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How to protect the public and your workforce during construction projects

How to protect the public and your workforce during construction projects
How to protect the public and your workforce during construction projects

Managing safety and security on a construction site and adhering to safety laws and requirements can seem a daunting task, but it must be one to be taken seriously, especially as there is human life at risk.

A busy work site may have multiple teams of tradespeople, constant vehicle movement, commercial machinery and potentially dangerous tools, all of which need to be included in a risk assessment to protect both your workers and the general public from danger.

In this guide, we outline some of the critical risks of a construction site environment, what you can do to responsibly manage those risks and make sure your sites are safe and pose minimal danger to the public.


What are the risks to the public?

As every construction professional will know, workers, tradespeople and project managers adhere to strict rules when entering any developing site, such as wearing PPE, conforming to access control protocols, logging equipment or vehicles in and out, and ensuring they only carry out work within their area of knowledge, expertise and qualifications. But what about the public?

Construction sites should never be accessible to anybody who is not intended to be there, with a wide range of risks, some of which can potentially have severe outcomes if not managed correctly:

  • Collision with vehicles: Heavy goods vehicles, bulldozers, loaders, and cranes carry a risk of collisions and accidents and must only be operated by trained, licensed drivers who follow policies when manoeuvring around the site.
  • Falling from height: Scaffolding and other platforms can cause a risk when used by an unauthorised person without safety equipment. They are also a public safety risk during erection and dismantling if these processes are not controlled to prevent items from falling.
  • Hazardous materials: Materials may be hazardous, create large amounts of dust when cut or moved, or present a hazard if they are not stacked, stored or loaded correctly, with a risk of slippages.
  • Uneven terrain: Excavations and trenches create a fall hazard, where manholes, unfinished stairwells, openings in the ground or other deep holes should be well-signposted.
  • Electrical Hazards: Construction sites often have exposed wiring, temporary power supplies, and unfinished electrical systems that pose a significant risk of electric shock or electrocution, especially to individuals unfamiliar with the site’s electrical safety measures.
  • Noise and Vibration: Prolonged exposure to high levels of noise from construction machinery and operations can lead to hearing damage. Vibration from heavy machinery can also cause discomfort or health issues for nearby residents or passersby, potentially leading to complaints or legal issues for the construction project.
  • Chemical Exposure: Many construction sites use a variety of chemicals, such as solvents, paints, and adhesives, which can be harmful if inhaled or if they come into contact with skin. Unauthorised access increases the risk of exposure to these substances, potentially leading to acute or chronic health issues.
  • Struck-by Hazards: Individuals on or near a construction site are at risk of being struck by falling objects, such as tools, construction materials, debris, or dislodged equipment. Without the proper safety gear, like hard hats, and lacking awareness of the site’s safety protocols, the public is vulnerable to serious head injuries or even fatalities from these incidents.

Identifying these possible risks and considering the best way to prevent members of the public from getting into harm’s way is essential.

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What are the Legal Requirements for Construction Site Security?

Managers must be compliant with the Health and Safety at Work Act and fulfil their legal obligations to control construction site hazards.

Such regulations include:

  • The duty to assess the risks to the health and safety of any persons accessing your site. That might include visitors, passers-by, delivery drivers and non-employees who have permission to be on the site.
  • Responsibility for site boundaries. For example, preventing public entry into areas presenting a hazard to health, or restricting vehicular access to your site beyond designated hours or safe delivery slots.
  • Security requirements, both to prevent access from people who do not have permission to be on-site and avoid inadvertent security breaches by the public.

Therefore, your construction site projects don’t only require provisions to safeguard the welfare of staff and authorised visitors, but also to consider the project boundaries and the nature of neighbouring properties.

Non-compliance, near-misses, and reports of safety concerns or accidents may result in investigations conducted by HSE inspectors who can take enforcement action, depending on the severity of the breach and the nature of the accident or fault reported.

All construction sites must have defined boundary lines and ensure that the perimeter is maintained. The correct approach may depend on the type of construction work being carried out, population density in the nearby area, and other site characteristics.

Taking steps to prevent public access can also deliver enhanced site controls, where criminal intruders, fly-tippers and squatters are unable to enter a construction site undetected, and materials, tools and equipment are protected from theft.

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Step one: Developing a Construction Site Perimeter

Step one is to establish a perimeter around a construction site and evaluate the topography and potential entry points. The most common solution is to use fencing, such as anti-climb Heras fencing, although that may vary where some aspects of the perimeter border:

  • Open land, woodlands and parks
  • Waterways such as lakes or canals
  • Roads, motorways and pedestrian areas
  • Business and residential premises
  • Other buildings, such as schools, offices and hospitals

Many construction site managers use concrete barrier blocks, both as a standalone physical safeguard to prevent anybody from reaching the site via vehicle and as a support structure for Heras fencing, where fences cannot be moved or tampered with.

Clearway provides a variety of interlocking concrete barrier blocks, which can be configured to any height, width or perimeter size. These dense, immovable blocks are an excellent deterrent and, when combined with fencing, make it clear that a site is a restricted access area.

One of the advantages of concrete blocks is that they cannot be moved without specialist equipment, yet can be repositioned and reconfigured at any point by our engineers, with short and long-term hire available.

Adding access controls to main entrances is another good option. Authorised contractors, workers, surveyors and other visitors must log their credentials with a guard or scan a security fob or other security turnstiles. Using electronic gates, bollards, and barriers can prevent anybody who has not been pre-approved or granted access by a security guard from entering the site on foot or in a vehicle.

Step two: Preventing Unauthorised Construction Site Access

Once you have a visible perimeter and a boundary that runs around your construction site, you may also need to consider the ways a person might gain entry – despite warning notices, fencing and gates.

While criminal activity is a concern for construction site supervisors, they also need to ensure that they have adequate security to prevent children and vandals from entering a site, who might potentially ignore warnings without any direct criminal intent.

We might recommend a number of solutions well-suited to an outdoor construction site:

  • Wireless CCTV towers operate in all weather conditions and function autonomously with commercial-grade batteries or solar-powered systems. They transmit a signal immediately when movement is detected outside of working hours or in an area where activity is suspicious. Voice challenges, live recording and warning sirens can prevent an opportunist intruder from proceeding while alerting site managers, our Alarm Receiving Centre and the emergency services.
  • Perimeter intruder detection systems (PIDs) like the inView Detect provide continual oversight, detecting activity, movement and vibrations at any point within your site boundary. Each unit is immediately deployable and monitors 360 degrees, issuing an alert when any movement occurs that requires further investigation.
  • Wireless alarm systems may also be useful, particularly when installed in and around buildings under development, storage bays and parking areas. Like a wireless CCTV camera, alarms work independently and do not need a mains power connection. If a door or window is opened or a person enters the area of coverage, the alarm is activated to prompt action.
  • Construction site concrete barriers – Concrete barrier blocks can help to enhance public safety around construction sites by serving as a robust physical shield that protects against vehicle intrusion and construction-related hazards. Further to this, a barrier can prevent unlawful vehicle access associated with fly-tipping or encampments.

These barriers, often known as jersey barriers are pivotal in managing traffic flow and ensuring pedestrian safety by rerouting vehicles away from dangerous areas and creating secure pathways. Their impact-absorbing design significantly reduces the risk of accidents, making them an essential component in safeguarding both the public and construction workers from potential harm.

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A Checklist of Construction Site Security Requirements

The below checklist runs through some of the most common safety considerations to mitigate any risk exposure.

Risk Factor: Are there open entryways of access points around your construction site where unauthorised visitors might gain entry?
Response: Yes / No
Suggested Action: Perimeter security is essential. Consider concrete barriers to prevent vehicular access, fencing, installing signs and a review of security arrangements.

Risk Factor: Is there the potential for vehicles to access the site without a permitted entry slot, and without the site manager’s authority?
Response: Yes / No
Suggested Action:  It is critical to restrict vehicle movements and prevent security breaches by unauthorised vehicles. Consider concrete barriers to block off unused entryways, or security surveillance to defend your site boundaries.
Will scaffolding be erected on the site with a potential risk of falling debris or equipment?

Risk Factor: Do members of the public have the right of way underneath areas of overhead work?
Response: Yes / No
Suggested Action: Falls from height pose a significant risk to the workforce. Site managers must prevent potential injuries from falling debris. Toe holds or netting around the scaffolding is essential.

Risk Factor: Does your security risk assessment identify a risk of vandalism, unlawful entry, or thefts?
Response: Yes / No
Suggested Action: Illegal entry can cause extreme risks. Fly-tipping and trespassing can result in environmental hazards as well as safety concerns. Options include security patrols, CCTV surveillance, signage, construction site alarm systems and fencing.

Risk Factor: Are there properties on the construction site that may be accessed illegally through doorways or windows?
Response: Yes / No
Suggested Action: Vacant buildings are a magnet for criminals and pose multiple dangers and risks to life, such as unfinished flooring or unstable structures. Managers must secure empty properties. Window boarding up or steel security doors can create a physical barrier. Vacant property alarms or construction site CCTV act as a criminal deterrent.

Risk Factor: Do you produce any waste material, off-cuts or by-products on-site?
Response:Yes / No
Suggested Action: Off-cuts can present a risk of injury due to sharp edges. Waste materials may present a biohazard, or a threat to health if they produce dust, damp, mould or residues.

Safe disposal of waste materials is essential to avoid infestations, contaminations or attracting fly-tipping. Consider arranging a professional clearance service or commercial rubbish removal service as appropriate to the type of waste produced.

For more information about ways to mitigate the security risks on your construction site, or ensure that you can work safely without posing any dangers to passers-by, get in touch with the Clearway UK team today. Read more about our construction site security services here. 


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