While winter construction hazards are obvious, protecting construction equipment during summer is just as important and often overlooked. With Britain experiencing a succession of heatwaves, construction firms are making the most of the good weather to complete projects quickly. However, the constant hot weather can place unforeseen strains on equipment and workers. Sunlight, heat, humidity and longer working hours can all play their part and are hard to avoid.
This does not mean it is impossible to avoid the harmful side effects of summer weather. By implementing systems of planned maintenance and regular inspections most, if not all, problems can be avoided. This will avoid needless breakdowns and downtime that not only slow down work but cost money. Here are our ten top tips for protecting construction equipment during summer.
While it can be tempting to open doors or windows to give AC systems a helping hand to cool cabs, it can have the opposite effect. Dust and other airborne debris, more common in hot weather, can be drawn into the cab as a result. This can block AC filters, placing strain on the system and reducing its efficiency and potentially causing permanent damage. Excessive heat in cabs can cause operators to become tired and distracted, increasing the chances of worksite accidents. AC systems should be inspected regularly, checking filters, valves and hoses and missing or damaged fans or sun visors replaced immediately.
Optimal tyre inflation allows plant machinery to operate safely and efficiently and reduces wear and tear. As the external temperature rises, air in tyres will expand, potentially causing over-inflation and a corresponding risk of dangerous blowouts. An increase of only 10 degrees Fahrenheit will increase tyre pressure by one pound per square inch. As a result, tyre pressure inspections should be performed more often and any necessary remedial action taken.
Warmer conditions can cause electrolytes in lead-acid engine batteries to evaporate, causing premature battery failure. Batteries are one of the most commonly overlooked elements in inspections, despite being common to almost all plant machinery. Any batteries already weakened by winter conditions will be far more likely to fail, causing breakdowns and halting work unnecessarily. Regular battery checks will avoid this, allowing work to continue unimpeded.
Radiators should be regularly cleaned to avoid any build up of debris that can reduce engine efficiency. Compressed air hoses are always preferable as water hoses can wash dislodged debris into the bottom of the radiator. This will then accumulate and cause even greater problems in the future. Outer surfaces of radiators should also be inspected regularly for corrosion or any build up of dust and debris that could cause overheating. Hoses and radiator caps should also be checked for any wear or damage that could lead to leaks.
When an engine has been running hard in hot weather, the diesel and DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid) remaining in tanks will be extremely hot. The return cycles increase the temperature of the already warm fuel and DEF and this this draws humid, moist air into the tanks through the breathers. Any amount of water in diesel or Def can cause performance issues, requiring extra maintenance and downtime. By filling the tanks at the end of each working day, the cooler fuel added will lower the temperature inside the tanks and leave no space for water to enter.
The operator manuals for all plant machinery will outline the manufacturer’s greasing intervals. It is more important than ever to pay close attention to these in hot weather. The increased heat from running an engine for extended periods in summer can cause grease to thin out faster. As a result, the engine will be less lubricated, causing wear to components. Increased levels of dust and contaminants in the air can also be trapped in grease, causing further damage. By following greasing intervals closely can avoid both of these issues.
After operation, machines should be allowed to idle for a few minutes to cycle down and cool. The idle time should be extended by an extra few minutes in hot conditions to give the engine more time to cool. If the engine is shut off prematurely, the turbo charger shaft and bearings can be damaged as the engine oil supply that lubricates them is also shut off. It is also worth switching equipment to sleep mode or switching it off entirely when not in use, even during the day. This prevents overheating and conserves fuel, lowering running costs.
During the peak sunlight hours, temperatures are at their highest and sunlight is most intense. Generally speaking, peak hours are from 10.00am to 3.00pm. Obviously these are the peak hours for work on most construction sites, so avoiding working during them is impossible. If possible, try to schedule any indoor work for this period to avoid the high temperatures and intense sunlight. This avoids equipment overheating and protects workers from harm.
When equipment is not in use, try to avoid direct exposure to sunlight. This avoids overheating, prolonging the life of equipment and its critical parts and keeps cab temperatures down. While many worksites may not have dedicated storage space for this, there are other solutions. Parking machinery in the shade of buildings or even trees will limit exposure during idle times or when not in use. Even shielding machinery with tarpaulins will go some way to limiting heat exposure. These have the added benefit of shielding equipment from dust or other airborne contaminants that are more prevalent in hot weather.
While this may sound odd or even comical, the end results of not checking can be far from a laughing matter. Birds love getting into small holes and compartments in machinery to find a warm place to nest. A nest of dried twigs and feathers next to a hot engine is an obvious fire risk. If this has been drying since spring it can be a major risk. Regular engine compartment checks will avoid this often overlooked hazard.
SERV Plant Hire are plant and machinery specialists offering a huge variety of construction equipment and tools for hire to the North West of England. Contact us to discuss your requirements, we will be happy to answer any questions and ensure you have the right equipment for the job.
SERV Plant Hire are plant and machinery specialists offering a huge variety of construction equipment and tools for hire to the North West of England. We offer a range of market leading Manitou telehandlers, from compact models ideal for urban and indoor work to our largest model with a lift of 18 metres. We can also supply a variety of attachments to fully exploit the versatility telehandlers offer. Whatever your needs, contact us, we will be happy to answer any questions and ensure you have the best equipment for the job in hand.