A guide to completing a construction site risk assessment

There’s a lot to think about with construction site risk assessments – from notifications to safety plans to examination reports and more.

Our handy guide lays out a simplified version of what you need to do and what you need to know, helping your building firm stay on the right side of the regulations.

If you work in construction, risk assessments should be high on your priority list. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 lays out your legal responsibilities towards people working on your building site as well as members of the public that might be affected by the work that goes on there.

Here are the key documents and records you’ll need to think about:

  • notifications
  • risk assessments
  • CDM plan and file
  • thorough examination reports
  • inspection reports
  • method statements
  • injuries and dangerous occurrences

When and how do I notify the HSE?

If you’re working on a project that’s notifiable under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM), you’ll need to write to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to let them know before you start any construction work.

What makes a construction project notifiable?

  • if it lasts longer than 30 working days and has more than 20 workers working on it at any one time or
  • if it lasts longer than 500 person days

You can notify the HSE by filling in the online form on their website, which also provides guidance on how to fill it in.

What construction site risk assessments do I need to carry out?

There are so many potential hazards on a building site, but to have a chance of preventing accidents, you first need to work out what could cause them.

Construction site risk assessments fall into two categories:

1. General assessments

You’ll need to carry out a general assessment of the health and safety risks your employees and members of the public are exposed to on your construction site.

If five or more people are working on the site, any ‘significant findings’ from your assessment will need to be written down – more on these below.

Even if you run a construction team of fewer than five people, having a written document of your risk assessments is good practice as it can help you keep track of your health and safety plans and responsibilities.

Follow these five steps to carry out a risk assessment.

1. Identify the risks.

Areas to consider here include but are not limited to your buildings, plant, vehicles, tools and equipment, materials, working at height, working with heat, and manual handling.

2. Identify who’s at risk and how they’re at risk.

Make sure you consider your subcontractors, professionals who visit your site, such as architects or surveyors, and the general public.

3. Prioritise the risks.

Discussing the risks with your team and any professional bodies can help you rate the priority of the risks on your site. You may need to consult the fire service, police or local council at this stage too.

4. Record your significant findings.

These include any hazards, how they could potentially harm people, and the plans you have in place to control the risks.

5. Book in regular followup reviews, making any necessary updates to your risk assessment.

As your project progresses, the risks may change – make sure you regularly review your risk assessment to avoid leaving your team and other people exposed to accidents.

2. Specific assessment

Will anyone be exposed to any of the following specific risks on your building site?

If they will, you may need to carry out a separate, specific risk assessment.

You’ll find a construction risk assessment template on the HSE website.

What is a construction phase plan?

If you’re the principal contractor or the only contractor, you’ll need to prepare a construction phase plan and keep it updated throughout the course of your project.

It’ll help you plan, manage and keep track of your building project, to make sure you’re keeping everyone involved (and any affected members of the public) healthy and safe.

What is a health and safety file?

If there’s more than one contractor involved and you’re the principal designer on a project, you’ll need to start a file with all the information that might be needed for health and safety purposes during any building work that follows.

What are thorough examination reports?

Lifting equipment such as cranes and slings present obvious high risks on a building site, so it makes sense that there are especially strict legal requirements when it comes to managing those risks.

You’ll need to keep records of the thorough examinations and tests you carry out, making sure those records are:

  • readily available to enforcing authorities
  • secure
  • available to be reproduced in written form

There’s more information about the thorough examination of lifting equipment on building sites on the HSE website.

What are inspection reports?

You’ll need to make sure you inspect all of the following types of equipment at specified times:

  • excavations
  • scaffolds
  • ladders
  • fall arrest systems

You’ll also need to prepare and keep inspection reports on them.

What is a method statement for construction works?

If you’re demolishing, dismantling or making structural alterations as part of your construction project, you’ll need to make a written record of it before you start the work.

The usual way to do this is with a method statement, which you can generate from your risk assessment. You’ll usually prepare a method statement if you’re working on higher risk building jobs, like working on rooftops.

What do I do if there’s an injury or accident on my building site?

You’ll need to record any accidents or dangerous incidents that happen on site, and report them to HSE. In some cases, you’ll also need to complete a RIDDOR report.

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