Can you Build in Rain?
It’s become increasingly common for the daily weather to dictate how construction takes place in South Africa.
If our day starts with wet weather or provides a strong indication of an impending downpour, little to no construction will take place. This phenomenon can significantly impact project duration and in worst cases, it even affects cost. Many of Jukka’s clients have asked the question, can you build in rain?
While many South Africans believe that weather should not play such a crucial role in getting a job done, there are a tremendous number of factors at play in the South African labour force.
Most labourers are effectively subcontractors for each project they carry out. With the construction industry making up a large portion of our formal and informal employment countrywide, the well-being of our labour force is crucial to the national economy, and to the productive function of many other vital industries.
Our ticket to providing labourers with a sustainable means to make a living is by focusing on fair working conditions – which is a basic constitutional right. This includes prioritising their health and safety and gaining insights into the specific challenges that they face on a regular basis.
As subcontractors are typically hired on a contract basis, they’re responsible for their own transport. However, given the circumstances under which the actual labourers have to commute, expecting the workforce to brave inclement weather to get to a construction site – and work outdoors in wet conditions – becomes a question of ethics.
Reasons to Rain Check – Ethical Construction
To get a full understanding of the common challenges that many labourers face in our country, some perspective is needed about why building in rain poses problems.
The typical day of a labourer-focused subcontractor begins at around 04h00 – 05h00 in the morning. Construction site workers in South Africa rise early to prepare for the day and navigate to the meet-up location where the subcontractor’s transportation will pick them up and take them to a construction site. This pick-up usually takes place at around 07h30, so that all subcontractors can be on-site early enough to make good progress on the given day.
These commutes are not simple and can be harsh at times. To make it to the meet-up location on time, labourers will often spend a lot of time walking and taking one or more trips in a taxi. Even once picked up, labourers are often seated on the back of an open truck or bakkie. The journey back home ends well after dusk, which brings with it new challenges during the cold and wet seasons of the year.
Their workday ends at around 16h00 to 17h00 but may often go on until sundown – after which they still need to travel home. For that reason, many labourers will have prepared their meals in the early hours of the morning, to make it through a workday of over 12 hours’ manual labour. They often eat dinner on their journey home – again, taking multiple taxis and walking long distances.
Since taxi pick-up times are subject to demand, finding a taxi going in their desired direction later can be tough, and sometimes impossible. If the call to return to work is made at around 07h00, for example, it could take 2-3 hours just to reach the team pick-up spot. Actual work would only begin at around midday.
Beyond the challenge of finding transport, working a half-day causes a significant financial impact on labourers, since an estimated half of their daily income is spent on transport alone.
When the day starts with heavy or persistent rain, you may ask your contractor, “Can you build in rain to stay on schedule?” The honest answer is that staying home is not only the safest call, but often the most productive one too.
That may seem counter-intuitive, but even if your labourers make it to your building site, and are able to continue building in rain, adverse weather conditions can create potential hazards – such as compromised electrical equipment, low visibility, and cold or slippery surfaces.
Bad weather may even cause certain materials to become defective in some cases, which results in financial losses or poor-quality work. When it comes to managing the weather’s impact on building materials, an experienced contractor should be able to make the call whether to proceed with caution, or call operations off for a day.
While missing a day may cause a minor delay in the progress of your project, there’s no need to worry. An experienced building contractor should be well-versed in taking such delays in his stride.
With unpredictable weather playing such a vital role in the productivity of our construction industry, we at Jukka believe it’s of utmost importance that we keep our subcontractors and the entire labour force in mind as we weather the storm together.
We hope that the next time the heavens open on your construction site and you find yourself wondering, can you build in rain?, you’ll remember rest assured that your team will be back on site as soon as the sun rises on a brighter day.