No Trespassing: Protecting Children and Yourself

Follow these pointers for heading off injury and the ensuing liability on job sites.

Despite the caution tape, the temptations of visiting a construction site often win out with children. And if a child is injured on a job site, the contractor could be liable, even if it's only a small-scale remodel, a simple deck-site excavation for footings or a framed-up addition in someone's back yard.

Liability for trespassers' injuries on construction sites vary slightly from state to state. Your insurance agent and lawyer can tell you the specifics on how your state handles what is referred to as an attractive nuisance: a potentially dangerous property or object that is so interesting that it can be expected to attract children to investigate or play.

So, what can you do to keep kids safe and help protect yourself from liability?

George Middleton, a regional safety manager for Toll Brothers, advises taking special precautions at the end of each day to make sure the job site is safe for any potential trespasser. Here are some pointers to include on a daily checklist:

For new construction:

  • Close trenches as soon as possible. Have a plan for minimizing the amount of time trenches are open during construction.
  • If you have to leave a trench open, barricade around the trench to minimize access.
  • Place orange fences around trenches.
  • Slope sides away from any excavation.
  • Check for impalement hazards such as rebar around the site and in any trenches.
  • Install reverse locks on any exterior door elevated for a future stair so that the doors have to be keyed from the inside.
  • Construct temporary stairs as soon as possible. If you're installing guardrails to protect against possible falls through the opening, remember that trespassers may be able to remove them.
  • Store materials safely, stacking boards and other large objects flat on the ground.
  • If people live near the house under construction, talk to them about the dangers of children wandering onto the job site to play.

For remodeling:

  • If you're remodeling a kitchen, remove the door on any discarded refrigerator.
  • Use caution tape to wrap the entire perimeter of an excavated area.
  • Cover open post holes for fences or decks with 2-by-10 scraps.
  • Lock up or remove all tools.
  • Drain all compressors and unhook all nailers — even when leaving for lunch.
  • Lay all ladders and boards flat at the end of the day.
  • Discuss safety issues with the homeowners so they're aware of any potential hazards on their property during the project.

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