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The true cost of construction site theft

Construction site theftTheft from construction sites can be an expensive issue, whether it’s the gradual (but quickly mounting) costs of small-item theft and petty thieving from light-fingered opportunists passing your site or theft of larger items as a result of break-ins and robbery.

But when you also consider the costs of litigation and insurance if a member of the public is injured as a result of items stolen from your site (such as being crashed into by stolen plant vehicles or hit by an item rendered unsafe following a break-in) and it’s easy to see why the cost of appropriate security for your site can easily repay itself over time. So what are the facts and what preventative action can you take?

Fact 1: Theft is a real and relevant issue in the construction industry

A recent survey conducted for the Chartered Institute of Building identified that 92% of their respondents in the construction industry are affected regularly by theft, with 21% of these revealing that theft takes place on a weekly basis from their sites.

  • Complete stock-take and equipment audits regularly and as a standard on-site procedure, to help quickly identify patterns in theft or times of increased vulnerability.
  • Improve security to your site’s boundaries. See this guide on security fencing for construction sites from Safe Site Facilities.

Fact 2: Theft can result from health and safety neglect

Thefts don’t just occur from less-than-honest workers and opportunistic visitors during working hours; many thefts result from neglect in security when sites are closed. Whether it’s failing to have secure barriers in place to restrict entry or failure to lock away items such as vehicles when not in use, health and safety neglect is a key factor which contributes to regular theft.

  • Complete a health, safety and security check with immediate effect.
  • Identify vulnerabilities to your site’s security when open and closed and implement a plan to address those vulnerabilities, such as replacing compromised fencing or barriers with reinforced concrete barriers.

Fact 3: Safety of employees and the public are an important consideration

Forget fiscal costs for a moment and consider the cost of loss of life or permanent injury which could be caused, directly or indirectly as a result of theft from your construction site.

  • Re-visit health, safety and security audits and policies with your employees and the general public in mind. Highlight priorities for preventing theft and accidents relating to poor security.
  • Consider environmental factors such as employee access to the site, or any public rights-of-way such as pavements which are crossed by vehicles and machinery moving in and out of your site, whether as part of the working process or as a result of being stolen.
  • Choose security barriers which allow for supervised access points.

Fact 4: Organised crime is a real issue in the construction industry

It’s not just opportunistic thieves after a few tools to sell on who benefit from poor site security. With the prevailing prices of some metals such as copper, lead and aluminium, some organised criminal groups specifically target sites which are known to use these and other valuable materials, as well as to target building materials generally for re-sale or other use.

  • Consider site security in terms of processes as well as policies and placement of items. For example, you may regard standard barriers as “secure enough” against passing vandals and opportunists, but will they really withstand an organised attempt to breach your security, particularly if you have easy access during working hours?
  • Ask your managers if they really know who is coming onto the site on a daily basis and why, whether any casual contract workers are fully reference checked to identify if basic security processes are in place. If they are not, consider what needs to be done to address the issue, to ensure that people, as well as property, are fully secure on your site.

Fact 5: Security is about prevention and safety

Short-term cost cutting when it comes to site security can turn out extremely costly in the long run. An unsecured or poorly secured site is an open invitation to criminals so all measures should be taken to secure site boundaries and access with suitable, hardwearing and fit for purpose equipment, such as steel enforced concrete barriers. Installing flimsy alternatives which are not suitable to the working or geographical environment (such as high winds) will offer poor value for money and may pose additional hazards to employees, visitors and the public. Similarly, if you choose to use a security company, choose a fully insured, reputable company with fully referenced employees rather than a cheaper alternative which could possibly prove to be a rogue company.

  • Purchase site security barriers from reputable companies which offer guaranteed products, quick installation and a full back-up service.
  • Check credentials of security guard companies carefully. All UK security companies are required to register their personnel with the Security Industry Association and they should wear their distinctive SIA badges as part of their uniform. If in doubt, check with the SIA before taking out a contract with a security guard company.

The bottom economic line for construction site security isn’t about asking what security measures you can afford to implement, it’s about asking what you can afford to lose as, in the majority of cases, the cost of fit-for-purpose site security is quickly regained through reduction in thefts, insurance claims and premiums and in retaining good reputation for prioritising your employees’ and the public’s safety.

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