March 8, 2021

Most Common Risks for Construction Projects in a Live and Operational Environment

When to think about risks, most common risks, and how to manage them, when delivering projects in a live and operational environment.


Delivering projects in a live and operational environment means there are lots of risks that may impact building occupants and other stakeholders.

Good client-side project managers are proactive about minimising potential impact. Preparing for this earlier in the project reduces future headaches (however may not prevent it!)

In my previous job, I had the opportunity to deliver many incredible projects in a sensitive environment such as labs. I've gotten myself in a pickle a couple of the times, but I guess that's how you learn right?

When to think about the Risks and Impact

It's crucial to start the risk management process early, especially during the detailed design stage. This may inform the design or construction methodology.

The bare minimum is before tender. You need to ask the tenderers how they plan to mitigate certain risks and for their methodology. That way, the tenderers can understand the key risks and price accordingly.

Most Common Risks in Live and Operational Environment

Here are a few common risks when delivering projects in a live and operational environment.

  • Noise
  • Dusty works
  • Service interruption
  • Access
  • Communication strategy to stakeholders
  • Protecting the site
  • Storage / Amenities
  • Hoardings
  • Coordinating crane lifts
  • Hazardous Materials including lead, asbestos
  • Coordinating lift uses
  • Issue escalation procedure


  • Vibration
  • Blocking views
  • Fumes and smells

The contractor usually submits a construction management plan from their company template which outlines how they aim to mitigate the most common risks. However, as client representing project managers, we need to ensure the plan is tailored to the project. And that they are adhering to the methods they proposed.

If you've delivered similar projects before, it's always good to review the construction management plan that the contractor used. You can use this to see the different type of risks that they've thought about.

How to Manage Risks

Risk management is a key component of project management.

To offer a rough summary, we need to identify and analyse the "risk events" and then evaluate them (timeframe, probability of this happening, impact, risk rating). We come up with mitigation strategies and then determine the residual risk level. Throughout the project, we continuously monitor and assess the risks.

Usually, your organisation would have some kind of risk template. I would highly suggest using this as a starting point then tailoring it to your specific project.

There are lots of articles and books about risk management available. If you're really passionate about managing risk, you could even pursue a career out of it.

Here are some I found quite useful

To clarify the risk events that may impact the stakeholders, I like to use the basic Who What Where When Why.

  • What needs to happen
  • Why it needs to happen
  • Where this is going to happen and where will it be affected
  • When this is happening
  • Who's carrying out the works and who's it going to impact

For example, imagine there is a little refurbishment project happening in a laboratory building. The demolition of the works needs to be undertaken in the first two weeks of the construction project. There will be noise, dust, and access issues. We need to explain clearly to the stakeholders why these works need to take place, when it will happen, possible event, and lots of ways you will mitigate noise and dust and alternate access provision.

Risk Mitigation Strategies

Depending on your project, your risk mitigation strategies will be different. For example, noise may be a key issue. You may need to relocate the users surrounding the construction project, or you may need to only schedule noisy works to happen outside of business hours.

Keep in mind, your organisation might have special conditions to the contract or inductions that they have to complete. See if these documents also cover operational risk mitigation strategies.

I recommend having a risk workshop with the relevant stakeholders who will be representing the occupants. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page about the potential risk and how the team will be mitigating them as much as possible.


  • Plan early for potential risk for your construction projects especially those in a live and operational environment.
  • There are common risks you should think about
  • Think about how you're going to mitigate the risks by looking through the special conditions and working with your stakeholder representatives.

May your projects be successful and be free from headaches!

live-and-operational risk-management

Return to blog

Helpful project management and productivity tips from a construction project manager

Let me know when there is a new blog post!

I care a lot about delivering useful content.
I won't email you more than once per week and you can opt-out at any time.