Securing your site over Christmas

24th November 2021

When the Christmas shut-down approaches, many people in the construction industry prepare for a well-deserved break, and construction sites across the country are left uninhabited over the festive season.

In previous years, members of the public have been killed or injured in construction-related incidents. Incidents included materials being blown off-site, scaffolding collapsing, or children gaining access to poorly protected sites.

By following these simple steps, and minimising the risk of access by unauthorised individuals, injuries can be prevented during the Christmas shutdown. Since every site is different, you need to assess your own site for the security risks that may be present.

Arrange regular checks

Should the site be closed for a significant period, it may be sensible to arrange for regular checks to take place to ensure that the site remains safe and secure.

Have emergency contact numbers ready

You should have emergency contact numbers displayed or available should anything urgent need attending to, such as a break-in or hoarding damage over the closure period.

Prevent potential financial loss

Ensuring that your site is secure could prevent financial loss from damage or thievery during the Christmas break. To reduce the risk of theft, make sure you remove any highly valuable items from your site or at least remove them from view. Lock vehicles, plant, tools and equipment within a secure compound or storage area.

Assess the safety risk

Conduct a risk assessment. Evaluating the site risk is crucial before you secure your site over Christmas. If your site is located in a densely populated area such as a city centre, it is likely that your site would be considered at higher risk than those located in areas that are more rural.

Greater measures of security can include:

• Alarmed fencing

• Security cameras

• Heavy-duty locks

Some high-value projects will need to be manned over the break, often a security guard acting as a deterrent to casual thieves. However, all employees on-site will need some basic health and safety training to protect themselves while on-site alone

If you already have fencing, ensure that this is secure and undamaged. Check that your locks and doors are all functioning correctly.

Children can often see poorly guarded sites as a playground, so sites need to prevent them from being able to gain access. If trespassing occurs, the general contractor can be held liable for any injuries sustained. You should consider removing all ground-level access to higher platforms such as scaffolding, ensuring all keys have been removed from plant/machinery, COSHH correctly secured, and secure all site accommodation. View the HSE’s additional guidance on how to protect the public.

Prepare for bad weather

Temporary structures such as scaffolding, fencing, trenches, and excavations could be at risk of collapsing from strong winds during the winter. These can be made as secure as possible by:

• Using warning signposts near trenches and excavations

• Cover voids, pits, trenches, and pier holes

• Covering unfinished roofs etc. with tarpaulin

• Ensuring that loose materials are removed from scaffolding

The site should be checked, particularly if there is bad weather.

For more information on how to properly secure scaffolding, please view HSE’s scaffold checklist.

Securing your site and planning the shut down in advance will mean that your valuables, staff, and the public are safe, and will give you a better chance of a worry-free Christmas break.