How to Prevent Construction Site Theft
Whilst millions of pounds goes into site security with a view to accident prevention and minimising health and safety risks, just as many pounds are actually lost through the other big risk factor for the construction industry: theft, which costs the industry up to £2 million a day across the UK.
These costs to the industry come from all aspects of theft, including the costs of repair to damage from break-ins, value of lost items and the cost of their replacement purchase or hire, as well as the loss of working days, particularly where workers or public safety is compromised through the theft.
With one in five construction sites experiencing theft on a regular basis, the majority of construction site owners will fall victim to thieves at one time or another – indeed, theft regularly occurs in 92% of UK sites. Although most construction sites are well insured, the cost of excess and increasing costs of premiums following claims after repeated occurrences of theft mean that even those construction companies with good insurance will incur considerable expense from every break-in and incidence of theft.
The high value of equipment and materials on construction sites makes them extremely attractive to opportunists as well as organised criminals, who might spend a significant time watching sites to identify the opportunities for theft. Materials such as copper, lead and aluminium, as well as plant, vehicles and fuel can offer high re-sale or component resale value to thieves.
A big risk factor for construction sites is that they are both extremely busy and unattended in turn across 24 hour cycles, presenting different problems to site owners:
- When busy:
Monitoring a busy construction site for unauthorised visitors can be very difficult, particularly when site access needs to be open for the coming and going of plant or workers. Busy sites where security and inventory processes are not in place or are poorly monitored can also put sites at risk from loss through staff theft.
The busy nature of construction sites can also be exacerbated by the need to work to tight deadlines and for equipment, particularly major equipment such as plant vehicles, to be operational quickly when needed. Practices such as leaving keys in vehicles so that they can be used promptly make vehicles additionally vulnerable.
- During quiet times:
Because construction sites are work zones and generally subject to noise and public nuisance restrictions during evenings and weekends, most sites are predictably quiet places out of working hours. This means that thieves can plan theft to take advantage of less personnel on-site. Additional risks occur when sites have boundaries with quiet, out of the way areas where anti-social behaviour or break-ins are less likely to be noticed by passers by.
The high risk factor for construction site break-ins is balanced by a commensurately low-risk for thieves in the cases of poorly secured or seldom monitored sites where thieves can more easily affect their crimes. But it’s not just gaining entry that’s a low risk on some occasions, as thieves generally have the advantage of low recovery rates for goods stolen from construction sites. This fact was highlighted in a recent report from Allianz Cornhill which found that the majority of vehicles stolen from construction sites are never recovered (less than 10% in comparison with motor vehicles).
With this low likelihood of recovering goods stolen from construction sites, the most significant thing site owners can do is prevent theft in the first place.
- With good boundary security, including fit-for-purpose and location fencing and gating from reputable companies such as SafeSite Facilities.
- With visible deterrents and surveillance such as CCTV and security guards.
- With appropriate warning signage and good local community engagement.
Preventing on-site theft with good security procedures, such as:
- Locking plant and vehicles away when not in use, even temporarily. If keys are to remain within an easy proximity of the vehicles, there should be a robust locking system in place rather than simple chains and easily broken-into padlocks.
- Implementing processes which make staff accountable for materials and equipment, including regular inventories and loss-reporting.
- Security marking equipment and property.
- Following insurance company recommendations for recovery as well as prevention, such as by registering equipment with the National Plant and Equipment register.
Although some of these actions may seem expensive when it comes to implementation, ultimately effective prevention and security can be extremely cost effective. Purchasing or hiring effective resources such as fencing, security monitoring and security services from quality suppliers can actually mean effective saving of both time and money for the construction industry.