Theft is an unfortunately frequent occurrence on active construction sites. Depending on the project, contractors can have millions of dollars of equipment and materials stored on their job sites. Upwards of one billion dollars of equipment and materials is stolen from construction sites annually and less than 25% of the equipment and materials are recovered. Protecting equipment and materials from theft and vandalism requires an active and vigilant effort on the part of the site supervisor. Unfortunately, site supervisors must be wary of theft by workers in addition to thieves not on the company payroll. There is a wide variety of tips and tricks site supervisors can implement to tighten security on their job sites and mitigate theft and vandalism.
Clean Site and Properly Store Materials Daily
Construction sites typically store millions of dollars of equipment and materials overnight for extended periods. Site supervisors can make their sites less desirable targets by keeping a clean and tidy site. Potential thieves and vandals are more likely to target messy construction sites where expensive equipment such as power tools, equipment accessories, and other tools are easily identified and can quickly be snatched. Easily transportable materials like copper tubing and wiring, small appliances, small metals such as bolts and hinges, and other salvageable materials are common targets for thieves looking to make quick cash. Bigger equipment such as skid steers or dozers is stolen much less frequently, though the impact of heavy equipment theft is much greater.
Properly and securely storing materials and construction equipment at the end of the workday is the most effective way to reduce the odds of material and equipment theft. Another effective measure is to utilize a material and equipment log for any material or equipment stored on-site in, say, a connex. Site supervisors can require workers to sign out materials and equipment and annotate the quantities of each item removed from the connex. By documenting the use of tools and materials, site supervisors can maintain a timestamped record of who was using each material or equipment and simultaneously reduce the odds of theft by workers and increase the odds of recovering stolen items.
Lock Field Offices and Equipment and Practice Key Control
Locking field offices and equipment are paramount for securing construction sites overnight. Unsecured field offices are another target of thieves looking for computers, printers, power tools, or other office supplies. Additionally, connexes or other equipment and material storage facilities should be locked when not in use.
While the odds of someone driving off with an entire excavator are low (but not zero!), unwanted entry into construction equipment can lead to other more likely negative outcomes in addition to equipment theft. Thieves will have access to any tools, materials, or keys that an operator may have stored inside the cab of the equipment. Site supervisors should develop job site policies to turn in all keys and equipment at the end of each shift to prevent workers from leaving valuables inside equipment cabs. Workers should also lock equipment cabs to prevent unwanted entry.
Limiting the number of keys to sensitive facilities is an effective way to reduce job site thefts. Similar to signing out equipment and materials, supervisors can develop a key log where workers are required to sign out and return keys with a timestamp.
Where possible, specify doors with door latches and deadbolts instead of padlocks. Bolt cutters, or the “master key”, are commonly carried tools that have earned their nickname. In the event of a padlock breach, consider your checking your equipment manifests for workers who have checked out bolt cutters recently. If padlocks must be used, specify padlocks that use keys, not number or letter combinations, to improve the site supervisor’s ability to manage keys. Also, spend the additional money to purchase higher-end padlocks that are resistant to cutting, drilling, picking, and weather. Key features to look for include hardened steel, shackle guards, non-duplicable keys, raised shoulder shrouds, and top-loading locking cylinders. Immediately replace locks that have been tampered with or have rust damage to ensure padlocks are performing as designed.
Install Temporary Security Measures
Site supervisors can improve site security by installing a variety of security measures. There is an increasingly large array of security cameras available that are easily installable. Additionally, these cameras feature high-resolution, 24/7 cloud-based video storage, and searchability by date and time. Site supervisors can work with security professionals to develop a network of security cameras that capture all areas of the jobsite and mitigate blind spots. Installing cameras significantly increase the odds of recovering stolen equipment and materials. Additionally, security cameras provide a visible deterrent to theft by letting potential thieves know that they are being watched. Be sure to inform workers that the site is camera-monitored, but do not inform them of their location. Keeping locations hidden or out of reach may reduce the odds of tampering and would-be thieves figuring out where blind spots in the security system are. Consider keeping security cameras and appurtenances on backup generator power to ensure construction sites are secure even without power.
Fencing is another effective way to mitigate theft and vandalism. As the value of the equipment or materials inside the fence increase, so should the protection provided by the fence. For simple earthwork or utility projects, locking equipment and any storage connexes should prevent the majority of thefts and an orange construction fence should alert passersby to any trenches. As construction complicates to buildings, for example, perimeter fences become a necessity. For relatively inexpensive construction or in areas with high visibility and foot traffic, a simple temporary chain-linked fence is sufficient. As the facility cost increases and more and more expensive hardware or tools are necessary, the risk and impact of theft increases and requires more stout protection. Mounting temporary fencing to jersey barriers on the site perimeter increases site security. When mounting fencing to jersey barriers, consider using drop-in anchors to reduce the damage to concrete caused by the fence connection. This mounting style also reduces potential thieves’ and vandals’ ability to enter the site by eliminating the jersey barrier foothold.
It is important to understand that it is virtually impossible to develop a 100% secure site. Site supervisors should work with security experts to select the most appropriate security measures to develop the most appropriate combination of measures to protect and surveil their construction sites without blowing their budgets on temporary measures.
Request Increased Patrols from Local Police Departments
Site supervisors can also request the local police department increase their patrols in the area of the construction site, particularly during the overnight hours. The simple visibility of police officers frequently in the area will deter many potential thieves and vandals from attempting to enter the site. Be sure to notify police if there is work anticipated overnight to ensure police officers do not interrupt construction, though it should be fairly obvious if someone is attempting to steal from the site versus going to work.
There are many ways to increase the security of job sites and decrease losses from theft and vandalism. Maintaining a clean and orderly site is the cheapest and most effective way to ensure small items do not disappear. Properly locking sensitive facilities and implementing key control programs ensure secure areas remain secure and provide oversight to who is accessing what facilities. Additional security measures such as security cameras and security fencing protect construction sites from unwanted activity and entry. Finally, getting assistance from local police officers to provide overnight patrols get extra eyes on site when it is not feasible for site supervisors to do so. It is up to site supervisors to develop the best combination of security measures and programs to reduce thefts and protect job sites.