Croatia; wonderful if you’re lounging by the pool with a cool drink to hand; less good if there is a contract to complete!
The Level 3 heat health warning issued by the Met Office, advises people to take to the shade between 11am and 3pm, when the sun is at its strongest. Obviously great advice, but not always easy, particularly in the construction sector.
So, how to mitigate the effects of this record breaking summer on your construction contact?
From a practical point of view any responsible Contractor should consider and properly manage the risks that hot weather poses to their employees.
- Rescheduling work where possible, so that activities taking place in full sun, or in enclosed areas such as roof voids, are carried out during the cooler parts of the day.
- Providing additional breaks and ensuring ample supplies of free drinks are available.
- Ensuring that appropriate clothing and sun protection is worn and that workers are aware of risks associated with heat stress.
All these provisions will protect employees and make working in the heat more comfortable but may also have an impact on productivity levels and the all-important bottom line.
Furthermore, working with some materials can become difficult in extreme heat; asphalt, concrete, even simple soil excavations can all be affected, also extending project times and increasing costs.
Recourse under contract?
Under a JCT Contract, delays caused by unusually severe weather are deemed a relevant event and, if the weather is demonstrated to have been exceptionally adverse and to have had an impact on progress, a contractor might legitimately be entitled to claim an extension of time. So, a claim for additional time caused by any delays arising from this exceptionally hot weather may well succeed, easing the pressure on contractors.
But adverse weather, however exceptional, is not a relevant matter, so a contractor can’t claim for any financial loss or additional expense incurred as a result of the heat wave, just as he or she can’t claim for the exceptionally poor weather that we are more likely to experience.
Under NEC contracts compensation events including adverse weather can give rise to both extensions of time and financial compensation. However, the NEC contract only deals with extreme rain, snow and cold so the contractor would have no recourse for the impact of hot weather on progress or productivity.
How are contractors coping on the sites with which we’re involved?
Generally, common sense is prevailing: work is being arranged to avoid as much disruption to planned schedules as possible. Sites are starting early and working in the shade during the hottest part of the day wherever possible – even making time for the occasional refreshing ice cream break.
Comparing what might be an ‘exceptional’ period of weather to that of a more typical British summer with its normal rainfall disruptions, the impact seems, thankfully, to be negligible.