Summertime Advice: Be Aware of Construction Sites as Attractive Nuisances

    The summer months are often the busiest time for the construction. Industry. With kids out of school, it’s also a time of heightened risk. Attracted by the equipment and tools, piles of dirt, holes and trenches, and structures in various stages of build-out, kids are drawn to construction sites like moths to a flame. What could be more fun (and potentially dangerous) than exploring a site after the workers have left for the day?

    The term for this is “attractive nuisance” and refers to the man-made hazards inherent to active or vacant construction sites to uninvited visitors like children, vagrants and potential thieves. If children trespass on site due to these conditions, the general contractor on the site can be held liable for any injuries they sustain.

    Construction sites are even more tempting to trespassers this summer than in the past. Due to the pandemic, kids have been cooped up for months. A construction site is going to look very attractive to bored kids. Too, with current material and labor shortages, it is not uncommon for construction sites to experience lulls when no one is onsite to deter unwanted visitors.

    So how can you protect kids from construction site hazards and yourself from an attractive nuisance lawsuit? The best plan is to be proactive by studying your job sites, identifying where children are likely to get in trouble and take measures to mitigate risk.

    Here are some common ways to prevent attractive nuisance-related accidents:

    • Install perimeter fencing around the jobsite so there is no simple point of entry beyond the official entry. Check daily to ensure no one has broken through the fence and made an opening through which a child or other intruder could enter.
    • Post construction area warning signs and no trespassing signs around the perimeter and at all entry points. This is a simple, inexpensive and clear warning not to trespass that also supports your case if there’s an issue.
    • Close and lock all gates when leaving the site.
    • Notify local police of the jobsite and its hazards. Some police departments will add such sites to their routine drive-by patrols.
    • At the end of each work shift, secure all materials, lock up tools and equipment, lock and secure construction trailers.
    • If a project is delayed, remove equipment and tools from the site to eliminate temptation to explore or steal.
    • Do not leave keys in vehicles or construction equipment. Just like valuable tools, equipment keys should be kept under lock and key or in the possession of those authorized to use the equipment.
    • Place warning barricades around trenches and excavations, and securely cover any holes or pits. Such barricades not only protect workers but are critical to kids and other roaming a property after hours and after dark.
    • Eliminate access to elevated fall hazard areas such as framed-out structures.
    • Be sure dumpsters and trash trailers are kept covered and closed. If the dumpsters are lockable, do it. Curious kids and others think nothing about dumpster diving.
    • Install and use exterior lighting at night.
    • Install and use security cameras. Those that allow you to monitor remotely in real time with your smart phone or tablet are particularly useful as you can respond or notify police if trespassers are detected.
    • Have first aid and rescue equipment available onsite.

    This list is offered to demonstrate the risks associated with attractive nuisances and is not meant to replace advice from one’s attorney or insurance risk advisor.

    The best approach is to proactively identify your risks and take necessary steps to mitigate risks. Campbell Insurance has insurance advisors who specialize in the construction industry who are happy to tour current and proposed construction sites to evaluate your risk and provide a strategy to protect your interests. Contact Campbell at 434.847.5541 or here.