The Heath and Safety Executive states very clearly the different types of exposed areas that pose a risk: excavations, manholes or other holes in the ground; open edges – stairwells and open floor edges.
Most claims tend to involve a member of the public or an employee who has unfortunately fallen down or tripped into an exposed manhole during construction works that have obstructed the pavement or has not been signposted properly.
To prevent accidents like this, employers have some quite common sense health and safety regulations to adhere to, as their legal duty of care extends to both their employees and the public equally.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 stipulates that it is an employer’s responsibility to complete a full risk assessment which will identify the hazards within and outside of the site perimeter, assess and eliminate the risks, and implement security precautions. This should then be communicated to all employees, and members of the public by erecting signs that warn them to keep their distance.
Other safety precautions that employers could take that will reduce the risk of injury include:
- Keeping precautions at a height so to not obscure the view of pedestrians and drivers
- Providing guard rails and/or toe boards where it is possible to fall 2m or more
- Having appropriate barriers for shallower excavations, ideally 1m from the edge
- Shoring or battering excavations to prevent accidental collapse of the sides
- Using securely fixed and marked covers for exposed areas
- Protecting openings from approaching traffic
- Avoiding leaving opening exposed overnight