Tradies and construction site controllers may be looking forward to the Christmas holidays, but before you clock-off from your worksite, it’s vital to ensure everything is locked up and secured.

Construction sites must be safe and without risk of injury or illness to members of the public at all times.

The best way to reduce public risk is to ensure your site is securely fenced and the gates are locked. Workplace safety laws require building sites to have adequate site security, which includes appropriate fencing.

Fencing off construction sites prevents unauthorised access during the Christmas and New Year shut down. In the past five years, around 15 penalty notices have been issued in relation to unauthorised persons accessing construction sites.

Sites within or surrounded by residential areas pose a heightened risk, particularly as there are more children in the vicinity due to school holidays.

Don’t overlook excavation areas that can fill with water and pose a potential drowning risk, such as pits, trenches and pier holes. Swimming pools under construction are a particular risk for children so take extra precautions if the site is near a playground, oval or other public area.

It’s not enough to expect people to ‘know better.’ After a few Christmas drinks, even a sensible person can be tempted to see if he can drive the backhoe that has been left on a nearby worksite, or climb up scaffolding to get a better view of fireworks. What starts as fun can have potentially fatal consequences.

Hazards to check for include:

  • Objects on the ground that can be tripped over
  • Incomplete or inadequately braced walls which can collapse in a strong wind
  • Dangerous goods and hazardous substances that have not been stored or locked away safely
  • Unsecured plant or machinery that could be operated illegally; and
  • Lighter objects such as temporary fencing or building materials that can be thrown around during summer storms

Site controllers should conduct a risk assessment to determine fencing requirements and ensure that while sites are unattended:

  • Electrical power is off
  • Access to elevated floors, scaffolding and ladders is blocked
  • Plant and equipment, tools, chemicals and dangerous goods are securely stored
  • Water drums are emptied
  • Pits, trenches and pier holes are covered; and
  • Appropriate signage is erected with contact telephone numbers, including prohibiting access by unauthorised people.

Develop your own lockup checklist – by law you must have a safety plan – and follow these simple steps to help prevent a potential tragedy.