Keeping work locations safe for visitors can be both simple and complex. The simple aspect is that safety always comes down to preparation and planning. Ironically, the complicated aspect also comes down to preparation and planning.

Whether the site is greenfield construction or an operating facility with construction going on, developing site safety plans for visitors and guests requires that we start with a few basic questions:

  • Who is coming and what do they want to accomplish during their visit?
  • Where will they be while on the site?
  • What risks will they be exposed to while on the site?
  • What steps do we need to take to reduce or eliminate those risks?

On a recent project to construct a new liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) export terminal in Texas, those key questions always were front and center as we implemented site safety protocols for visitors and construction crews alike. With an expansive site where up to 2,000 construction trades and crafts were working at any given time, we also often had visitors and guests arriving with little or no notice along with new construction crews cycling in and out.

As site engineering manager, I often had folks show up without proper training, certification or personal protective equipment (PPE) for a tour or a meeting. This sometimes even included crews ready to start certain facility commissioning activities. We developed a standard email for visitors that would go to anyone planning to arrive with pertinent information such as:

  • Here are the certifications for safety training you will need before arriving at the site.
  • Here are the articles of PPE we require while on the site.
  • Here are the gates you will need to come to.
  • Here are the people you will need to check in with when you arrive.
  • Here is where you can find the sign-out sheets, which must include your signature and the time you leave.

Safety on a job site is everyone’s responsibility. Of course, the site safety team is responsible for keeping everyone accident- and injury-free, but safety is a culture that starts with the mindset that everyone is responsible and no detail should be left to chance.

Keeping visitors and newcomers safe is an education process. We start by asking:

  • What do our visitors need to know before they arrive? If they are to tour an active construction area, what PPE and basic training will they need?
  • What are the visitors likely to encounter on the site? More important, how can we prepare for the unexpected while they are on the site?

Many guests who arrive on a construction site or an operating facility assume they have no need to worry about anything: “The safety professionals will take care of everything.”

While that is true up to a point, the best practice is to offer visitors training and educational programs that prepare them for the actions they will need to take or be personally accountable for. Short, basic safety orientation tutorials can be offered online or on-site and might cover:

  • PPE: Are hard hats, safety shoes or boots, high-visibility vests or hearing protection required? If gloves are required, do they need to meet a certain cut-resistant certification?
  • Severe weather: If the site or facility experiences a tornado or other extreme weather conditions, where are the shelters? Have your visitors been informed of the best routes for taking shelter in those locations?
  • Fires: Have your visitors been informed where the safety exits are located?
  • Entrances: If certain gates have been designated for visitors or contractors, are those defined and marked so they can be located easily? Are site maps available that can be sent electronically or by mail in advance of the visit?
  • Security: What are your badging requirements? Are certifications required, such as a transportation worker identity card (TWIC)?
  • Cameras and cellphones: Are permits required before cameras can be used on-site and are there review procedures for any photographs taken? Can cellphones be brought on-site and what are policies are there for using them?
  • COVID-19: Given the realities of the current pandemic, are there special masking or distancing requirements that guests must be aware of? Are screenings and temperature checks required before visitors can enter, or can they simply sign a declaration stating they have none of the symptoms?

For construction sites, weather conditions can change the safety procedures for a site visit. If it is raining, snowing, or a hot and windy day with lots of dust in the air, planned walking tours may need to be rescheduled or conducted via motorized vehicles.

Again, it all comes down to preparation and planning. What are our guests going to do? Where are they going to be and what risks could they face? These questions apply equally for both office locations and construction sites.

Think of it as if a close family member were visiting you at your work location, whether it be at a construction site or office. What would you want them to know? What steps are you prepared to take to keep them safe?


Safety is the highest priority on each and every project we work on. Learn more about how we apply our safety experience across the breadth of services in the oil, gas and chemical industry.

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Don Hendrickson is a mechanical department manager at Burns & McDonnell. A mechanical engineer, he has 29 years of oil, gas and chemical industry experience.