Secure Your Site

Planning is key to protecting pedestrians in and around your job sites.

Secure Your Site

Protecting the public around job sites is critical. Barricades are important to keep pedestrians and motorists away from construction hazards. Safely routing hoses and cables is another important step in securing a job site. 

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Some jobs may seem too small to sweat over the idea of public safety.

There are a hundred little things on a job site that can potentially endanger the public; that’s why having a foolproof plan for every single job, big or small, is more than good practice.

As Richard Crow, regional manager with Murphy Pipeline Contractors, says: “It doesn’t matter how much money we make, or how big the project is. If somebody gets hurt, that job is a complete failure. We lost.”

Possibly the most vulnerable members of the public around job sites are pedestrians.

The basics

Dealing with safety means dealing with hoses and cables, walking routes, and potholes, among other challenges and obstacles.

“If an access pit is left overnight, the site has to be secured with construction fencing and a temporary cover,” Crow says.

There are many options for temporarily covering pits. A spare piece of plywood doesn’t necessarily do the trick; to reduce risk and liability, contractors should consider a specialized device, such as the raised plastic pothole covers available on the market.

When working with hose or cable, sometimes access is an issue, and often contractors must cross lanes of pedestrian traffic.

“We use ramps for our lines, made for pedestrian and traffic bearing,” Crow says.

Other jobs may require more elaborate solutions. When Ecotech Hydro Excavation was vacuum excavating debris from a hospital basement, the crew parked its GapVax truck across the street and stretched the boom over the road. Scaffolding carried the hose over a sidewalk to protect pedestrians walking beneath.

Depending on the service, having the appropriate number of people on site is also important. Use spotters when necessary to ensure that bystanders aren’t getting too close.

“A lot of times you’ll get the wanderers that come up and they just want to know what you guys are doing,” says Anthony Chavez, safety compliance officer for Davids Hydro Vac. “If you don’t have that extra guy, they may go into an area that you’ve already excavated or they may not pay attention to the caution tape or the cones that you have set up.”

The last essential is insurance: You always hope nothing bad happens, but if it does, it’s important to be covered. As Crow says, “We have coverage in case something happens — lightning does strike.”

Making the plan

“We are out here providing a service, and generally there are some specs or guidelines in providing pedestrian safety or vehicle safety,” Crow says. “I think it’s crucial for all parties to have a review process when you’re submitting something for pedestrian or community safety.

“Understand what the construction crews are going to do during the day: what access they need, to and from the site,” he says. “A lot of times people are worried about the site itself, but you have dump trucks and other large deliveries coming through the site every day. And how are they going to off-load? How are they going to pick up?”

The first step when approaching a job plan is to survey the job site. Murphy Pipeline Contractors’ supervisors start with a drive-thru, followed by an aerial survey via Google Earth. They use that aerial map to analyze routes and traffic, then sketch out necessities for that particular job.

“After we kind of agree on the plan, then we’ll formalize it, and apply some industry-standard traffic control or pedestrian safety,” Crow says. “It could be not just traffic — it could be sidewalk. How are you going to detour people around sidewalks? How are they going to access it?”

The plan is submitted to necessary authorities such as the municipality, county, or state Department of Transportation and reviewed by the client. After approval, the plan is distributed to site superintendents and foremen to be implemented on a daily basis.

“Basically, we’ll have to submit something, base it on Florida DOT index standards or county standards; and generally speaking, it could be site-specific — not related on a specific standard — but just a plan you’ll have to create and submit to the client or client’s representatives for approval,” Crow says.

Getting the word out

“Messaging is really important. It’s easy to put up a few cones and some detours around, but if you don’t notify the public in advance, it just causes confusion. So properly notifying them way in advance of any obstructions, detours or obstacles that they might come upon is really good.”

Crow knows firsthand the danger of this topic: Before working at Murphy Pipelines Contractors, he was the client on a job where the contractor picked up some signage before the site was clear. As a result, a woman rear-ended a dump truck and was killed in the accident.

“That contractor made an error by picking up his traffic control plan too early and was still having issues out there within the clear zone that could impact traffic. And unfortunately it did; she lost her life.”


Often, in construction, all you can do is roll with the punches. But having a solid safety plan and understanding of the site before work begins allows you to make those on-the-fly changes with confidence.

“Generally when the job starts, things change. It’s just construction; it’s the nature of the beast,” Crow says. “We consider the safety plan a working document, so we continually review throughout the progress meetings.

“This gets lost amongst a lot of contractors, engineers, and even clients: No job is too small, or too big. It should be the same thorough process. I think once a party assumes that a job is too small, that’s when issues are going to come up,” he says. “You just don’t want to miss anything when it comes to safety.”


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