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Five essential priorities when setting up a construction site

Getting started with a new construction project can be a complex and time-consuming process. After the wait for planning permission is finally over and the green light has officially been given to the project, everyone involved will want to get started as soon as possible - but this can only happen once the necessary steps have been taken to set up the construction site in a way that’s both safe and secure.

Rushing through this process can result in unnecessary risks and crucial details being missed, leading to unsafe working conditions, poor-quality work and severe reputational damage, so it’s vital for companies to get their planning just right before the construction phase can begin in earnest. Fortunately, there are plenty of guides and best practice standards available to help ensure that this process goes smoothly.

Here are five of the most important factors to consider when setting up a new construction site:

Create a secure perimeter to limit access and protect the public

One of the most important aspects of establishing a safe construction site is making sure the perimeters are well-defined and secured against any risk of potential threats to the health and safety of members of the public.

That means setting up fencing to prevent unauthorised access, and making sure that there is plenty of clearance between the site and any public thoroughfares to prevent any passersby from being injured by machinery, equipment, falling objects or uneven ground associated with your construction project. If your work is going to involve the use of vehicles, then this also means planning safe traffic routes that are properly demarcated, and have space for walkways and crossings where necessary.

Finally, make sure that you put up signage and notices all around the site to provide those in the area with necessary information about the details of the project, contact details for your company, and the potential hazards. These signs will also act as a reminder to your own staff and contractors about their professional responsibilities when working on site.

Establish a workflow in line with health and safety rules

Once the working area has been established, it’s vital to devise a workflow and routine that allows the project to be completed within time and on budget, while also conforming to the relevant health and safety regulations. A failure to do so can have very serious consequences - both in terms of the risk of injury, and the threat of regulatory intervention - so this isn’t something to be taken lightly.

First of all, carry out a thorough risk assessment to identify any potential hazards that can already be found on site - hidden wells, electrical cables, and gas or water channels are all good examples of risks that are hard to identify at first glance - before reviewing the key tasks and processes that your project will include, and document how the associated risks will be managed. By thinking ahead, you’ll be able to brief your staff on the best way to complete any given task in a way that keeps safety risks to a minimum.

Other key safety processes you’ll need include a sign-in register - so you’re always aware of who is working on the premises - and a first aid procedure to ensure that anyone who does sustain an injury is cared for swiftly. Once these plans are in place, staff should be given thorough training to make sure everyone on site is aware of their responsibilities.

Have your paperwork and documentation in order

Nobody likes having to deal with bureaucracy, but it’s an unavoidable reality of the construction business. Although requirements will vary from project to project, you can be sure that a construction phase plan, survey reports, contract documents and a detailed health and safety plan will all be needed, with the relevant industry regulators notified and given an opportunity to carry out inspections where necessary. Specific permits may also be required for certain high-risk activities, such as working at height or in confined spaces.

It’s also worth giving some thought to the kind of information that needs to be displayed on site, whether this is through informational posters or update documents posted on a communal noticeboard. Health and safety flyers and fire and emergency plans will generally be displayed prominently, alongside context-appropriate warning signs and insurance certificates. The better informed your workforce is, the safer your project will be.

Get the equipment you need for the work and your staff

It goes without saying that the success of any construction project depends on having the right tools for the job, so putting arrangements in place to get hold of the necessary equipment as soon as possible is essential. Your equipment requirements will vary by project, and will become clear during the planning process, which is another reason why comprehensive preliminary assessments are so essential.

When figuring out what tools you’ll need, don’t forget to also consider the personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements of your staff, as this is a key aspect of your health and safety responsibilities. Hard hats, safety boots and hi-vis workwear are always going to be necessary, while specific tasks may require other dedicated items of PPE, including earmuffs, dust masks, protective eyewear or heavy-duty gloves. When it comes to construction work, there’s no such thing as being overprepared.

Sort out the necessary storage and on-site amenities

It’s likely that your construction project will involve significant amounts of manual handling, whether this means moving equipment or transporting waste materials away from the work area. As such, it’s vital to have storage solutions in place to keep your site well-organised and tidy, even when you’re in the middle of a complex building or excavation process.

However, having proper on-site facilities isn’t just a matter of storage - it’s just as important to ensure your site has all of the amenities that workers will need to maintain their welfare, including toilets, washing areas, fresh drinking water, changing rooms, and places to rest. The latter is particularly important if you’re carrying out work on a long-term timescale, and you require staff to spend extended periods on site.

In cases like this, it may benefit your organisation to look into portable accommodation options, which can include modular sleeper cabins with en-suite facilities, or dining cabins that allow staff to prepare and eat their meals communally. This can help to ensure that the personal needs of your staff are being met, which makes it more likely that your construction project will go smoothly and successfully.

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