The summer is nearly over and property development site owners all over the country are sighing in relief. As idle children go back to school they become less likely to wander onto building sites in search of a new playground.
Every year, a large number of children (and adults alike!) will injure themselves on building sites, despite the fact that they weren’t allowed on the property to begin with.
Who is legally responsible for the injuries of trespassers?
The landowner. Even if the third-party was trespassing with the intent to commit a crime, if they become injured on your building site or construction site then it is the landowner who could find themselves in court facing charges.
In such extreme cases where the trespasser was on the property with criminal intent, it doesn’t seem fair, does it? This is because the landowner owes duty of care to anyone on their site, whether they’re allowed to be there or not. They are the ones responsible for ensuring safety on their property, not only to their employees but also to visitors and trespassers, under the Occupiers’ Liability Acts of 1957 and 1984.
General warning signs alone do little to prevent trespassing, and courts may argue that your warning signs were not specific enough to the nature of the danger and therefore were insufficient. Simply putting up a warning sign does not absolve the occupier from liability, as occupiers should be aware that it is easy for someone to ignore a sign – especially with adventurous groups of children attracted to the excitement and danger of playing on a building site. This is not the fault of the children, but the occupier must protect their development site from becoming a child’s playground. Warning signs written in English also do not provide sufficient warning to young children or those who are not able to read English.
What can building site owners do about this?
Building site insurance (or property development site insurance) is an absolute necessity to protect you from any incident in which a third-party holds you liable as the landowner for any injury sustained on your site. Insurance policies can be taken out before any development activity has begun on the site or during the work, and your premium will differ depending on the activity on site (if any). Insuring your land awaiting development is usually a good idea, as the lack of activity or security on site may further attract young people to hang around.
But the best protection is prevention. If you don’t want trespassers to get hurt on your property, do all you can to prevent them from entering in the first place. If you’re concerned about trespassing, you should increase your security by way of locks, anti-climb fencing, cameras, lighting and alarms. This will also help to prevent malicious damage, theft and arson on your property. It is estimated by the Home Office that building site insurance costs are rising due to the increasing occurrence of theft and arson, with approximately £400 million lost to theft each year! (Less than 10% of which is ever recovered.)
As someone who has invested a lot of money into the land, it doesn’t make sense to not invest just a little more to protect your investment by increasing your security (particularly during the summer holidays and weekends, when the site is most vulnerable) and purchasing an insurance policy to cover the building site.
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