At a glance
- Poor security at sites can jeopardise project completion and also lead to potential rises in insurance premiums
- Zurich has recently issued best practice guidelines for construction companies on site security
- Uninsured costs following an incident can often be greater than the cost of improving site security in the first place
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Although adrenaline junkie James Kingston was not interested in stealing any of the high-value plant and materials when he gained unauthorised access to a construction site in Southampton – the daredevil merely wanted to scale a 76-metre crane to perform a number of death-defying stunts – the high-profile incident last year has now attracted over two million YouTube views and highlights the importance of site security.
Some construction sites are easy targets for thieves, who are attracted to the amount of high-value equipment on offer. It is common for equipment, such as telescopic handlers and excavators worth many thousands of pounds, to be left overnight on sites without any form of reliable security, and reluctance by some contractors to improve general site security, in a bid to cut costs, may prove a false economy.
Uninsured costs following an incident can often be greater than the cost of improving site security in the first place. Insurance companies, too, are also likely to restrict cover for contractors, or not offer cover at all, if security precautions are not followed.
Poor security at sites also potentially jeopardises project completion with resultant lengthy delays, penalties, adverse publicity and loss of customer confidence.
It is estimated that more than £1 million worth of plant and equipment is stolen each week in the UK alone; and recent data collected from police forces around the country by Mobile Mini, a portable storage firm, found that there are around 6,000 incidents of thefts each year from UK construction sites – with more than a fifth of these occurring where sites were simply left unsecured.
However, protecting a site from thieves need not be that onerous.
Zurich has recently issued best practice guidelines for construction companies on site security to minimise the threat of theft, as well as expert advice on how to reduce deliberate damage and arson – other problems to afflict construction sites.
Duty of care
Contractors not only have a duty of care to their employees, but also – although it seems unjust in some circumstances – to members of the public who happen to trespass on their premises.
Boundaries then need to be strong enough and high enough to keep intruders out while educating staff to be more aware of site security, improving external lighting and making materials and equipment harder for would-be thieves to steal are all more straightforward measures that can easily be taken.
And then there are the latest technologies, such as rapid-deploy CCTV systems, which can swiftly be moved from one location to the next, that are also being used today in deterring construction site theft. CCTV footage can also be used as evidence in claims.
It is not just outsiders, however; employees or subcontractors all too often commit site theft. One US study by Associated General Contractors of California found that 85% of construction site thefts were ‘inside jobs’. So, reducing the impulse to steal on site – even protecting low-cost machinery such as drills – can go a long way to protecting plant and machinery.
No system is fail-safe, however. So installing and employing security devices and tactics – such as the use of corporate colours, tracking devices, vehicle identification numbers and CESAR, which is a covert and overt identification and registration system for plant – can all improve the chances of recovery should the worst happen.
CESAR registered machines are four times less likely to be stolen and six times more likely to be recovered than unregistered machines, according to Metropolitan Police statistics.