When it comes to secure barriers, there are specific criteria required for the selected material to perform effectively:
- Robustness, security and stability.
- The versatility of size and construction.
- Ease of logistics to move, erect and remove from sites.
- Customisable design to suit the location.
Uses for Temporary Barriers
There are multiple scenarios in which temporary barriers – whether concrete or plastic – are essential. Barriers can be used to direct traffic, to funnel visitors, to restrict access to unsafe or secure areas, and to provide a layer of protection between workers and potential risks.
Some of the most common uses include:
- Traffic barriers
- Vehicle directional lanes
- Security barriers
- Footfall management at events
- Barriers to unsafe or secure areas
- Worksite safety barriers
Here we look at the options on the market, primarily plastic barriers and concrete barriers blocks, to compare and contrast the advantages and disadvantages of each option.
Concrete Block Advantages
Concrete is a dense, stable-yet-versatile material that lends itself perfectly to barrier usage, particularly where a physical, immovable barrier is required. Certain concrete barrier blocks are BS EN1317 certified, which means they’ve been thoroughly crash tested and approved to be used on UK roads.
With a wide range of designs, shape and styles, concrete blocks can be assembled in any formation or structure to provide a barrier that is solid, reliable and tailored to fit the space for which it is required.
Although ideally suited to long-term use, concrete is simple to transport, making it ideal for temporary barriers as well as more long-standing requirements, such as flood defenses, traffic barriers and parking guidance.
Depending on the duration and context of the requirement, concrete blocks can usually be either hired (view our concrete barrier hire page) or purchased, lending them well to projects both of a temporary nature – such as significant events – and of a long-term need, such as flood or fire defences.
Plus points include:
- The flexibility of construction, with multiple sizes and assembly options to suit higher walls (see concrete lego blocks), sturdier barriers or unusual spaces.
- An adjustable design that can include privacy screening panels, fence posts for easy site access and gateways for permitted traffic.
- The option of a short-term or long-term installation, and a robust deterrent against trespassing, unauthorised vehicular access and fly-tipping.
- Ideal safety screening, with fire and flood-resistant material suitable for use on all kinds of sites and locations.
- Strength and durability, making concrete blocks ideal for heavy-duty barriers or safety protection such as on highways and high traffic areas (concrete blocks are BS EN1317 certified).Plastic Block Advantages
One common alternative to concrete blocks is to use water-filled barriers, with a plastic base and casing. These polyethylene blocks are filled with water for added strength and weight and may be used on roadways or as a pedestrian or traffic control measure.
There are plus points to using plastic points, such as:
- Re-usability for redeployment at different sites.
- They are usually made with recyclable plastic.
- Possible to reinforce with steel to form a suitable crash barrier.
- Customisable in terms of colours and signage.
- Lightweight and easily movable when unfilled.
However, the big difference between plastic points and concrete blocks is in terms of their stability and suitability for long-term use. Concrete barriers are a much more robust solution and certain types are approved for road usage. Plastic barriers have limited usage and cannot be used in high traffic areas and environments in which significant public or highway worker protection is needed. Typical, they can be used in low-volume, slow traffic movement areas.
Safety First – Concrete Blocks as a Risk Mitigation Strategy
Barriers are generally created for high-risk locations where safety is of paramount concern, such as road works taking place on busy carriageways, or construction sites immediately adjacent to high-speed roadways.
Plastic solutions are straightforward to move when empty, although they do require additional resources in order to be filled when in situ on-site to ensure they carry weight and cannot be easily removed or will shift from their static position.
This ease of use relates to the temporary nature of plastic blocks, which are not designed with the stability and security of concrete blocks. In essence, this makes plastic barriers more vulnerable to:
- leakages, and therefore redundancy of use.
- theft or tampering with water refill points.
- movement or shifting from their correct position.
- crushing or lack of effectiveness when encountering a high-speed or heavy vehicle collision.
It may seem more practical and cost-efficient to opt for water-filled plastic blocks. Still, these are best suited to lighter use or temporary installations where heavy traffic is not anticipated.
Examples where it is essential to consider the more robust and stable protection provided by concrete blocks include:
- Construction sites where heavy vehicles or equipment are in use.
- High-speed traffic locations where security barriers are vital for worker safety.
- Agricultural areas where vehicles are likely to be physically heavy.
- Work locations in proximity to traffic sites or potential points of impact.
Cost efficiency and smooth logistics are at the forefront of site planning for every scenario where barriers are required for safety, traffic management or worker protection. When it comes to choosing between concrete blocks and plastic points, the reliability and stability of concrete is always the safer choice.