Making Your Jobsite Safer for Visitors

Contributed by Safety Management Group

During a normal construction or renovation project, there may be any number of tradespeople on the jobsite on any particular day. Those workers have received the safety training the owner expects, and it’s reasonable to assume that they’ll adhere to the rules and standards that have been established.

What about the other people who may have a reason to be on the site? During the course of the project, the site may be visited by representatives of the owner, architects and consulting engineers, manufacturers of components that are being used, local officials, and even people who are simply curious about what’s happening. They may stop by for an hour or two at most, so there’s no way they can receive the kind of safety training you provide to workers. Yet you’re still responsible for ensuring that they don’t get harmed by the construction activity — and that they don’t inadvertently cause a worker to be injured.

That’s why it’s important to have a policy and procedures to keep visitors to your site safe from hazards. Such a policy will also help to ensure the security of the site, avoid distractions that can lead to worker inattention or injury, and protect the company’s reputation and confidential matters.

If possible, visitors should only be able to enter the worksite at a designated location. They should be required to sign in and get permission from a supervisor before being able to set foot on the site — and required to sign out when they leave.

The sign-in-/sign-out process serves a very important purpose. Whoever is in charge of the site needs to know how many visitors may be present at any time (and ideally, where on the site those visitors can be found). In the event of an emergency, supervisors must be able to gather visitors and guide them to safe locations or off the site. The site’s emergency action plan should specific policies and procedures related to visitors.

In addition, the policy should spell out any age or mobility restrictions. For example, are visitors younger than age 18 allowed to be on the site? Can someone with mobility problems manage to around safely, or will they need to be driven in a golf cart or similar vehicle?

The best policy is for all visitors to wear some type of highly visible identification, such as a visitor’s badge. Badges should be numbered, with those numbers recorded on the sign-in/sign-out sheet.

Supervisory employees should be trained to challenge anyone they don’t recognize who isn’t wearing a visitor’s badge. For example, policy may require that anyone without a badge should be escorted to the office trailer or similar location. In addition, if employees notice someone who doesn’t appear to have the right identification, they should contact a supervisor immediately.

Your policy should identify which types of visitors need to be escorted around the site, and who is responsible for doing that. The need for escort can be determined by the nature of the visit — an engineer who is verifying that a component was installed correctly may not need an escort, while an owner’s employee who is just getting an update on the site’s progress should probably have one.

Visitors may be required to wear personal protective equipment on the entire site, or in specific areas. If that’s the case, the office trailer or similar location should be stocked with an adequate supply of PPE so that they are available when needed.

In addition to rules regarding escorts, there may be areas of the site that are completely off-limits to visitors. That may be because of hazards related to processes that are underway, the unsafe nature of the area itself (such as a narrow ledge), or because of trade secrets or sensitive equipment.

If a visitor will be taken through an area in which a specific hazard is present, the escort should be responsible not only for ensuring that the visitor has the correct PPE, but for explaining the nature of the hazard and any needed precautions.

If visitors are allowed to wander through the site unescorted, steps should be taken to limit access to areas that could be dangerous.

Your policy should also detail whether visitors will be allowed to carry electronic devices on the site. As an example, there may be reasons that the owner would prefer not to have photographs taken, such as proprietary equipment or processes. If that’s the case, the policy should block visitors from bringing cameras and devices that can function as cameras (such as cell phones) on the site.

No two sites are exactly the same, so policies may be dramatically different from one site to the next. They key, though, is to ensure that you have thought through the impact visitors can have on your site and the steps you can take to ensure everyone’s safety.

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