3.7 Maintaining site safety
Long-term path safety
The path project has finished and all your safety planning has paid off; the path has been repaired and the team has safely finished the job and moved on to the next project. The maintenance phase is just beginning. There is a longterm and continuous responsibility to keep the rebuilt path in a safe condition, appropriate to public use of the site. For the access manager, this involves two stages:
- 1. Preparation of a site safety file. This is required under Construction, Design and Management Regulations, and forms the ‘closure’ of the building project. A complete set of information for future managers of the site will have to be prepared. This is prepared in tandem with the maintenance schedule (see Planning and post-project maintenance). It is accompanied by a risk assessment, with the emphasis on the safety of the path user, rather than the path builder.
- 2. Routine safety checks or safety audits. These have to be carried out at least once a year and more usually 2–4 times a year, at the same time as maintenance visits. The site safety file details the safety checks needed and what the maintenance crew need to look for. The safety auditor carries out these checks and records them, passing on the information to all involved.
The first safety audit should take place within 6 months of completion; the site is still settling in and you need to find out how much maintenance is needed in the long term. The site safety file will therefore need to be in place within 3–4 months of completion of the work.
There are several pieces of legislation detailing responsibility for carrying out maintenance and keeping the site in good condition, depending on the status of the route.
|Construction, Design and Management Regulations||Project client – site owner or recipient of grant aid|
|Rights of Way legislation||Local authority – usually within planning department|
|Highways Act 1980||Local authority – usually within roads and transport department|
|Proposed land reform legislation||Users – to take access at their own risk|
The forthcoming access legislation places responsibility for access to the countryside on to the users, who use the path at their own risk. However, even with this new legislation, the other responsibilities still apply and wherever a path has been actively built, rebuilt or repaired the onus is on the manager and the landowner of the route to see that it is maintained in a good and safe condition for the intended use of the path. Sharing of responsibility among the different organisations involved often leads to an informal maintenance partnership, including the following:
- managing organisation – local authority, access charity, or public sector landowner;
- path grant aid organisations – including SNH, HLF, EU, local authority and possibly local enterprise company;
- site owner;
- local authority – if not already involved.
Under CDM Regulations, it is the planning supervisor’s final responsibility to ensure that a site safety file is prepared and given to the site owner – the handover and acceptance of the site safety file is the formal end of the CDM process and the start of the owner’s responsibility to maintain the route. The site safety file and all copies of annual safety audits should be circulated to all the organisations and people with responsibility or direct interest in maintaining the path.
Although there is a general requirement to maintain the path that has been built, this does not mean that mountain sites should be rendered hazardless and harmless – eliminating natural risk is neither possible nor desirable. The site still has natural hazards, drops, slopes and uneven terrain, which are part of the excitement for users. However, a path must be designed so that users are not subjected to additional or unnecessary danger. The path must be maintained in good condition: stones set in a crossdrain should be solid; the path surface should not be worn away to reveal the hardcore; and bridge decking should be secure and sound.
Site safety file
The site safety file is based on the design and safety information from the construction phase of the project and brings together the essential information for the owner and long-term manager of the site. The production of a safety file is compulsory under CDM Regulations. The process will be simple if the person overseeing the construction will be managing the site. But very often maintenance responsibility is handed over to a site manager who has not been directly involved in the reconstruction work. In this case, a thorough safety file is essential so that hey know how the path was built, the materials used to build it, how it was designed, the risks inherent in using it, the items on the path that need to be maintained, and the organisations to consult and keep informed on a regular basis.
The site safety file contains:
- a path description – path number, name;
- the owners and contacts for site managers;
- a list of organisations to be consulted and who also hold copies of the site safety file;
- planning consents, Rights of Way status, conservation designations, land use;
- a list of all the contracts, sections of path rebuilt and the planning supervisor/principle contractors involved;
- the location of all site safety files and risk assessments from the construction phase;
- a risk assessment for the long-term use phase;
- the recommended frequency of the safety audit;
- instructions on hazards – structures, materials, site environment hazards;
- directions for carrying out the safety audit – with particular attention paid to key parts of the site that may need most attention;
- the intended use of the site – mostly recreation, but may also include access for stalking.
The site safety file is brief, usually only two pages long, and has a selection of information attached to it. This information is taken from the construction site files. It is important to attach only essential information for maintenance. The following information should be included:
- risk assessment for future use and maintenance;
- a list of hazards for future maintenance/safety inspection, to be taken out on site with a list of hazards to be checked;
- an up-to-date set of site survey sheets and drawings – making sure these are ‘as-built’ drawings of the site on completion;
- a blank safety audit report form;
- any other relevant information, but not too much of it!
A risk assessment for continuing use of the path is attached to the site safety file. The assessment is made from the point of view of the public user, using the path under normal conditions for the usual recreational activity. The risk assessment is short and simple and usually fits on one page, and follows the same methods used for project risk assessment described in Safety assessment. The same four steps apply: identify the hazards, assess their severity and likelihood, recommend controls, decide whether the controls are sufficient and recommend additional action if needed.
The number of hazards and the severity and likelihood are much lower for the long-term use risk assessment than they are for path construction risk assessments in general. The range of controls is also much more limited and they must be self-regulated or carried out periodically. Self-regulated controls are applied by the user, often with provision and encouragement by site managers. Good behaviour and appropriate use can be promoted with a sign in the car park telling the user to use their judgement, to have the right equipment and to use the route responsibly. Other controls are carried out periodically by the maintenance team visiting the site, including repairs, adjustments, checks and reports.