Protecting the public

What you need to do

The law says you must conduct your business without putting members of the public at risk. This includes the public and other workers who may be affected by your work.

The project client should provide information about:

  • boundaries
  • adjacent land usage
  • access; and
  • measures to exclude unauthorized persons

This will influence the measures contractors take.

Key issues are:

What you need to know

All construction sites require:

  • Measures to manage access across defined boundaries; and
  • Steps to exclude unauthorised people.

While the numbers of children being killed or injured on construction sites has reduced, there is no room for complacency. Each year, two or three children die after gaining access to building sites, and many more are injured.

Other members of the public are seriously injured by:

  • Materials or tools falling outside the site boundary.
  • Falling into trenches; or
  • Being struck by moving plant and vehicles.

The client's pre-construction information should include:

  • project boundaries;
  • adjacent land use;
  • access; and
  • measures to exclude unauthorised people.

Managing site access

Site boundaries: You need to define boundaries physically, where necessary, by suitable fencing. The type of fencing should reflect the nature of the site and its surroundings.

Determining the boundary is an important aspect of managing public risk.  You need to:

  • plan what form the perimeter will take;
  • provide the fencing; and
  • maintain the fencing.

Questions you need to ask yourself include:

  • What is the nature and type of the construction work?
  • How heavily populated is the area is?
  • Who will need to visit the site during the work?
  • Will the site attract children?
  • What are the site characteristics (eg existing site boundaries, location, proximity to other buildings).

Typically, in populated areas, this will mean a two-metre high small mesh fence or hoarding around the site.

Authorisation: The principal contractor must take reasonable steps to prevent unauthorised people accessing the site.  

  • People may be authorised to access the whole site or be restricted to certain areas;
  • You must explain relevant site rules to authorised people and undertake any necessary site induction;
  • You may need to supervise or accompany some authorised visitors while they are on site or visiting specific areas.

Hazards causing risk to the public

Many hazards have the potential to injure members of the public and visitors. Consider if they exist on your project and how you will manage them.

Falling objects - You must make sure objects cannot fall outside the site boundary. On scaffolds you can achieve this using toe-boards, brick guards and netting. You may also need fans and/or covered walkways.

Delivery and other site vehicles - Make sure pedestrians cannot be struck by vehicles entering or leaving the site. Obstructing the pavement during deliveries may force pedestrians into the road, where they can be struck by other vehicles.

Scaffolding and other access equipment - Prevent people outside the boundary being struck while they are erecting, dismantling and using scaffolding and other access equipment.

Storing and stacking materials - You can reduce the risks associated with the storage of materials by storing materials within the site perimeter, preferably in secure compounds or away from the perimeter fencing.

Openings and excavations - People can be injured if they fall into excavations, manholes, stairwells or from open floor edges.  You'll need to put up barriers or covers.

Other hazards include -

  • slips, trips and falls within pedestrian areas;
  • plant, machinery and equipment;
  • hazardous substances;
  • electricity and other energy sources;
  • dust, noise and vibration; and
  • road works.

Vulnerable groups

The elderly, children and people with certain disabilities may need special attention. Work in premises such as schools and hospitals needs careful thought and planning.

Some children are drawn to construction sites as exciting places to play. You must do everything you can to keep them out of the site and away from danger.

The following specific steps are particularly relevant to child safety:

  • Secure sites adequately when finishing work for the day.
  • Barrier off or cover over excavations and pits.
  • Isolate and immobilise vehicles and plant and if possible lock them in a compound.
  • Store building materials (such as pipes, manhole rings, and cement bags) so that they cannot topple or roll over.
  • Remove access ladders from excavations and scaffolds.
  • Lock away hazardous substances.

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