How to deem whether a building is safe to enter

How to deem whether a building is safe to enter

Posted on 4th Mar, 2016 | By Lorretta Tatham

Following the tragic incident at Didcot power station in February, we’re taking a close look at the key factors to consider before deeming whether a building is fit to enter or not. With work on building sites being a major part of work for most tradesmen, it’s important to know how to assess a building’s safety and minimise risks.

Real life risks and statistics

There a number of different jobs that involve entering, or working on, potentially dangerous building sites or buildings. These include:

  • Renovation
  • Structural strengthening
  • Demolition
  • Roofing
  • Asbestos removal

How to deem whether a building is safe to enter

One of the recent cases showing the serious risk these trades face is that of the Didcot power station collapse. Just a few weeks ago, while external demolition contractors were working on the Didcot A power station site, part of the boiler house collapsed. At present, one is confirmed dead and five injured, with three other bodies still missing.

Furthermore, an assessment completed by HSE in 2013 suggested that risks like these could be more prevalent than you might think. During 2013, the HSE inspected 401 building sites and found that almost 25% of the sites failed to meet the minimum levels of employee safety. In fact, some had to be shut down immediately due to safety issues.

Risks came from exposure to asbestos, other hazardous materials and chemicals, poor access equipment, and dangerous building structures that were not safe to work in.

What does the law say?

The law requires commercial clients to provide contractors with relevant information about a building’s structure. The information should include details on the stability and structural form of a building and any significant design assumptions, as well as suggested work methods and sequences. The contractor must then use the information to carry out a risk assessment and plan and carry out any work safely.

Keeping safe: Key questions to ask

A competent person should do a thorough structural survey and assessment before any potentially load-bearing parts of a structure are altered.

You should consider:

  • The age of the structure
  • Its previous use
  • The type of construction
  • Any nearby buildings or structures
  • What work needs doing
  • Size of workforce
  • Hours of work
  • Weather conditions

Together, this information will form your risk assessment and should be used to determine the steps required to prevent any collapse.

It’s also important to consider access to the site, to prevent any authorised access and risks to the public. Whether it’s falling objects, on-site delivery vehicles, or openings and excavations, all of these carry real risks that need to be managed.

For more tips and advice on how to stay safe at work, why not browse our safety training courses? From Working at a Height to Manual Handling Training and UKATA Asbestos Awareness Training, we’ve got all your needs covered.

Have you ever been victim due to an incident of this sort? If so, share your story with us in the comments below. Alternatively, you can tweet your story to us @BrownsLadders

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