5th November 2020
Designing and managing temporary works

Temporary works is a widely adopted expression in the construction industry. The term refers to the parts of a construction project that are required so that permanent works (i.e. buildings, bridges, roads etc.) can be safely and securely built. According to British Standard 5975:2019, Code of practice for temporary works procedures and the permissible stress design of falsework (hereafter BS 5975), temporary works can be defined as: “[those] parts of the works that allow or enable the construction of, protect, support or provide access to, the permanent works and which might or might not remain in place at the completion of the works.”

Examples include:

  • Scaffolding
  • Earthworks, such as trenches or excavations
  • Temporary bridges
  • Site hoarding and signage
  • Site fencing
  • Equipment or plant foundations, such as tower crane bases, supports etc.

Managing temporary works effectively

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), firms must ensure that they give the design and construction of temporary works the same degree of care and attention they would to their permanent counterparts: “As TW may be in place for only a short while there is a tendency to assume they are less important. This is incorrect. Lack of care with design, selection, assembly, etc. leaves TW liable to fail or collapse. This places people at risk of injury and can cause the project to be delayed.”

As a result, it is extremely important to follow best practice guidelines when designing, implementing and managing temporary works.

The updated British Standard

With this in mind, BS 5975 was updated last year, and now includes further information on duty holder roles and procedures on how those responsible should discharge their duties in relation to temporary works. It also provides recommendations for education and training, ensuring that duty holders are adequately qualified and knowledgeable to carry out their role.

With this in mind, BS 5975 sets out a range of leadership roles, including:

  • Designated Individual – a ‘senior person’ who is appointed to manage an organisation’s procedures for temporary works.
  • Temporary Works Coordinator – appointed by the ‘Principal Contractor’ (PC), this person manages the safe implementation of temporary works on site. According to HSE, this person would ideally be experienced in temporary works and will have completed the relevant formal training. They would also be highly educated with a degree or HND in civil or structural engineering.
  • Principal Designer – this role is required by Reg 11 of the Construction Design & Management (CDM) Regulations 2015. The PD is responsible for planning, managing and monitoring the pre-construction phase of a project.
  • The Permanent Works Designer is responsible for considering any temporary works that may be required for the build.
  • The Temporary Works Designer then designs the temporary works required.

Controlling the risks

Temporary works pose a significant danger to health and safety, precisely because they are not designed to be permanent. Therefore, extra care needs to go into assessing and effectively controlling the risks they present.

BS 5975 identifies three particular risks associated with temporary works:

  • Their design
  • Their construction and use
  • The consequences if they fail.

To mitigate the potential impact of these risks, organisations are advised to rate them according to their severity, i.e. ‘very low’, ‘low’, ‘medium’ or ‘high’. Procedures can then be put in place to address these risks. A Temporary Works Register should also be used on site to manage risks associated with temporary works on an ongoing basis.

The insurance implications

Contractors responsible for the construction and implementation of temporary works must ensure they are adequately covered for the risks through a Contractors Liability policy, for example, while those involved in the design aspect are likely to need Professional Indemnity cover for liability resulting from design errors. Should you wish to talk about a client’s insurance needs for temporary works, please just call us on 0345 345 0777 or email