E&S Environmental Toolbox Talks

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Environmental Toolbox Talks

Spill Control

Accidental releases of oils and chemicals from construction sites make up a large number of pollution incidents that occur each year. Many spillages can be prevented. It is important that everyone on site knows how to control a spill to minimise its impact.

Water Pollution Prevention (Fuel and Oil)

A large number of oil related water pollution incidents occur each year. Discharging fuel or oil or water containing fuel or oil into drains or watercourses is illegal. Many pollution incidents are from unbunded tanks and can easily be avoided by following simple guidelines.

Dust and Air

Dust, emissions and odours can annoy neighbours and may cause health risks at very high concentrations

Noise and Vibration

The Construction Industry is one of the leading sources of noise complaints made to Local Councils. Something is considered ‘noisy’ when the sound is unwanted by the listener. Noise and vibration emissions can disturb local residents and give rise to complaints and delays. Noisy activities include: excavation, tunnelling, concrete cutting, piling, using un-silenced generators and concrete pours.

Water Pollution Prevention (Silt)  

Silt is the term used for very fine particles of soil. Silt mixed with water in the form of mud, can be washed off construction sites into nearby watercourses and drains. Pollution by silt can be caused by: rainwater run off from uncovered areas of the site, pumping out and dewatering of excavations, tunnelling operations and cleaning of ditches and drains. Proper planning will prevent these pollution incidents.


Cement and concrete are probably the most common materials used in construction. Cement is a highly alkaline material and is corrosive. If cement or concrete is allowed to enter a watercourse in an uncontrolled manner it can have a devastating impact on wildlife.


Trees and hedgerows are an important part of the environment and the countryside. They provide a vitally important habitat for wildlife and many trees and hedgerows are protected by law.

Waste Management

The construction industry generates over 70 million tonnes of waste per year and it is estimated that this total includes 13 million tonnes of construction materials thrown away unused


Japanese Knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) was originally introduced to the UK as an ornamental plant but has spread extensively in the wild. With its rapid growth of more that 20mm a day, it forms dense clumps over 3m high which crowd out and prevent the growth of native plants.


The tallest annual plant now growing in the British Isles, Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) was introduced to the UK 150 years ago as an ornamental plant but quickly spread into the wild.


Introduced as an ornamental plant 150 years ago, Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) is now wide spread throughout the UK. It is a perennial plant that flowers only in its 4th year of growth and, having flowered, it dies.

Material Handling

Poor storage and handling of materials creates waste. Waste is a loss of resource and is very costly. Poorly stored materials increase the risk of pollution incidents.


Archaeology is the study of human history through the excavation of sites and the analysis of physical remains. Where no other records exist, it is often the only source of information about our previous occupation of an area from the earliest inhabitants many thousands of years ago to more recent times of just a hundred years or so.

Pumping and Overpumping

Excavations often require prior dewatering of the ground and / or the pumping out of any rainwater or groundwater collected in them. Both processes require the disposal of water pumped out, which can find its way into a watercourse, or, if contaminated and with prior consent of the Statutory Sewerage Undertaker, it can be discharged to a sewer.

Washing Down Plant and Machinery

Washing down plant and machinery, hosing down concrete truck mixers or degreasing engines can all lead to serious pollution incidents if it is not properly carried out. The resulting dirty water should not be allowed to enter surface water drains or road gullies, which generally discharge directly into local streams, rivers or soakaways.


There are 16 species of bat in the UK and of these 6 are endangered or rare and 6 other species are classed as vulnerable. Because so many bats are endangered, both UK and European legislation gives them complete protection. Since they tend to return to the same roosts each year, these sites are also protected whether the bats are present or not.


One of Britain’s best loved wild animals, Badgers are a protected species. Both the animals and their setts are protected by law. It is illegal to carry out any construction work close to a badger sett without taking steps to positively avoid damage and without an appropriate Licence. It is no excuse in law to be unaware of the presence of Badgers.

Good Neighbour

Many in the local community will regard the start of construction work in their neighbourhood with great concern. The public are often afraid that construction work will bring noise, dust, road closures, increased heavy road traffic and disruption to normal life. Being a good neighbour means all those involved in a construction project acting with consideration for all those who live and work in the area surrounding the construction site to minimise their inconvenience.

Working on previously developed land

Land which has previously been built on or used by industrial processes (“brownfield land”) or which has in the past had imported material placed upon it (“made ground”) may be contaminated with substances which are harmful to humans, wildlife and /or the surrounding environment. Contaminants could be present in solid form such as asbestos or tar residues, in liquid form such as oils or solvents or even as a gas such as methane.

Segregation of Waste

Segregating wastes into hazardous, non-hazardous and inert waste types for disposal can help minimise costs and maximise the opportunities for recovery and recycling of wastes. Look out on waste containers for these standard signs, which are being introduced across the UK to encourage and improve the segregation of waste.