Is It Illegal To Take Wood or Any Objects from a Construction Site?
A construction site is private property where the works, infrastructure and everything on it is protected by building clauses and trespassing laws. Taking wood from a construction site without permission from the contractor is illegal. In this article we are going to look at exemplary Building Contract clauses that prohibit taking wood or anything from the site. We will also look at situations whereby it’s legal and illegal to take wood from a construction site according to certain conditions and circumstances.
Building Contract : Protection and Security of Works
Conditions of Building Contract have clauses that make it illegal to take items or objects from a construction site or house under construction. Possession of site by the contractor gives them authority, responsibility as well as risks that come with this responsibility. Most of the responsibilities and powers given to the contractor are conferred to them by the Principal Agent appointed by the client. This is usually a certified architect or engineer who also works as the Project Manager.
Clause 17.2 Enclosure of the Works:
In a building contract, the contractor is required to erect physical barriers around the site for the safety of the public, traffic and anyone who may encroach the site. Within the construction site, works under construction will also need to be protected for the safety of workers, inspectors, consulting team and any visitors. The site must be enclosed with a fence, screen wall, gantries or hoardings, access gates should be provided at suitable points, gangways must be covered or fixed with protective side railing, excavations, holes, trenches and upper floors pose a fall hazard and protective barriers need to be installed. Perimeter safety screens must be erected on upper floors and multi-storey buildings under construction.
Clause 18 Works Insurance:
Insurance for both the works and public liability is borne by the contractor to a sum which is stated in the contract clauses. For example, works insurance is often pegged to an amount which is equal to the contract sum + 20%, with deductibles at 0.1% of the insured sum. While Works Insurance covers the building, plant, equipment, materials and construction works, Public Liability insurance covers risks of injuries sustained by the public as well as damage to public property. Additionally, the contractor must insure his supervisory staff, workmen and labourers under Contractors Insurance against injuries on site.
B2.2 Defined Area of Works:
Before construction begins, the Principal Agent must define the site boundaries, restricted zones, limit access and exits to specific areas, as well as times/schedules on which such access will be allowed. This also includes areas for storage of materials, equipment, tools and the site clerk’s office. The contractor is required to follow, implement and ensure this instruction.
B2.11 Protection of Trees:
Existing trees, bushes, shrubs and flora often need to be protected to preserve and maintain the green fields in that area. The protection clause prevents the random cutting down of trees and collection of firewood. Before site clearing, the Principal Agent will identify trees and any type of flora that needs to be preserved and protected from damage or destruction.
B2.12 Articles of Value:
On construction sites, it’s common to unearth valuable materials such as precious stones, old coins, antiques and other treasures which were buried underground and hidden from view for many years. In the case of such articles of value being found on the site, the contractor shall forward the items to the Principal Agent, who will in turn hand them over the site owner. All items unearthed (Valuable or not) shall be the property of the site owner.
B11.1 Protection of the Works:
The site owner will submit specific and extra protection measures that need to be implemented on the site.
B11.2 Protection/Isolation of Existing Works and Works Occupied in Sections:
Existing works or a part of them may need protection, which may require isolation until the project is finished.
B11.3 General security of the Works:
Overall safety and security measures required on the site. In addition to all clauses mentioned above, the contractor shall be required at the direction of the Principal Agent to provide protection for all works, materials on site, workmen, public, materials, equipment, plant, tools, including existing buildings and infrastructure against theft, loss, damage or destruction. This includes adhering to working hours set by the Principal Agent and Employer, ensuring safe delivery of materials and goods on site including handling and storage thereof. On task or job completion as well as project close-out, materials, goods, protection and supports to works must be safely removed from the site and the works to which they are attached. Generally, the contractor will install and enforce all necessary security measures to the satisfaction of the Principal Agent, and will be reimbursed by the Employer for such measures.
The contractor is required to protect the works and site against vermin in any form or kind. Vermin are usually creatures or animals that cause damage, defilement and destruction on the site.
Why Taking Wood from a Construction Site is Illegal?
Taking wood or any object from a construction site will be a violation of security and protection clauses outlined above. Even if there is no contract on paper, when the matter goes to the court or before an arbitration panel, the judge or arbitrator will often rely on a qualified construction law expert or professional to come up with a verdict. The expertise of a certified quantity surveyor or construction lawyer will often be solicited in such cases. A typical standard form of contract used in a project similar to the construction site in question will more likely be used as a tool for arbitration or judgement. The non-existence of a contract does not provide a means of escape from law.
The problem is that the average man in the streets or trespasser may think that a simple piece of wood on a construction site is of no use, but it may be useful to a construction worker, site agent or project owner. It may be lying around on the site but it doesn’t mean it has been thrown away or discarded. That wood or object may find use in the nearby future or during the course of construction.
When Is It Legal To Take Wood from a Construction Site?
The only time someone may take wood or objects from a construction site is when the contractor under the direction of the Principal Agent has given you permission. The permission may not be explicit but it may be implicit, for example, when the wood has been dumped as debris/rubbish in a local dump site or trash dumpster in your street. Otherwise, you have no permission to pick up wood or any other materials within a construction site. It has to be in a dumpster or dump site. The US Supreme Court ruled that trash meant for dumping (i.e. placed in a dumpster, public dustbin or dump site) is public domain, and therefore it’s not illegal to pick up such trash. [California vs Greenwood]