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Digging down into construction site security

At a glance

  • Construction sites seen as easy targets by criminals, with plenty of high-value plant and machinery
  • Enacting a strong security strategy can mitigate these risks
  • Workers adopting best practice security methods are a cheap and effective way to enhance plant security

This article counts towards accumulating your annual CII CPD structured learning hours for Construction.

By reading this article, and correctly answering the three questions underneath, you will have achieved the following learning outcome: Identify the key risks affecting construction site safety and security.

Visit the CPD Hub to log in and begin accumulating CPD hours.

Construction sites can pose severe security headaches due to their constant state of flux, frequent access needed by a variety of outside contractors and also the high-value plant, machinery and building materials that tends to reside inside their boundaries.

All of which makes them easy targets for both opportunistic and planned crimes. It is estimated that over £1 million worth of plant and equipment is stolen each week in the UK alone and less than 10% is ever recovered.

Find out more by downloading the Zurich’s Best Practice Guide for Construction Companies and discover how Zurich can help you and your customers

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Plugging the holes in security gaps

There is no easy solution to the problem with each construction site differing in terms of scale, duration of work and the security risks posed.

But having a strong security strategy in place will mitigate the threat of theft, deliberate damage and even arson – not to mention preventing your insurance premiums from soaring.

It is not uncommon, for instance, despite the availability of protection systems, to still find £60,000 excavators without any form of reliable security left vulnerable to theft overnight on open contract sites.

Top tips to protect plant and machinery on construction sites

* Position heavier equipment, such as extending hydraulic arms, to block in other smaller equipment

* Engage physical security devices such as breaker locks, leg locks, ram locks, track locks and wheel clamps

* If there is no permanent security, install temporary secure compounds

* Identify which plant is most at risk and be sure to put extra precautions in place during the day and night

* Emphasise good key security and activate any immobilisation or tracking systems

The National Plant and Equipment Register (NPER) has said that while all types of equipment are stolen, it is construction site machines as well as demolition and quarrying equipment, tractors and other agricultural machinery that are prized by thieves. In fact, the most frequently targeted plant have been generators, excavators, breakers and compressors, tractors and pumps.

In many cases, the equipment is stolen by organised gangs, who then export them to eastern Europe, northern Africa or the Middle East.

Factoring in the cost of business interruption as well as the thefts, the true cost to UK construction firms is likely to be upwards of £100m a year.

Company-wide planning

In order to combat such security lapses, site and plant security needs to be seen as standard practice for construction workers, rather than a chore that needs to be done at the start and end of each working day. Operating best practice methods and promoting staff awareness training are cheap and effective ways of enhancing plant security.

Site theft

While securing a site should be seen as a 24/7 operation. Construction sites are at their most vulnerable at weekends and during holiday periods, giving the gangs the maximum amount of time between the theft and its discovery on Monday morning.

Tactics used by thieves include blending in on work sites by ‘looking the part’, with false documents, high-visibility jackets and hard hats, and acting in an apparently professional and confident manner. They then take the opportunity to steal equipment in broad daylight.

Prevention and recovery

Plant security falls into two areas. Firstly, you can prevent the theft occurring, while secondly you can install or employ security devices and tactics – such as CESAR, which is a covert and overt identification and registration system for plant, the use of corporate colours, tracking devices and vehicle identification numbers – that are aimed at improving the chance of recovery quickly and efficiently should the worst happen.

You can also get specific guidance on effective security protection for mobile plant on Thatcham’s website, which specialises in vehicle security.

Strategies should also be put in place to take into consideration the true cost of certain plant and machinery in terms of potential business disruption and also the significant hire charges that may be incurred in order to prevent delays to construction project schedules.

When considering construction plant security measures, it is advised that this also extends to any plant that is hired in. This may not always be possible at short notice but only dealing with those hire companies that can supply equipment with the appropriate standard of security will be of most long-term benefit.

For more information on this and other construction-related risks please speak with your local Zurich contact.

You can also find out more and access helpful guides and insight with our new Fire Risk Resource.

Image © Getty

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