Five Critical Steps to Working on an Active Site

There are numerous things to consider when beginning a project that will take place on an active or occupied construction site. With extra obstacles to work around, communication and safety measures to put in place, and budgets to consider, it’s imperative that each element is managed well to contribute to the success of the overall project.

With 40+ years of experience working on active and occupied sites, J.M. Cope has developed the skillset necessary to professionally ensure a successful and safe project.

Following are five important steps to follow while working on active sites:

  1. Fluid communication about on-going operational needs
    One of the main goals when working on a successful, active site is ensuring the client’s day-to-day operations can continue as normal – or as normal as possible. This requires open and honest communication between the construction teams and the client, their employees and their customers to ensure a safe and well managed site. It is important to designate a point person on site to be accessible and approachable for questions, changes, etc., for the duration of the project. The lines of communication need to be clear and open to avoid accidents or problems that are easily avoidable.
  2. Planning ahead
    Prior to the start of the project, it is important for the onsite construction manager and client to establish a plan for the project timeline, traffic flow, signage and communication to employees and customers about the duration of the project. If new traffic patterns need to be established or alternate routes/usage created, proper signage and communication should happen prior to the start of the project. A proposed timeline will also allow adjustments to be made as the project progresses and the site is utilized in different ways.
  3. Managing finances and budgeting for unexpected costs
    Working on an occupied site has the potential to add costs to the original budget. When there are staff actively engaged in work functions on the site while construction crews are working, this can increase the amount of time it takes to complete the project. For example, the need for new pathways and traffic patterns could cause a need for different equipment, longer routes, etc. As a result, this can increase costs and delay the project timeline. As such, it is important that expectations are clear and communication regarding any budget changes take place as soon as the need arises.
  4. Ensuring client satisfaction
    An active site can cause changes for a client, their employees and their customers. For example, parking may need to be adjusted or meetings may need to be delayed or moved to new locations. As such, it is important that employees are made aware of these changes with adequate time to keep their work functions in progress. When a construction site is occupied by current tenants there can also be unexpected obstacles that come up at certain points throughout the project. A clear way to avoid distress is to maintain open communication with the client and their key constituents. It is also extremely important to maintain mutual respect for each other’s space needs, as active sites can be busy and ever changing. A successful project not only means a client who is satisfied with their new facility but also a client who felt the work was seamless and not disruptive to their business operations.
  5. Safety, Safety, Safety
    Safety is always an integral part of each work site. Full participation, cooperation, and support are necessary to ensure the safety of all people and property involved in a construction project. To that end, it is imperative that all staff and crews have the knowledge they need to create a safety-focused environment and are empowered to know that the safe decision is always the right decision.
    With safety being an integral aspect to any site, a construction team must think creatively at times. Wayfinding and different access points need to be identifiable and easily accessible. The site layout is extremely important, especially in case of an emergency. Having a clear-cut plan can help in anticipating problems before they come up. This goes for educating each employee as well. It is imperative that everyone is well-informed of where equipment will be, when activities will commence, and how they can navigate the site.

All in all, it is important for everyone to be well-informed of procedures and conscious of one another throughout the project lifespan. It not only helps keep everyone safe and accountable, but it also allows for a clear budget and timeline to be met.

For more information on establishing protocols for working on an active or occupied site, visit

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