Myth: There is a legal requirement that all construction sites must have fencing.
Fact: Security of a workplace is informed by the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012 (SA). The law requires that a workplace where construction work is carried out, must so far as is reasonably practicable, be secure from unauthorised access.
The expression 'so far as is reasonably practicable' qualifies the duty. In other words, if the person with management or control (PCBU) determines that it is not reasonably practicable to secure the site, security measures are not required. However, in making this decision, the PCBU must have regard to the risks that might arise from unauthorised access and the likelihood that unauthorised access will take place.
Fundamentally, the decision on securing the site is risk based. The relevant considerations in this process will be:
- How likely is it that unauthorised access will occur?
Keep in mind that if the site is close to playgrounds, schools, shopping centres and high pedestrian traffic areas, the likelihood of unauthorised access is greater.
- Will the unauthorised access present a risk to health and safety?
This is arguably a higher test and must be considered in conjunction with likelihood. Some of the most obvious risks on a construction site are:
- slips and falls
- falls from height
- cuts and tears
- falling objects.
These risks may arise from hazards such as open penetrations; excavations; voids; elevated work areas; exposed timber or metal. Other hazards such as electricity; water or substances also need to be considered.
The level of risks will vary during different stages of the construction and with different types of buildings.
In some situations the requirement for securing a site will be obvious. For example in the case of a building adjacent to a playground, it is likely that children and/or others may want to enter the site. Equally there is a risk to their health and safety from the hazards present on the site. Accordingly there is both likelihood and risk in this situation. In this case the workplace needs to be secured from unauthorised access.
Take the same construction in a remote area where there are no nearby houses or facilities for children. In this situation unauthorised access is unlikely so the person in control of the site may choose to not secure the site. In a normal suburban street where the likelihood of access is minimal and risks are low e.g. single story building, no excavations, then a secure access system may not be needed.
The words "secured from unauthorised access" are important. 'Secured' has its normal meaning of 'made secure' or 'fastened'. This means the system must be sufficiently robust to prevent access. Bunting or the use of plastic strips does not achieve this and is not acceptable. The security system will need to be a rigid structure such as a fence.
As noted above the level of risk will vary at different stages of construction. The risk may be much lower at lock up stage where access to the building is prevented. In this situation a security system such as a fence may no longer be required.
In summary consider these things:
- Is it likely that unauthorised people will enter the site?
- If unauthorised people enter the workplace, are there risks to their health and safety?
- What is the stage of construction e.g. site preparation, frame and lock up?