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Risk Assessments to Protect the Public  and Other Workers  

Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

What You Need to Do to Protect the Public and Other Workers

The law says you must conduct your business without putting members of the public or other workers at risk. This includes your own workers and employees of other companies. It also includes possible trespassers.

You must conduct a risk assessment and put in place the necessary control measures. To do that you must be sure that you have sufficient information about:

  • boundaries to your point of work and to the general area in which you are working
  • adjacent land or office usage
  • access; and
  • measures to exclude unauthorized persons

On a construction site, the project client or co-ordinator should be able to provide this information.  It will influence the measures you must take.

Key issues are:

  • Managing access
  • Hazards causing risk to the public
  • Vulnerable groups

What You Need to Know

All work where members of the public or the employees of other employees may be in the area requires:

  • Measures to manage access through defined boundaries; and
  • Steps to exclude unauthorised people.

In addition, steps must be taken to ensure that if children are or may be present – even as trespassers – that the steps taken to exclude unauthorised people, include steps that will exclude children.  While the numbers of children being killed or injured on construction sites has reduced, there is no room for complacency. Each year, two or three children die after gaining access to building sites, and many more are injured.

Other members of the public are seriously injured by:

  • Materials or tools falling from height.
  • Falling into trenches; or
  • Being struck by moving plant and vehicles.

Managing site access

Site boundaries: You need to define boundaries physically, where necessary, by suitable fencing. The type of fencing should reflect the nature of the site and its surroundings.   This might be fencing to the whole site or to the area in which you are working.

Determining the boundary is an important aspect of managing public risk.  You need to:

  • Plan what form the perimeter will take;
  • provide the fencing; and
  • maintai the fencing.

Questions you need to ask yourself include:

  • What is the nature and type of the work?
  • How heavily populated is the area?
  • Who will need to visit the area during the work?
  • Will the work attract children?
  • What are the site characteristics

The site characteristics will include the nature of existing boundaries, the location and proximity of other building and the number of other people in the area, whether your own employees, employees of other employers or members of the public.

Typically, in populated areas, limiting access will mean a two-metre high small mesh fence or hoarding around the site or the immediate place of work.  In other areas, it may mean a boundary rope or tape, signs and bollards.  The nature of the boundary fencing must be suitable and sufficient to provide a warning and to exclude those most likely to be affected.


You must take reasonable steps to prevent unauthorised people accessing the site.  On construction sites, this is the responsibility of the principal contractor. 

  • People may be authorised to access the whole site or be restricted to certain areas;
  • Explain relevant site rules to authorised people and do any necessary site induction;
  • You may need to supervise or accompany some authorised visitors.

Hazards Causing Risks to the Public:

Many hazards have the potential to injure members of the public and visitors. Consider if they exist on your project and how you will manage them.

Falling objects - You must make sure objects cannot fall outside the site boundary. On scaffolds you can achieve this using toe-boards, brick guards and netting. You may also need fans and/or covered walkways. Avoid storing materials at height.
Delivery and other site vehicles - Make sure pedestrians cannot be struck by vehicles entering or leaving the site. Obstructing the pavement during deliveries may force pedestrians into the road, where they can be struck by other vehicles.
Scaffolding and other access equipment - Prevent people outside the boundary being struck while you are erecting, dismantling and using scaffolding and other access equipment. 
Storing and stacking materials - You can reduce the risks associated with the storage of materials by storing materials within the site perimeter, preferably in secure compounds or away from the perimeter fencing.
Openings and excavations - People can be injured if they fall into excavations, manholes, stairwells or from open floor edges.  You will need to put up barriers or covers.
Other hazards include -

  • slips, trips and falls within pedestrian areas;
  • plant machinery and equipment;
  • hazardous substances;
  • electricity and other energy sources;
  • dust, noise and vibration; and
  • road works.

Vulnerable Groups:

The elderly, children and people with certain disabilities may need special attention. Work in premises such as schools and hospitals needs careful thought and planning.

Some children are drawn to construction sites and places where people are working as exciting places to play. You must do everything you can to keep them out of the site and away from danger.
The following specific steps are particularly relevant to child safety:

  • Secure sites adequately when finishing work for the day.
  • Barrier off or cover over excavations and pits.
  • Isolate and immobilise vehicles and plant and if possible lock them in a compound.
  • Store materials so that they cannot topple or roll over; lock them away, if possible
  • Remove access ladders from excavations and scaffolds.
  • Lock away hazardous substances.

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act1974, you must have a policy that is designed to protect members of the public and other workers and if you have more than 5 employees it must be in writing. You must also have a set of general control measures that apply in all situations. You should then have the ability to risk assess those control measures against the conditions at a particular site so that you can put any additional safety measures in place. If in doubt seek professional help. Email us to help you put your public protection measures in place or call us on 01452 864213

If you are a Landlord or Letting Agent then visit our Landlord's guides for specific information on your liability to tenants, visitors and trespassers.

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Additional Reading:

Protecting the Public