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Safely managing building site waste

General building site waste generated in the course of a build on a project such as off cuts, leftover materials, rubble, refuse, debris and rubbish, needs to be adequately managed to prevent risks to health and safety of workers and people nearby, and to the environment.

General building site waste generated during the build on a project needs to be adequately managed to prevent risks to the health and safety of workers, people nearby and the environment.  This waste can include off cuts, leftover materials, rubble, refuse, debris and rubbish.

Waste can cause painful and costly injuries by causing slips, trips and falls, protruding nails, and sharp edges. There are also fire hazards from plastic wrapping, cardboard, polystyrene waffle pods, and polystyrene insulation.

Good housekeeping practices, proper containment and efficient and appropriate disposal of unavoidable waste will reduce risks. It will also enable compliance with local council by-laws, EPA laws and workplace health and safety laws.

Who is responsible for managing building site waste?

Principal contractors and sub-contractors are responsible for ensuring the safety of a building site.  Part of this is making sure that building waste generated by their work is appropriately managed and that good housekeeping practices are implemented and followed.

However, good housekeeping doesn’t just happen. Everyone on site needs to do their bit. Principal contractors and sub-contractors can facilitate this by making sure that: 

  • Their workers know their housekeeping responsibilities.
  • Housekeeping is included in all work activities, from start-up to completion.
  • Contracts state that each trade or contractor is responsible for cleaning up after themselves and that penalties might apply if they don’t.
  • All workers follow good housekeeping practices and clean up as they go. 
  • They regularly monitor the work and fix any problems, ensuring that workers are correctly storing materials and following the rules for a tidy workplace.

Waste management and housekeeping tips

Access to and movement around the site:

  • Site access walkways and exit points are smooth, dry and clear of materials. 
  • Work areas are kept tidy and uncluttered. 
  • No waste or refuse that can cause slip, trip or fall hazards.
  • Everyone can safely access the site and work areas.
  • Protruding nails bent over or removed.
  • Scaffold platforms and access areas are kept clear of debris and material.

Storage and containment of refuse/waste and surplus material

  • Enough bins/skips/cages are available for waste, refuse and rubbish.
  • Bins/skips/cages are regularly emptied.
  • Refuse/waste that cannot go into bins, skips or cages is contained in a designated area that is fenced off or parawebbed. 
  • Waste such as waffle pods, plastics, carboard, roofing offcuts etc., is contained and secured against windy conditions.

Note: Some councils require all building waste that may be windblown to be effectively contained at all times, e.g., in a cage.

  • Excess concrete is contained within the site.  
  • Liquid waste is contained to prevent it leaving the site or entering the stormwater system and removed as soon as possible.
  • Flammable materials such as waffle pods, plastics, carboard etc., are protected from combustion by prohibiting nearby hot works.  For example, grinding, welding, oxy-fuel gas use and naked flames. 

Before starting any building work, check your local council and EPA requirements for containment and disposal of building waste.

To find out more, contact HIA's Building Services team.

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