23rd December, 2014

Protecting the public on construction sites

Any construction project that is being conducted in a public area, or in locations members of the public could reasonably be expected to occupy at any time, needs to have measures in place to protect everyone's safety.

In addition to the work health and safety (WHS) standards required to support the workers on site, the general public must be protected from any hazards associated with the work being carried out in or adjacent to a public place.

How to get started

For any employer in the construction industry, this duty of care is crucial for avoiding accidents and the repercussions that could follow. The first step in protecting the public from injury should be to identify the risks that may be present.

In this sector, there are several key hazards that could cause harm to your workers and visitors to your site. According to the Western Australia Department of Commerce, the most common causes of construction-related injuries to the public include:

  • Tripping over uneven surfaces
  • Falling into holes and trenches
  • Being hit by falling objects
  • Collisions with moving plant and vehicles

Addressing these concerns requires an extensive and practical safety solution. Essentially, every employee on your site should be made aware of the risks and have some knowledge of what to do when a member of the public is nearby.

Methods to protect the public

If you are looking to completely remove the risk to the public on your site, the very best policy to have in place is to fence off the work and only allow authorised persons inside the restricted area.

However, this is not always a practical idea – particularly when working on public construction projects. Instead, safety measures may require the use of signage, safety nets and other personal protective equipment.

When reasonable, you may also want to employ a safety officer who can dedicate their time to monitoring the movement of the public. This individual can then be responsible for guiding visitors through the site and informing them of their risks.

How to protect your business

Unfortunately, not every accident will be preventable, and at some point you may be required to answer for injuries caused to a visitor on your site.

If a member of the public should injure themselves due to a failure to meet your duty under the OHS Act, this negligence may result in significant fines and penalties. Public liability insurance will protect you against claims for damages. It will also cover financial repercussions for damage your work causes to a third party's property.

For more information on public liability policies, or any other cover you believe your construction project may require, talk to Trades Essentials today.

Author: Murray Bruce