Closing construction sites for holiday periods

Richard Glazzard
As the Christmas holidays approach, amongst the stress of trying to manage work around Christmas parties and mince pies aplenty, contractors will be preparing for the longest holiday period throughout the year.

If you’re managing a construction site, give yourself the gift of peace of mind this Christmas by ensuring your site is safe whilst you’re not there. In most cases construction sites will remain vacant for up to two weeks. It is during this period, when little or no monitoring of the site is undertaken that it is important to ensure the site is safe and free from any hazards. We have put together a guide to help you manage construction site closure…

The Law

There are two Occupiers Liability Acts. The first Occupiers Liability Act 1957 identifies that the owner of a premises or site has a duty of care to visitors and their safety. The second Occupier Liability Act 1984 extends that duty of care to persons not authorised to be on the premises -trespassers. The best way for contractors to avoid falling foul of this latter Act whilst sites are vacant is to ensure firstly that the site is not easily accessible and secondly that hazards are removed or made as safe as possible on the site and from the areas immediately affected by the site.  

Closedown Procedure

Having a procedure that details and plans for what needs to be completed before closing the gates is an effective way to ensure the site is closed down safely. The procedure should consider the following;

Housekeeping

  • All equipment should be locked in secure containers or buildings.
  • Plant and machinery should be removed from site or at the very least isolated and made safe. Cranes should be left in accordance with the manufacturers instructions.
  • The procedure should incorporate site walks in the lead up to the last day to ensure all materials are stored safely and where necessary locked away.
  • Pathways and walk ways both on and off the site should be free from mud, debris and materials that could obstruct or cause injury. Inclement weather should be taken into consideration. Materials including tarpaulins, plastic and cardboard packaging that could be blown offsite by wind should be fastened down or removed from site. Planning to have skips removed from site can also help to reduce this risk.

Third party access to site 

It is important to ensure areas of the site where third party access may be required (substations or services mains) have access that is safe and free from obstructions. Arrangements for third parties to gain access when the site is vacant should be considered with the third party.

Security

Hoarding and security fencing should be checked before final close down to ensure it is stable and as per any temporary works design, checking hoarding integrity for wind loading at this time of year is especially important. Emergency contact details should be placed on the front of the hoarding and protected from weather. Ensure the emergency contact will be contactable over the Christmas period. Adequate warning signage should be displayed around the site perimeter. Lighting and CCTV that has been provided on site for the security of the site and local residents should have suitable power supply to ensure it does not cease to work over the Christmas period.

Scaffolding

Scaffolding should be made safe, this may include the use of alarms, removal of access and completion or closing off incomplete scaffold sections. Scaffold inspections should be undertaken before the Christmas close down period, ensuring all materials have been removed. It may be necessary with some scaffolds to have arrangements in place to have checks carried out in the event of high winds during the Christmas break.

Excavations

Excavations should be made safe from persons falling in either by backfilling or covering over. You should avoid leaving excavations exposed where possible, edge protection should be installed where this is not possible. Temporary works checks should be undertaken prior to the break to ensure there is no risk of the excavation collapsing.

Fire Risk

If constructing timber frame, ensure your build is completed as per the offsite fire risk assessment to ensure surrounding buildings are protected from any potential fire during the festive break. Ensure fuels and combustibles are removed or locked away in a safe container and sources of ignition such as electricals are removed or isolated if necessary.

Faithful+Gould can provide site safety inspections, Health and Safety Audits and have experience writing procedure for several high-profile clients.

 

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