If you’re operating a construction site, then you’ll likely be using a whole range of equipment. Some of this equipment will be sophisticated and valuable, some of it will be sharp, crude and heavy. Some of the materials might even be toxic!
In order to ensure that your site is a safe one to work at, you’ll need to ensure that the dangerous pieces of equipment are stored in a responsible way. This isn’t just a moral obligation; it’s a legal one, too. Moreover, since some of the machinery you’re using will be sensitive; sheltering it against the elements is vital to maximising the use you can get from it.
What Does The Law Say?
The section of law that has the most to say about the storage of equipment is section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act, which states that there must be a duty holder (the person responsible for the safety of others onsite). This is the person toward whom any later breach in health and safety will be directed: so when, six months after the project is completed, people start developing symptoms from toxic materials that weren’t properly disposed of, it’s the duty holder who is responsible.
Which Materials Pose The Greatest Problems?
The majority of accidents at work are avoidable, but they aren’t tied to any material in particular. Trips, slips and falls can be caused by otherwise non-hazardous materials being stored in a hazardous way. For example, if a pile of pipes are left in the middle of a walkway when not in use.
In order to ensure that we’re on the right side of the Health and Safety at Work act, it’s important to ensure that we keep things tidy. The law expresses this as a need to keep the site in ‘good order’; and we can achieve this by conforming with good practice. Designate areas of your site as walkways, and ensure that they’re kept clear at all times. You might even mark these walkways out with highly-visible coloured tape. If your workers should ever need to move quickly along these walkways, such as in the event of a fire or other emergency, then they’ll be grateful that they’re kept clear.
Don’t store heavy items overhead. Even if absolutely everyone on site wears as hard hat (as they obviously should), they won’t be entirely protected if a brick lands on their head. Ensure, then, that heavy items are stored beneath waist height. Where work is taking place near a ledge, it’s important to ensure that materials and tools aren’t placed where they might fall off.
Store flammable materials away from potential ignitors. Some building activities, like welding, will produce a flame. Others, like grinding, will produce a shower of sparks. Even sunlight refracting through an unfortunately-placed pieces of glass can produce an extreme amount of heat, which might cause a fire. Be sure that there are ample firefighting devices onsite, and that your site is equipped with appropriate alarms, and you’ll be as well-protected against fire as possible.
Schedule deliveries in a way that ensures a minimum of materials kept onsite. Logistics has come a long way in recent years, and we can be surer of our materials arriving on time than ever before. This means that we needn’t risk storing lots of different materials onsite at once – we need only concern ourselves with the materials we need.
Store delicate machinery away from the wind and rain. During winter in particular, wet and cold weather can have a marked impact on heavy machinery, as water infiltrates every nook and cranny, washing away oil and causing rust and erosion. Since a digger or forklift is a considerable investment, it’s vital that we store them in an indoor place where they aren’t at risk of damage – particularly during frosty spells.
How Can We Ensure That Materials Are Stored Safely?
While the duty holder might be responsible for the health and safety onsite, it will be impossible for them to keep everything tidy and stored away on their own – especially when they’ll likely have other management duties to attend to. So how can they get the site tidy and keep it that way? The answer is an obvious one: with the help of all of the workers onsite.
The creation of a culture onsite that values health and safety is essential to creating a safe working environment. Workers should feel obliged to tidy up any loose materials and equipment after they’re done working with them: not just because they’ve been told to do so, but because they recognise the importance of doing it!
If carelessness is not taken seriously, or the possibility of an accident is laughed on, then an accident won’t just be possible – it will be inevitable. It’s therefore important to incentivise good behaviour. Hold regular and random spot-checks for health and safety breaches, and install wireless CCTV so you can observe what takes place onsite while you’re not around to watch it.
What About Theft?
Construction sites are notorious for being difficult to secure. They are, by nature, open to intruders, as the physical perimeter around them will not have been built yet. Construction projects often involve many unfamiliar faces coming and going, since each specialist task along the way must be done at a specific time, and so distinguishing the people authorised to be there from the people who aren’t can become very difficult very quickly. Finally, construction sites normally have lots of high-value materials lying around which can be easily picked up and sold on the black market. The contents of a toolkit, for example, can amount to hundreds of pounds – which can be easily lifted up and carried off. If materials are stored behind lock and key, than this risk can be reduced.