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Information and public services for the Island of Jersey

L'înformâtion et les sèrvices publyis pouor I'Île dé Jèrri

Farm reservoirs and health and safety at work legisation

Legal requirements

Existing and the creation of new farm reservoirs are subject to the Health and Safety at Work (Jersey) Law 1989.

Under the law:

  • employers have a general duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of their employees. This duty includes, in particular, the provision of safe plant and equipment, safe systems of work, a safe workplace, and the information, instruction, training and supervision needed to ensure safety
  • employers also have a general duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of persons other than employees who may be affected by the way in which the undertaking is conducted. This duty includes protecting the public from gaining easy access to the reservoir
  • any person in charge of premises must take such measures as it is reasonable for a person in their position to take, to ensure, so far as it is reasonably practicable, that the premises, including all means of access and egress, are safe

“So far as is reasonably practicable” means that the addition to safety which any particular measure will produce needs to be balanced against its cost. Where the difficulty and cost are high, and a careful assessment of the risk shows it not to be significant, it may not be necessary to take action. In some cases, however, there will be things that must be done at all costs. No allowance is made for the size or profitability of the undertaking.

The final interpretation of what is “so far as is reasonably practicable” in a particular situation, or under specific circumstances, is ultimately only available through the courts. The following guidance is aimed at assisting in the measures that should be considered in achieving compliance with the law.

Design and construction

It is essential that the reservoir is designed and constructed to take into account the structural integrity of the retaining structure or dam and the provision of overflow arrangements. Such design should also take into account a safe means of access and egress to the reservoir for working purposes.

It is advised that the services of a competent person, such as a chartered engineer experienced in the design of reservoirs, be employed to advise on the design of the reservoir and to oversee its construction. 

A record of the design of the reservoir should be kept by the employer or person in control of the premises.


The reservoir should be inspected by a competent person on a regular basis, ideally the chartered engineer who undertook its design. The time interval between these inspections should be left to the discretion of the competent person.

A record of each inspection, together with any observations made, should be kept by the employer or person in control of the premises.

Working arrangements

Employers, or persons in control of the reservoir, are obliged to assess activities involving work on or adjacent to the reservoir, and arrange a safe system of work; this may include the provision of equipment, such as life saving devices. The precise requirements should be assessed in relation to the hazards which are identified.

Fencing of reservoirs

Reservoirs create a specific potential hazard to persons who are not authorised to be in the area. These individuals may be trespassers who gain access to the area for leisure purposes, children attracted by the water or persons using the area as a short cut.

There is a need for each site to be assessed to decide if it contains potential hazards to members of the public and if so, what type, and the extent of the problem. The assessment should include the following:

  • the nature of the surrounding area. Is it a remote or populated area? Are people likely to approach the reservoir for any reason?
  • the history of and foreseeability of trespass and the nature of trespassers. Why do they break in? Is there any enticement such as the presence of valuable materials or the existence of grounds which make a pleasant background for leisure activities? Are the trespassers criminal adults, short cut takers or adventurous children? (It is presumed that the Courts would take a stronger view in relation to an obligation in respect of young children)
  • the foreseeability of the danger. A reservoir with steeply sloping sides or lined with plastic sheeting would be worse than gently sloping sides. It should be remembered that obvious hazards could be regarded as a challenge by adventurous children
  • the presence of employees or other persons on the site

Any site should be provided with fencing if there is a significant hazard. The fencing should be either barrier fencing to enclose the site completely or it should surround the hazard area. All doors and gates in a fence should be constructed to the same standard as the rest of the fence, and kept locked when the site is unoccupied.

The standard of fencing should be decided upon in the light of the assessment. Any fence that is provided must be constructed of suitable material, such as rectangular wire mesh, designed to deter access and be properly erected and maintained.

In certain situations where reservoirs are located near schools or housing with a history of trespass by inquisitive children and youths, a particularly good standard of fencing will be needed and a fence of at least 2m high would normally be appropriate. At a site with nothing to attract trespassing adults but with some history of occasional access by children, a fence of a minimum height of 1.3m including at least 2 strands of barbed wire, spaced 100 - 150mm at the top, should be provided. If the fence is capable of being pushed up from the bottom by animals, 2 strands of barbed wire at the bottom will help to prevent this.

Natural obstacles, such as an earth bank or shrubs providing an equal deterrent, could also be provided.

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