A construction site can be a dangerous place to work due to changing and ongoing risks, including those associated with:
- demolition of existing structures
- slips, trips and falls
- temporary electrical installations
- partially constructed structures
- stored construction materials
- on-site plant and equipment
Occupational health and safety duties
The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 require that a person who has management or control of a workplace, such as a builder with management or control of a construction site, ensures, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the workplace is safe and without risks to health.
This general duty applies even when work is not taking place, such as outside of working hours. It extends to members of the public, who may enter an unoccupied construction site, exposing them to serious health and safety risks.
The principals of health and safety protection require that members of the public are given the highest level of protection against risks to their health and safety that is reasonably practicable in the circumstances.
When assessing risks to the public, employers should consider the possibility of children entering an unoccupied construction site, noting that risks may increase when the site is located near:
- a school, including a route travelled by children to and from school
- parks or recreational areas
- built up areas
Controlling the risks
The most acceptable method to control risk adopted by industry is the use of appropriate temporary site security fencing. Security fencing can effectively control unauthorised entry onto an unoccupied construction site and can discourage or prevent young children from entry.
Other controls, such as surveillance by security personnel, should only be considered for short duration periods where it is not reasonably practicable to provide security fencing.
When a security fence is used to control unauthorised entry onto a construction site, it should be:
- at least 1.8m high
- well-constructed — gates and joints in fence sections should be securely connected, without any weak points for entry
- stable and able to withstand anticipated loads or forces, such as strong winds (Note: fencing with signage and shade cloth type coverings may require additional support to resist wind loadings)
- difficult to climb and prevent access from underneath (Note: sheets of reinforcing mesh should not be used as site fencing because it may allow adequate hand and foot hold for children to climb over. Protruding ends may also cause injury)