HSG 151: Protecting the public - your next move

Construction work can kill people who do not work directly in the industry. The importance of protecting such people cannot be emphasised enough. Members of the public and children are killed or seriously injured from construction activity in accidents which could have been prevented. The HSG 151 guidance is aimed at all those involved in construction, not only the principal contractor, but also the client, CDM co-ordinator and designer, where appropriate. It contains practical advice on how those designing, planning, maintaining and carrying out construction work can minimise the risks to those who are not involved in the construction process but may be affected.

What the law says

- Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 
The Act places a duty on all employers and the self-employed to take reasonably practicable steps to ensure the health and safety of people who are not in their employment, such as members of the public. 12 The Act also places a duty on employees to co-operate with their employer on health and safety matters and not to do anything which puts others at risk.

- Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 (CDM)
The CDM Regulations apply to all construction projects. It requires that health and safety is taken into account and managed throughout all stages of a project, from its conception, design and planning through to site work and subsequent maintenance and repair of the structure. CDM places a number of duties on those involved in the construction project. The client should make sure that anyone they propose to engage, such as designers and contractors, is competent and has made adequate provision for health and safety. This should include measures to protect the public where necessary. 

- Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 are intended to improve health and safety management and to detail what is required of employers (and in some cases the self-employed) under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

- Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1999
These Regulations place duties on employers who are using substances hazardous to health. There is a wide range of substances which can give a risk to people’s health. Many of these duties extend not only to employees but to any other person, whether at work or not, who may be affected by the work carried out. Again, this will include members of the public.

- Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR)
These Regulations require that persons having control of premises (generally the principal contractor) report certain accidents and dangerous events that occur there. Accidents which result in members of the public being taken to hospital should be notified to HSE (or sometimes the local authority) immediately and followed up by a report on form F2508, by telephone or online. 

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Planning, provision and maintenance of perimeters

 This section of the HSG 151 describes how to plan, provide and maintain suitable perimeters and barriers at locations where it is necessary to separate the public and others from the work. 

Plan by:
■ identifying the hazards;
■ assessing the risk;
■ eliminating risk from construction operations by design or other means if reasonably practicable;
■ defining the area to be protected;
■ identifying what is required at the site perimeter and other areas where people may be at risk, eg:
– large hoardings;
– 2 m sectional fencing closed mesh;
– 1 m fence;
– 2 m fencing broad mesh;
– security cameras; and
– security guards.

Provide by:
■ erecting the protection making use of any existing site features, eg buildings, walls etc; and
■ erecting warning/information signs.

Maintain by:
■ implementing procedures for regular inspection, maintenance etc; and
■ reviewing in the light of experience and modify accordingly.

Developing authorisation procedures 

During the construction phase there will be many visitors to the site, both planned and unplanned. Under CDM the principal contractor is required to take reasonable steps to ensure that only authorised people are allowed on site. This section of the HSG 151 is chiefly concerned with managing and controlling access for workers and visitors. It provides examples of authorisation procedures and explains how they can be operated.

Implement an authorisation system for visitors, and ensure those who operate it understand it.

This should include:
■ a readily identifiable reporting-in point;
■ providing safe access between the site entrance(s) and the control point;
■ making sure the route between the entrance and the reporting-in point is clearly marked;
■ providing appropriate information on the site rules, hazards and special precautions;
■ PPE; and
■ making sure people are accompanied around site, and issued with ID if needed.

Make sure the scheme matches the precautions to the risks, and is adapted as these risks alter. Monitor and review the scheme, as necessary.

Specific hazards, risks and their control

This section of the HSG 151 outlines common hazards and the precautions needed to control the risks to members of the public and visitors. It is not an exhaustive list – your work may present other hazards which need to be controlled.

- Scaffolding and other access equipment
The erection, dismantling and use of scaffolding and other access equipment, eg mobile elevating work platforms, present various risks because people outside the site can be struck by. You will need to liaise with the local highways authority, and may need authorisation from them if your work involves the closure or obstruction of public footpaths or roads. You will probably need a licence from them before you can begin. 

- Openings and excavations
People can be injured if they fall into excavations, manholes or other holes in the ground, over open edges such as stairwells or open floor edges, or n on to pointed metal or timber objects such as projecting reinforcement bars. 

- Slips, trips and falls within pedestrian areas 
Slips, trips and falls are a frequent source of injury to members of the public. Inadequate protection of holes, uneven surfaces, poor reinstatement, trailing leads and cables, spillage of oils, gravel etc are just some of the causes. Poor storage of materials and equipment and other obstructions in public areas, including inadequate control of waste materials, are other common causes.

- Plant machinery and equipment
The authorised and unauthorised use of plant and equipment presents a range of hazards. Almost any piece of plant is dangerous in the wrong hands and some plant can be started easily without the proper keys or tools.

- Hazardous substances
Members of the public and visitors may be affected by the poor storage, transportation, use or disposal of hazardous substances. Other substances cause ill-health effects when they are inhaled, swallowed or come into contact with the skin or eyes. Flammable liquids and gases can cause fires or even explosions. Some substances and materials, such as foams, give off toxic fumes when burned.

Storing and stacking materials
The storage of materials presents several hazards:
- materials may fall from storage areas, scaffolds or other working platforms;
- pallets and manhole rings may topple or otherwise move;
- part-opened pallets and badly stored bricks can topple;
- certain materials which are stored horizontally and not secured can move in high winds, eg open packs of roofing sheets stored on roofs;
- materials which are stored upright can topple over, eg unsupported roof trusses propped against a wall;
- piles of sand, gravel, earth etc may shift, burying those who are climbing on them or nearby;
- people can fall from the top of storage areas, stacks etc. They may also be used as a means of climbing on to other positions of danger;
- the public may be struck by materials and plant or exposed to hazardous substances; and
- during the transfer of materials between off-site storage areas and the site.

- Electricity and other energy sources
Energy sources on site present a range of hazards:
- contact with electrical supplies or arcing can cause shock, burns and even death;
- bottled gas can cause fires or explosions if they are not stored safely or if they are tampered with; and
- fuel and gas oil can also ignite causing burns.

- Dust, noise and vibration
Noise, dust and vibration do not usually pose a health risk to members of the public if their exposure is likely to be low and of a short duration. They can, however, cause serious problems in urban areas and work such as refurbishment, especially if part of the building is still occupied. Noise, dust and vibration are a common source of complaint.

- Falling objects
Members of the public have been seriously injured and even killed after being struck by falling or ejected materials.

- Delivery and other site vehicles
Delivery and other moving site vehicles create several hazards:
- pedestrians may be struck by vehicles entering or leaving the site;
- people falling from vehicles on to pedestrians;
- site and delivery vehicles may obstruct the pavement forcing pedestrians into the road where they can be struck by other vehicles;
- vehicles may strike non-site vehicles while entering or leaving the site;
- unsecured loads or those moved during transit may fall off, striking pedestrians or other vehicles;
- unauthorised use of vehicles which are not switched off or locked when the driver is not in the cab;
- vehicles may take contaminated material off site on their wheels; and
- delivery vehicles may also enter site with children in the cab.

- Road works
Both the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 and chapter 8 of the Traffic signs manual6 set out the requirements for signing and lighting for work in the highways. While this may help reduce the risk to members of the public, they address only a small range of the hazards created by road and street works. Many of these have already been dealt with on an individual basis in other parts of this section but it is worthwhile emphasising them again because the work is usually carried out very close to the public. 


Download the HSG 151 guidelines

Want to know more about the HSG 151 guidelines and how they can help you to improve safety at your building site? Find the exact guidelines on increasing safety in the HSG 151 document, which you can download here.

Topics: HSG151,

Posted by Adrian Day on 01 May 2018