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Pothole season is upon us – what do you do to prevent them from forming, and how do you make the area safe?

Many factors contribute to the creation of potholes, which present a real danger to your workers, schedules and general site safety.

Ground which has fallen victim to extreme or punishing weather can be costly to fix. Vigilance with land that is likely to be damaged by the wet, icy weather is important. Read on to learn more about why potholes occur, the dangers and how they can easily be made safe in the short term.  

How do potholes happen?

When ground water penetrates a surface, then expands and contracts, it creates a pothole. 

As water freezes it expands, so you can understand why heavy rain fall and freezing temperatures wreak havoc on roads and car parks. 

If water freezes underground, it takes up more space and causes the ground to expand, bend and crack. When the ice melts, it fills the new voids in the pavement and gets trapped. When the cycle: of freeze, expand, crack, melt persists, so does the damage. 

Any surface exposed to these freezing patterns, becomes increasingly brittle and vulnerable to heavy loads such as machinery, lorries, vans, and cars. 

The stages of pothole creation are as follows:

  • The road/pavement surface cracks.
  • Water penetrates the surface.
  • Traffic pounds the pavement/road surface.
  • Freeze-thaw cycles accelerate development.
  • Standing water aggravates the process.

The vehicles passing over the weak areas cause pieces of the roadway to displace or break down and create nasty potholes that continue to grow. 

Other factors that can contribute to the creation of potholes are:

  • Poor site drainage.
  • Ageing asphalt.
  • Shrinkage cracking.
  • Low site maintenance.
  • Utility works and poor completion of works. 

Why do I need to tackle potholes?

Potholes can cause serious incidents. Road accidents tracked by the UK Government (Transport Dept) in 2021 detailed the impact of potholes. On average, over 1,000 of road incidents each year are caused by poor and defective road surfaces*. Unfortunately, 10% of those incidents have fatal consequences. 

The risk to life and safety, is why potholes need to be made safe, and addressed promptly. 

How can I prevent and fix potholes?

Any site that does not maintain a road or pavement surface is a risk of encountering potholes at some point. The process starts with a road, or pavement that is unsuitable for its level of use or compromised over time. 

You can prevent potholes on your land by:

  • Inspecting surfaces regularly.
  • Keep roads and surfaces well drained.
  • Ensure all road surfaces are watertight.
  • Minimise utility works or repair.
  • Regularly resurface.
  • Reduce/address traffic – volume or type.

Increasing the asphalt base layer, granular subbase (or both) will reduce any deformation underground. Be sure to stay on top of your maintenance and act when things are tired or look worn. Considering the time of year is also a prudent measure, excessive rainfall and frost are typical later winter/early spring (in the UK).

How to make a pothole safe

While you await a longer-term solution, act quickly and mark off the area around the pothole. 

SafeSite Facilities stock many ‘Chapter 8’ products which are ideally suited to marking dangers on, or around highways and pedestrian areas. 

If the pothole is small, you can mark the area with a weighted traffic, high vis cone. If the pothole is in a busy and poorly lit area, you can also add a micro light which goes over the top of the cone.

Road plates and trench covers can be laid over small potholes or road damage. They are versatile, safe and durable under extreme loads. 

Road plates, covers, and ground protection are an effective preventive measure, on a land that poses a risk to safety. 

If the pothole is large and a danger to the public, workers and traffic, it may be best to invest in a ‘Watchman Barrier’. If you need something to tide yourself over, you can hire the barrier. We offer the supply of items on a sale or hire basis (nationwide).

Watchman barriers can enclose hazards and comply with ‘Chapter 8 – Street Works’ guidance. You can create the structure you prefer and add lamps as required.  

What do I do if the pothole is not on property that I manage?

If the pothole is not on your land but a public highway or property, be diligent and report it. Take a photo, note the location, and get a rough measurement of the pothole’s size. 

Notify your local county, city or borough council know so they can fix the hole. You can use this postcode checker to identify the authority you need to contact, or see below:

What to do if your vehicle is damaged by a pothole

The increase number of potholes are attributed to budget cuts and council restraints. In a recent report, the RAC stated that drivers were 1.5 times more likely to suffer a pothole-related breakdown now than they were in almost 20 years ago.

If you have suffered damage to your vehicle on a public road, you should take a photo of the pothole, flag it with your local authority, repair your car and make your claim. You should detail all receipts and costs in your claim and submit the information to your council. If the damage is expensive, speak to your insurance company or seek legal advice. 

*Data extracted from UK Government website which tracks 10 years up to and including 2021.

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