Social Distancing on Construction Site Hoardings
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Hoardings are an integral part of the modern construction process. They keep the public safe, and provide a valuable opportunity for outdoor advertising – but both in their construction, and in their design, a number of rules and regulations apply.
The regulations for the construction of site hoardings and the rules and requirements for the design of hoarding graphics are two separate issues, and before you can draft the aesthetic design of your hoarding, you need to draw up plans for a hoarding that meets a variety of specific criteria.
Are construction site hoardings a legal requirement?
The Health and Safety Act 1974 stipulates that all employers and the self-employed must take reasonable practical steps to ensure the health and safety of the general public. The implication of this is that a construction site (an inherently dangerous place) requires a protective boundary, and the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 make this explicit, detailing that any unauthorised access must be prevented.
This in turn means a boundary must be put in place. While a fence might suffice for a small site (such as work on a pavement or pothole), these are easily scalable and don’t provide adequate protection for larger construction works. For large sites, a solid wood hoarding is necessary.
What are the safety requirements of a site hoarding?
A construction site hoarding is used, first and foremost, to keep members of the public safe from the dangers of a construction site. The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 include the two most important standards that need to be met: that ‘reasonable steps’ are taken to prevent unauthorised access to a site (regulation 13.6) and that the public is offered appropriate protection (regulation 27.2)
While important, the technical terminology can get a little confusing, but the main takeaways are that a hoarding needs to:
- Be high enough so that it can’t be easily scaled
- Be secure enough that it can’t be knocked/blown down or penetrated
- Obscure the site visually, to deter opportunistic theft or temptation to enter
- Control access to the site through secure gates/access points
Who is responsible for a construction site hoarding?
The hoarding around a construction site is the responsibility of the principal contractor on the project. Sometimes the principal contractor will undertake the design and construction of the site hoardings themselves, or they might choose to employ the services of a subcontractor.
As site hoardings are what’s known as ‘temporary works’ (they only last for the duration of construction), contractors often choose to employ a Temporary Works Coordinator (TWC) to oversee their implementation. A TWC oversees and takes responsibility for all of the temporary structures and works (such as scaffolds) on the site.
Employing someone in this role is recommended in the British Standard 5975 (the recognised code of practice for temporary works procedures), as a qualified TWC can help you avoid mistakes or get things wrong, that could lead to safety hazards if left unaddressed.
When does a site hoarding need to be in place?
A site hoarding needs to be in place before any construction can start. During the risk assessment phase, the principal contractor will need to determine and outline the perimeter of the site, and work out what kind of hoarding (size, strength etc) and layout will be necessary. Once approval has been granted, the hoarding can be built and then construction can begin.
How do I get approval for a site hoarding plan?
Once the plans have been drawn up for the foundation and structural design of the hoarding, a relevant design check certificate will need to be obtained. These aren’t awarded by any specific external body, but instead can be granted by any qualified individual (with the exception of the person who designed the hoarding) – such as the Temporary Works Coordinator.
The person responsible for granting the design check certificate will need to ensure that the plans for the hoarding conform to the guidelines of a recognised code (such as the British Standard) and are appropriately designed to meet the requirements and context of the site.
How long does a hoarding need to last?
The reasonable lifespan of the hoarding will need to be discussed and agreed upon by all of the relevant involved parties, including the client, principal contractor, and temporary works coordinator. Often hoardings will need to move or change in size and shape, which will need to be factored into this decision.
Essentially, the hoarding needs to last as long as construction on the site is underway; if this isn’t specified or known, then the standard acceptable lifespan of a site hoarding is 10 years.
What does a hoarding need to be made of?
Construction hoardings are usually made of timber, but it’s important that the wood is of the right quality to ensure the installation can last and remain stable without damage or decay. Usually, ‘C16’ quality timber is used – this is a popular and common grade of conifer, used widely in construction throughout the UK.
If the hoarding is going to be subject to water or other types of degradation, this will also dictate the quality of the wood used. This is particularly relevant if the hoarding is going to be constructed outside in potential rain or near a source of significant groundwater; the timber will need to treated to prevent this. Often, the most straightforward solution is to purchase pre-treated wood panels and beams.
How strong does a hoarding need to be?
In an ideal situation, a hoarding would be sheltered from any physical pressures from the outside world, but this is rarely the case. A hoarding needs to be able to withstand what is known as a ‘minimum notional horizontal load’, which sounds complex but essentially means the hoarding has to be able to stay upright and resist against a reasonable amount of stress.
The realities of this likely minimum load will vary, but there are guidelines that can be followed such as those from the Temporary Works Forum as well as the British Standard. On top of this, other ‘loads’ might need to be considered, depending on the context and location of the site – a few potential scenarios include:
- An outdoor hoarding subject to the wind – wind loads will need to be taken into account, as the pressure from incoming winds can be significant. If the hoarding isn’t sheltered, then this will need to be factored into designs.
- A hoarding in proximity to areas of heavy footfall – if a large crowd is likely to shuffle past your hoarding (if it is situated, for example, at the entrance to a stadium), then potential crowd loads will be an important factor.
- A hoarding close to a train platform or railway – passing trains cause a surprising amount of pressure, and this might have an influence on how much horizontal load your hoarding has to be able to withstand.
How big does a construction site hoarding need to be?
The key reason hoardings tend to be so tall is to prevent people climbing over them, which is the main consideration when choosing the height of a hoarding. In general, a height of around 8 feet (or 2.4 metres) is accepted as tall enough, but depending on the situation it might be appropriate to construct a taller hoarding than this.
If there are points that could be used as ‘step ups’ to make scaling the hoarding easier (such as low walls nearby), then it might be necessary to construct this section of the hoarding at a greater height – or to feature ‘fans’ that protrude from the top at an angle, to deter ambitious climbers.
How often do hoardings need to be maintained?
Maintenance is another important stage of the life of a hoarding – once it has been built, the hoarding will need to be inspected regularly to ensure no damage has taken place. There are no specific regulations on how often you need to inspect a hoarding, as this will depend on its size, the materials used etc.
Instead, the contractor or Temporary Works Coordinator will need to draw up an appropriate schedule for inspection, and take steps to ensure any necessary maintenance takes place immediately.