Site Risks I

General Site Obligations I

The contractor responsible for a construction site must take all appropriate precautions in so far as reasonably practicable, to ensure that the site is safe and without risk, to the safety, health, and welfare of all persons at work. It must apply the general principles of prevention in a consistent manner, in order to protect the safety, health and welfare of persons at work.

The contractor must take account of and apply, the requirements of the regulations.  It must bring to the attention of sub-contractors and employees, the rules applicable under the safety plan.  Each must comply with the safety plan and the rules in the plan.

Contractors and other persons under whose direct control persons on a construction site are must ensure that their employees and others for whom they are responsible, have possession of a valid safety awareness card, a valid construction skills registration card and have received site-specific safety induction instructions.

General Site Obligations II

Employees and other persons at work are obliged to comply with the regulation’s requirements, to cooperate, report dangers and defects discovered, comply with the health and safety plan and make proper use of equipment.

Contractors must cooperate with the project supervisor for the construction stage, to enable compliance with the relevant statutory provisions.  They must provide information in relation to accidents and dangers occurrences, which are required to be reported.  They must give all information required to prepare the safety file.

Contractors must consult with employees, their representatives and the site safety representatives in relation to the requirements of the legislation, taking account of the need for cooperation and coordination between the employees and the representatives, with a view to promoting, developing and protecting the safety, welfare and health of persons at work.

Site Access

Contractors must ensure that the surroundings and perimeter of the site are laid out, so as to be clearly visible and identifiable. It must have appropriate signboards.  Safe means of access and egress must be provided and maintained.  Precautions must be taken to protect persons in the vicinity of the site from risks arising from the site.

Contractors must ensure that the site has clear emergency routes and exits and that it is possible to evacuate workstations quickly and safely in the event of danger. If the site has limited access, areas must be equipped to prevent unauthorised persons from entering. They must be clearly signposted.

Doors and gates must be fitted with a safety device to prevent them being derailed, falling over or falling back.  Doors and gates along emergency escape routes must be appropriately marked.  Mechanical doors and gates must operate without risk of accident to persons at work.  Transparent doors must be marked at a conspicuous level.  Emergency doors must not be locked or fastened and must open outward.  Sliding and revolving doors may not be used as emergency exits. There are further provisions in relation to mechanical doors and gates.

Structural Stability

All practical precautions shall be taken by use of temporary guys, supports and fittings to prevent danger at work through the collapse of any part of the building or structure during a temporary state of weakness or instability. All practicable precautions must be taken by shoring or otherwise, in order to prevent collapse or fall of a building or structure or any part, where any work is likely to reduce the security or stability of any part of the existing building or structure.

Temporary structures erected on a construction site, must be of good design, construction, adequate strength and stability and be free from any defects.

A contractor must ensure that metal or concrete frameworks and their component shuttering, prefabricated components, temporary supports and buttresses are installed and provided under the supervision of a competent person.

Materials Stability

The contractor responsible for a construction site must ensure that all moving materials, equipment and components are stabilised in an appropriate manner.  Access to any insufficiently resistant surfaces must be restricted unless appropriate equipment and means are employed to enable work to be carried out safely.  Workstations must be solid and stable.

A contractor must ensure protection from falling material and provide protective safety helmets.  There should be collective methods of protection.  Materials and equipment should be laid out so as to prevent collapsing or overturning. Covered passageways should be provided where necessary to dangerous areas. A person shall not throw, drop or allow materials to be dropped in situations in which they may cause injury.

Persons under the contractor’s direct control must be provided with a protective safety helmet or other head protection unless there is no foreseeable risk to the head other than by falling. Protective safety helmets must be marked with a distinguishing mark to identify it in relation to the person to whom it is issued.  Loading bays and ramps must be suitable for the loads to be transported. They must have at least one exit point and be sufficiently safe to prevent persons falling off.


The contractor is to ensure that all installations, machinery and equipment used on a construction site are properly designed, constructed, maintained in a proper working order and used only for the work for which they are designed.  They are to be operated only by persons with appropriate training.

Iron or steel work which has been painted is not to be moved or manipulated until dry, nor is it to be walked on or worked on. Contractors responsible for construction must ensure there is no danger from projecting nails.

Precautions must be taken to prevent the risk of electrocution.  Overhead power lines may require to be redirected.  Barriers and notices must be provided if this is not possible.  Warnings and suspended protections must be provided where vehicles pass underneath overhead power lines.


Windows, skylights and ventilators must be capable of being used in a safe manner.  They must be appropriately designed and fitted with devices, so that they may be cleaned without risk to health or safety.

Contractors must ensure that the construction site is adequately and suitably lighted.  This applies to every place where persons there at work, workstations, rooms and traffic routes.  Light sources must be protected against impact.  Indoor workstations on construction sites must have natural light in so far as possible. They must be equipped with means of providing artificial light which is sufficient for protecting health, safety and welfare of persons at work.

In addition to general fire safety legislation obligations, a contractor is responsible, for providing an adequate number of firefighting devices, detectors, and alarm systems. They must be properly maintained and checked from time to time.  There must be appropriate drills periodically. The extent of the requirement depends on the characteristics of the site, the dimensions and use of the rooms, the chemical properties of the substances and the number of persons present.


A contractor responsible for a construction site shall ensure that all traffic routes, including fixed ladders, loading bays and ramps are designed, located, laid out and used so that they provide safe and appropriate access and do not endanger persons in the vicinity.  If means of transport are used, sufficient clearance and safety devices must be provided, marked, checked and maintained.

The contractor must ensure that all floors are not slippery, are safe and stable.  Floors, walls and ceilings must be cleaned and kept to an appropriate standard of hygiene.  Translucent walls and all glass partitions must be clearly marked, made of safe material and shielded from workstations, in order to prevent risk in the event of shattering.

Floor areas at workstations must allow sufficient freedom of movement, taking account of necessary equipment and appliances.  There must be sufficient space and area to allow persons perform their work, without risk to health, safety or welfare.  Escalators and travelators must function safely with the necessary safety devices.

Excavations I

Where a construction site involves excavations, shafts, earthwork or underground works, steps must be taken to guard against danger from fall or dislodgement, by suitable shoring.  Ingress of water, sand and mud must be guarded against.  There must be adequate ventilation to all workstations and freedom from noxious and impure gasses.  Steps must be taken to guard against fire and flooding and prevent its spread.  A safe means of access and egress must be maintained.

Every excavation shaft, earthwork, underground works, tunnel and trench, must be examined by a competent person every day.  No person is to be permitted to work in any such excavation, earthwork, tunnel or trench unless the examination has been carried out.  A thorough examination of certain key elements must have been carried out within the preceding 7 days.

A person responsible for the supervision and execution of shoring or other works must be competent and have adequate experience of such works.  Materials for shoring and other support must be inspected in advance.  The contractor shall not commence or allow excavation works which affect the stability of any temporary or permanent structure or otherwise cause danger unless adequate steps have taken to prevent danger from collapse.

Excavations II

Every part of an excavation shaft or pit must be suitably fenced and have a suitable cover. There are limited exceptions. There are requirements in respect of the edges of excavations. Materials must not be placed where they might be a danger to persons working below. If necessary, appropriate barriers are to be provided.

Every cofferdam and caisson is to be of good design, solid, free from defect, adequately maintained and of adequate strength. They must not be constructed, placed and positioned, altered or dismantled, except under the immediate supervision of a competent person and by persons with adequate experience.

They must be inspected at least every day while persons are working.  More thoroughgoing inspections are required every week. Persons who inspect must sign a report as a result of the examination.

Compressed Air

The contractor responsible for a construction site must ensure that where persons are required to work in compressed air, that appropriate precautions and procedures are adopted. Work must be planned and undertaken only under the supervision of a competent person. The relevant plant and equipment must be of good and sound design, free from defects, maintained and properly used.

Work must only be carried on by persons who have been medically examined and found fit for the work. It must be supervised by a competent person.  Persons must not be permitted to work unless they have been suitably instructed. There are maximum permissible pressures.  Records must be kept showing the time persons spend in compressed air areas and the time taken for decompression.

Without prejudice to other obligations, a contractor must not permit persons to work where air pressure exceeds certain values unless the person has been medically examined within the previous four weeks by a registered medical practitioner, familiar with compressed air work and certified as being fit.  There are other requirements relative to the time worked and the applicable pressure. They require medical examinations at different periods.

A person who works in a compressed air space exceeding a certain value must have an identification work badge. There must be adequate facilities for decompression.  There are other specific provisions applicable to medical locks and man locks.

Working at Height

There are specific obligations in relation to working at height. There must be a policy in relation to scaffolding. The use of scaffolding must be planned, so as to reduce risks.

At the implementation stage, individual responsibilities must be communicated. Persons must have appropriate instruction, training and competence. Appropriate documentation should be maintained. Work should be periodically checked and corrected.

There is an approved code of practice on scaffolding, roof work and underground services. The common feature is that if the emphasis on design, planning, implementation of safe working systems, training, inspection, and review.

There have been several cases where persons have successfully recovered compensation from builders and owners of property following the collapse of building works.

References and Sources

Irish Books

Safety, Health and Welfare and at Work Law in Ireland 2nd Ed 2008 Byrne Ch 13

Safety & Health Acts Consolidated & Annotated       2013   Byrne

Health, Safety & Welfare Law in Ireland        2012   Kinsella Ch 5

Health & Safety: Law and practice 2007 Shannon

Health & Safety at Work   1998 Stranks Ch 14

Civil Liability for Industrial Accidents 1993 While


The Health and Safety Authority

Health and Safety Executive (UK)

UK Books

Tolleys Health and safety at work, 2017 29th ed Bamber,

Corporate liability: work related deaths and criminal prosecutions 3rd ed. Forlin

Health and safety at work: European and comparative perspective Ales.

Health and Safety Law 5th Ed 2005 Stranks

Principles of Health and Safety at Work (8th ed) Holt, Allan St. John; Allen, Jim;

The Law of Health and Safety at Work 2014/15 (23rd ed) Moore, Rachel; Winter, Hazel;


Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005

Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2013 (S.I. No. 291 of 2013)