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5.4 Health and safety

Health and safety problems can occur in any area of work, whether it is working on site with power tools, working in an office or at a public meeting. Within a project team there should be someone responsible for health and safety and all team members should know who that person is. This person should have appropriate training. There should also be someone in the team who has had first aid training, particularly for on-site work.

There should be a clear health and safety policy, and that policy should cover the types of work that may be done by a project team, the community and outreach staff. It is important to ensure that everyone involved in the project work has received adequate training, information, instruction and supervision to ensure that work is conducted safely.


It is important to ensure that project work complies with health and safety legislation. Legislation, both domestic and European, is extensive and therefore too much to cover fully in this toolkit. Instead, find links at the end of this page that provide in-depth information on the health and safety legislation you must adhere to.

Risk assessment

A good working safety culture is important: this should ensure that people understand where risks are and how serious they are, and when the risks are sufficient to curtail or halt work.


  • Hazard - this means anything that can cause harm (e.g., chemicals, electricity, machinery)
  • Risk - is the chance (high or low) that somebody will be harmed by a hazard.

The basis for all health and safety work should be assessing the likely risks. A Risk Assessment should be completed for all new projects. This should include the following:

  • All practical conservation tasks
  • All tasks involving the community
  • All public events

The key is to assess the overall level of risk as High, Medium or Low. For any High or Medium risk task the next step should be to consider which specific activities result in this classification, and what can be done to reduce the risk before starting. This may involve altering the work to be done, or even cancelling project work.

For more guidance on risk assessment, please take a look at the Step by step guide page.

General Health & Safety issues

  • Ensure that all employees, contractors, volunteers and visitors are aware of safety procedures (including fire procedures).
  • Ensure that any equipment purchased, borrowed or hired for use in the project is inherently safe and is properly installed and that staff has proper training in its use.
  • Ensure that there is first aid cover available for project activities.
  • All accidents and ‘near misses’ should be properly recorded and reported and an investigation should be carried out to determine causal factors.
  • Ensure all insurances required are in place
  • Ensure that no subcontractors are engaged until their health and safety policy has been read and understood. The contents of the policy should be pertinent to the proposed work to be carried out.
  • Ensure that subcontractors exempt from publishing their own health and safety policy comply fully with the project health and safety policy.

On Site Health & Safety issues

Conduct a preliminary site risk assessment, and ensure risk assessments are carried out for all site visits. Give everyone present a copy so that they are aware of the risks they are taking and how to avoid accidents. It is worth taking time for the task leader to go through the assessment contents with everyone involved before work starts.

Site Hazards might include:Health and safety

  • Condition of the land/ surrounding structures in derelict spaces
  • Remote or isolated sites/works
  • Buried and/or overhead services (gas pipes, electricity cables/pylons, water mains)
  • Water/ Natural hazard
  • Adjacent businesses and/ or transport routes
  • Vehicle/pedestrian/ visitor movement within site

Site activities hazards might include:

  • Safety of structures on derelict sites
  • Fires on site
  • Public accessibility - open sites, provision of safety fencing
  • Work not related to the project being done by a different organisation/ group
  • Hazardous materials and emissions
  • Machinery, materials loading/unloading and handling

Ensure that people on site have appropriate safety/protective wear, e.g. hard hats, high visibility jackets, appropriate footwear etc. and that manual handling training is provided where appropriate. 

Ensure that equipment or machinery is safe and that people using it have the correct training and protective clothing where necessary. Also ensure that the required equipment and maintenance procedures comply with legislation, for example portable electrical equipment testing.

It is also important to check that all procedures are adopted and maintained to ensure compliance with any construction regulations. Links to which can be found at the end of the page.

Community Work Health & Safety issues

As with site work, the basis for ensuring that community work is safe should be assessing the likely risks, as outlined above. This is especially important if:

  • Health & safety considerations suggest there may be the chance of an accident,
  • The nature of the issue to be discussed at an event is contentious.
  • Known individuals are expected to attend and are likely to cause difficulties.

Personal safety is a responsibility shared by employers, managers and individual members of staff. Ensuring your own safety, however, is an important part of community work, and it’s important both for you and for the project.

If there are safety concerns, these should be discussed by the project team, and appropriate action decided on. This may mean support from another team member or changing or cancelling a meeting/event.

It is also helpful to know the area you will be working in. Practical advice includes:

  • Become familiar with the area where you are working in daylight: know the different ways to and from the area, the location of local shops, phone boxes, etc.
  • Develop a professional relationship with other agency representatives in the area.
  • If you’re starting work in an unfamiliar and potentially hazardous area, then make contact with local residents, and perhaps the police and Neighbourhood Watch, in case help is needed.
  • Avoid going into hidden or dark street areas, unless this is the only way of making contact with a target group and you are confident that your actions will not compromise your personal safety.
  • Where possible, choose well-lit meeting places, i.e. under streetlights, outside late-opening shops, etc. Introduce yourself to local youth and community staff and find out what times their centres are open.

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Useful links

UK legislation

EU legislation

Construction legislation

Health and safety training

First aid training