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Don’t provide a Christmas present for thieves!

Janet Bates
Janet works on client service delivery and broking strategy, with particular focus on construction and liability.
As Christmas approaches and the year-end wind down begins, don’t let a lack of site security leave you with an open invite to thieves. Thefts from construction sites cost the industry around £800 million last year [1]. With many sites closing over the festive period, it’s important to ensure your materials and equipment are kept secure or you risk a nasty surprise when you go back to work in the New Year. 

Construction sites are easy targets for criminals because of their continually changing workforce and their often-remote locations on the edge of towns. Theft of plant and machinery is becoming a huge problem, with the number of reported thefts increasing by 55% over the past five years. This is forecast to go up again this year [2]. In a survey by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), 92% of respondents suffered thefts from their sites – 21% said items went missing on a weekly basis while a further 43% had equipment stolen every month [3].It can be a big financial drag on already-hard-pressed construction firms. Around four in ten told the CIOB theft was costing them at least £10,000 a year, while two in ten put their costs at over £50,000[4]. It isn’t only small items that are being taken: excavators, JCBs and even cranes are being stolen. So it’s important to take measures to stop your plant and machinery from being a Christmas present for thieves. 

How to prevent theft from your construction site

Equipment theft creates extra costs and delays that can put projects behind schedule and over budget. It’s important to teach workers to be vigilant and understand how the effects of crime could even threaten their own jobs. 

  • Set up best practice for staff. Old building-site habits like leaving the keys in the ignition of machinery are high risk. A new routine of immobilizing and securing equipment before they leave the site can make a huge difference in crime reduction.
  • Conduct background checks. Over 30% of construction professionals told the CIOB that subcontractors had stolen building materials and tools from their sites. A further 20% said project workers had taken small plant.[5] So, make sure to conduct thorough background checks. From identity and criminal records to qualifications and references, everyone should be checked.
  • Know who is on-site. Making visitors sign in at the front gate is a basic precaution. You can also install turnstiles or more sophisticated electronic systems that enable you to track site access. By knowing who and when workers are onsite you reduce the risk of theft – and, should anything go missing, help you track down the culprit.
  • Use secure storage. Secure storage, like a container, is the favoured option for over 85% of respondents to the CIOB survey.[6] The security needs to be effective, however. Thin chains and cheap padlocks will not prove much of a challenge to experienced and well-equipped thieves. 
  • Move equipment off site. If your site is going to be closed over Christmas it might be safer to move your equipment to somewhere more secure, like your yard, until work restarts. 
  • Hire a security firm. If it’s not possible to move equipment off site, hire security guards to patrol the site while it’s empty. The CIOB recommends using only those approved by the Security Industry Association (SIA). 
  • Install lighting and CCTV. Good-quality portable lighting that illuminates all corners of your site and high-resolution CCTV can make would-be burglars think twice. Keeping the cameras running throughout the day can help to cut down on any theft by those working onsite too. 
  • Secure the entrance and perimeter. Heavy-duty gates and barriers are also a good idea, but they are only as effective as the security around the site boundary. Flimsy fencing offers thieves an easy alternative route into and out of your site. Heras fencing enables passersby to see into the site, which is good as well as bad. But, it can also be easily dismantled. 
Theft is a growing issue for the construction industry. Taking some simple security steps can help ensure that carol singers are the only unwanted visitors you’ll have this Christmas.

 

[1]https://www.allianzebroker.co.uk/content/allianzebroker/en_gb/application/content/documents/news-and-insight/commercial/construction-plant-theft-is-on-the-rise/_jcr_content/documentProperties/currentDocument.res/construction-plant-theft-on-the-rise_acom8166.pdf

[2]https://www.allianzebroker.co.uk/content/allianzebroker/en_gb/application/content/documents/news-and-insight/commercial/construction-plant-theft-is-on-the-rise/_jcr_content/documentProperties/currentDocument.res/construction-plant-theft-on-the-rise_acom8166.pdf

[3] https://policy.ciob.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Crime-in-the-Construction-Industry.pdf

[4] https://policy.ciob.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Crime-in-the-Construction-Industry.pdf

[5] https://policy.ciob.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Crime-in-the-Construction-Industry.pdf

[6] https://policy.ciob.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Crime-in-the-Construction-Industry.pdf

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