As precisely as ever, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) goes into some detail about the ways in which the public must be protected from activities on a construction site. Sadly, there is less guidance on how to protect your site from that section of the public who think anything left out in the open is fair game for theft, vandalism or arson. So let’s take a look at this topic in the round – what you need to do to protect others and what you can do to protect yourself and your site.
Ensuring Your Site Can’t Harm The Public
First, your duties to others. Of course, the normal protocols for worker health and safety will apply And there are duties here for both the contractor and the client.
The project’s client has to provide the contractor with information about the land adjoining the site, how access to the site is managed, what the boundaries are and what measures are already in place to prevent unauthorised access. The contractor then has to decide if any extra measures need to be added. As the HSE sees it, there are three main issues: site access, preventing any hazards harming the public and taking special measures to protect the vulnerable.
As you might expect, that “vulnerable” group includes children, who are fascinated by building sites and “diggers”. Better fencing and management have led to a fall in the number of children injured on building sites, but there are still unfortunate accidents. And you may not know that the elderly and people with disabilities are also considered vulnerable, so, for example, if you set up an alternative route for pedestrians, these groups need to be able to use it.
Vehicle Movements, Trenches and Falling Tools
One of the main hazards to the public is vehicle movements. If you are working on a site that has plant and vehicles moving on roads or paths which the public also uses, you need to be doubly careful. The hazard of the public falling into trenches and pits is usually dealt with by barriers and temporary coverings overnight. The HSE recommends small mesh fencing or hoarding to a height of two metres, and hoarding will also help to deter theft, as thieves can’t see what is being kept on site.
Falling Tools or Materials
Nothing must fall outside the site boundary, so scaffolding may need netting, brick guards, toe boards or even covered walkways. Materials should be stored away from the site perimeter and stacked so they can’t topple over. Hazardous items need to be locked away when the site isn’t manned. When scaffolding is going up, extra precautions should be in place.
Theft, Arson and Damage
The good news is that some of the measures you put in place to comply with health and safety requirements actually help site security. Many thefts from sites take place during the day – construction workers’ personal property and tools can be targeted as well as vehicles and equipment. When there are a large number of sub-contractors on site, they’re not going to be able to identify a stranger. For these reasons, an ID scheme and a single controlled access point can make a lot of difference, particularly if you add an access control such as a turnstile.
Fuel is a favourite target because it’s easy to get at, plant and equipment may contain a large quantity and there may also be a fuel tank on site for a generator. Best of all, fuel is untraceable and there’s a ready market for it. So an unprotected site is a relatively risk-free environment for a fuel thief.
While construction site security in Hereford is as much a concern as anywhere else, in more rural areas terrorism isn’t a problem. But political action may be – look at the fracking sites, which are regularly picketed by protesters who would enter the site if they could.
Definitely much more common is deliberate damage to equipment or the building itself or arson. Again, the measures you’ve put in place to safeguard the public – fencing and controlled access – will help.
Two Types of Security for Sites
Sites may need not just physical security but operational security as well. Physical security includes the measures discussed already, along with, for example, CCTV and motion detector lights.
Operational security often involves employing people to patrol the site, visit it at night or guard it during the day. You may wish to have the CCTV remotely monitored by a security company that can send out an investigating patrol if necessary. Think also about minimising the number of vehicles on site and keeping a list of expected deliveries and pickups.
All of these measures together will improve both safety and security.