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Safety and Sustainability First: How to Organise a Building Site

An organised building site is a safer building site, not least because the planning and compliance behind robust organisation and site management generally mirrors the planning, risk-minimisation, and attention to detail required to facilitate compliance in health and safety for workers, visitors and the passing public.

But where do you start when it comes to getting a building site up and running for optimum safety and productivity? It can be helpful to know the key areas involved as ensuring these areas are covered establishes a useful foundation for sustainable building site organisation and safety.

Construction site traffic management

Published Health and Safety Executive (HSE) statistics show that approximately 7 workers die each year on construction sites, as a result of accidents relating to vehicle and plant movement. So construction site traffic management is all about proactive prevention and protection for workers, visitors, and the public.

worker, construction, safety

This means paying attention to the key areas where risks of incident and accident are high:

  • Access points – all entrances and exits should have access points for pedestrians and vehicles clearly designated and separated.
  • Walkways – pedestrian walkways should be clearly marked in as direct a route as possible. Walkways should be kept clear of obstacles, be well-drained and be cleared regularly to reduce the risks of slips, trips, and accidents. Where walkways cross vehicle areas, appropriate signage and lighting should be used.
  • Visibility – visibility needs to be optimum for vehicle users across the site, including at entrances and exits and particularly where exits take the vehicles into public footpath and road areas.
  • Barrier control – barriers can help demarcation of safety zones, such as loading and unloading areas for materials from vehicles, creating safe walkways away from reversing vehicles or working plant. However, barriers should never be deployed in a way which forces pedestrians to step out into traffic areas.
  • Movement – vehicle movement on site poses a significant risk of accidents. Organising the building site to facilitate safer movement with minimal risk is what every site planner should be aiming to do. Organisation measures to facilitate safe movement should include:
    • Separate parking areas for staff and visitors, away from the main site.
    • Controlled access points.
    • Delivery, unloading and storage points close to access points but not within (and definitely not across) the main site.
    • Visibility and awareness aids, such as mirrors, reversing zones, alarms, cameras, lighting, and signage.
    • High visibility clothing should be worn by all personnel and visitors onsite, and drivers trained in pedestrian awareness.
    • Trained signallers to support vehicle movement.

Follow up: for in-depth information and up to date regulations for compliance, read the HSE advice on traffic management on site.

Protecting the public

Many construction sites are adjacent to public areas, so minimising public risk is of paramount importance when organising the site. Consider:

  • Perimeters – all site boundaries must be physically marked with appropriate and secure fencing or barrier systems which can fulfil the following requirements:
    • Suit the purpose and nature of the site;
    • Protect the public from the transfer of on-site hazards, such as all noise and dust;
    • Take into account any environmental or location factors, for instance if bordering a school, community playing field, shopping centre, nature reserve and so forth.
    • Management of visitors to the site (pedestrians as well as vehicles).
  • Access arrangements – it should not be possible for unauthorised persons to access the site during working hours or out of hours. Access should be monitored during working hours, for instance through CCTV systems and all visitors should be signed in and out. Additional security measures such as security monitoring or manned guarding should be in place out of hours.

Follow up: further information on the law relating to protecting the public, and the issues involved can be found at the HSE’s page on protecting the public.

Minimising hazards for workers and visitors

When it comes to organising the site so that work can take place in ways that keep both workers and visitors safe, there are numerous hazards to bear in mind.

construction site, safety, circular saw, tools

Hazard areas include:

  • Excavations;
  • Falling and moving objects;
  • Trips, slips and falls;
  • Use of tools and equipment;
  • Dust, noise, and vibrations;
  • Electricity and fire;
  • Working at height.

Follow up: SafeSite Facilities offers an extended article on this topic, with links to relevant HSE recommendations.

Storage and waste management

On construction sites, there’s often as much movement of materials off the site for disposal as there is onto the site for building with. To get storage and waste management well organised, ensure:

  • Storage which supports safety – storage areas should be clearly designated and organised by type of material. The design and construction of each storage facility should be an appropriate match for what is being stored. For example, flammable and hazardous materials should be well protected from the risk of possible ignition.
  • Storage which supports security – vehicles should be parked and locked within dedicated zones within the perimeter of the site, and the keys stored in a separate location (such as site office) out of work hours, not left in the vehicles overnight. Equipment and tools should also be stored and locked appropriately.
  • Early implementation of a Waste Management Plan – a waste management plan should be in place before work starts and should be organised in compliance with the HSE guidelines and local environment agency and local authority regulations.

Follow up: if you are unsure how these guidelines apply to your site, check the relevant guidance on the HSE website and contact the local authority for the site’s location.


Welfare organisation involves ensuring that basic needs and requirements of visitors and workers can be fulfilled conveniently and safely. This means ensuring adequate facilities for:

  • Rest breaks and refreshments, including drinking water.
  • Changing rooms with locker facilities.
  • Toilets and washing facilities.

However, although these need to be conveniently placed, thought should be given to organising these areas at the edge of the site, to minimise pedestrians crossing high-traffic, high-risk work areas in order to access them.

Follow up: check up on responsibilities, best-practice, and the law when organising site welfare using this HSE guidance.

Administration, compliance, and evidence

Along with the physical fundamentals of building site organisation, administrative processes have to be in place as these underpin all aspects of site management, particularly the legal ones. It’s worth noting that the majority of these should be in place before work actually starts on site and are work-in-progress documents which need regular updating as work progresses.

construction site, admin, organisation

Robust administrative organisation will support reporting, compliance and evidence-based processes, and should include basics of:

  • Health and safety.
  • Risk and hazard assessments.
  • CMD planning.
  • Inspection.
  • Method statements.
  • Training and policies.
  • Accident reporting and response procedures.

Follow up: for up to date information on each of the above areas of compliance, read the HSE’s advice on construction site administration.

Finally, as no two construction sites are the same, it follows that each site’s individual organisational requirements will be different. As such, this article is intended for guidance only as there will always be some key aspect which will be relevant to your own site and project but not necessarily mentioned here. SafeSite Facilities highly recommends that every building site is organised with further reference to the HSE, the relevant local authority and with the Environment Agency.

Additional resources:

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