Construction Site Security has never been more important in the UK, 92% of respondents of a CIOB survey have been affected by construction site crime either weekly, monthly or yearly. At Veritech Security we’ve been a construction site security specialist for over 10 years, deterring crime has given us plenty of insight and recommendations on how construction companies can effectively protect themselves and their workers.
First, it’s important to understand the costs involved:
Costs of Construction Site Crime:
Project Delays - The initial cost of theft such as replacing equipment is obvious, what’s often overlooked is the project delays. This can damage relations with clients and disrupt work schedules for weeks to come.
Damage Costs - Thieves will target expensive materials and equipment, removing it in the fastest possible way. It’s rarely a case of simply reinstalling the stolen items with large amounts of damage to flooring, walls and ceilings often following the wake of stolen goods.
Theft of Materials - Items with high resale, particularly those with low amounts of traceability, will be targeted and sold on elsewhere in this country or another. Common targets for theft haven’t changed much over the years, the BSIA estimates metal theft alone at £770 million a year within the UK.
Increased Insurance Costs – If you experience a substantial break in which can’t be covered without insurance company assistance you can expect your insurance premiums to increase substantially over the next three years. With high excess costs a normal sight, construction companies will often defer claiming for smaller issues, but this leaves smaller firms with smaller budgets suspectable to claiming.
Personal injury – Personal injury can occur not only from crime but also in daily operation, construction sites without proper access control policy’s put workers health and safety directly at risk by letting untrained staff into highly hazardous areas.
Trespass to land is not generally a criminal offence but, unless a special statutory provision is in place, the costs of it could still be substantial if injury is caused. Under the 1984 Occupiers Liability Act landowners owe a duty of care to trespassers and should offer sufficient protection to those who are likely to. This is particularly applicable to children who might not fully understand any warning signs displayed and opens a potentially very difficult situation for any company without a properly secured site. In an age of social media photo opportunities and thrill seekers, cranes suddenly become highly prized opportunities despite the inherent risks that come with climbing them. For construction sites to protect themselves hoarding is advised throughout the border with enough signage placed throughout.
Plant theft in the UK currently accounts for annual losses of £650 million. Specialised and often mobile, plant represents easy pickings for thieves and organised crime. Equating to around 10 items a day and often out the country in a container within just 24 hours, prevention is the most effective way to deter theft and keep sites running.
Adding to the difficulty of securing plant is the inherent lack of security measures plant comes supplied with. Manufacturers have been using ‘universal keys’ for over 50 years and show no signs of changing practices, customers such as large rental companies simply don’t want the added complexity of what could be tracking hundreds of unique keys.
CITS recommends comprehensive risk assessment and that all plant or equipment is registered with the construction equipment security scheme (CESAR). Cesar is a government, insurer and manufacturer supported scheme which uses Datatag ID technology coupled with a distinctive triangle warning sign in the hopes of recovering vehicles or as a deterrent.
Sensors interlinked with engine management systems, or complete 3rd party systems such as vibrations sensors working in co-ordination with your security company are an effective way of securing site machinery. Immobilisation devices are available relatively cheaply which, when combined with correct plant storage policies, can provide high levels of security.
For those with plant equipment already on site and unable to implement any immediate security, hidden cut-out switches, disconnecting of batteries and removal of sparkplugs can at least offer some level of protection until more secure methods become active.
Interestingly, brightly coloured markings can deter thieves as found by Birmingham City University Business School, Professor Gary Holt at the university of Bristol commented: "Bright identifying colours psychologically deter a thief, whilst practically making it so much more difficult for them to process stolen components – they'd have to be re-sprayed first. Why steal a pink one when thousands of yellow machines already exist and provide a readily available second-hand market?"
A chartered institute of building study (CIOB) on construction industry crime found that in 2018 roughly 3x as many small plant machines are stolen annually vs heavy. As such it’s vital construction sites take physical security seriously using methods like secure storage, CCTV, manned guards and perimeter detection systems to secure smaller non trackable inventory. Small plant can be tracked and disabled but due to the increased level of mobility this can be easily rendered ineffective if using equipment of their own to physically move it.
Securing Materials & Fuel
As prices of copper, lead and other materials continue to rise so will their theft. Usually easy to sell on at scrap prices with little traceability to the source it provides a quick and relatively low risk target for opportunistic thieves. Included in material theft is fuel, often large quantities of red diesel can be found in storage tanks or in vehicles themselves, this can be easily siphoned off and again sold with little to no traceability to the origin.
Keeping materials secure will commonly involve secure on-site storage or cages, fences and deterrent signs. However, there is a more costly side to targeted attacks, removal of materials from existing building projects can not only cause large amounts of damage but considerable delays amounting to massive costs for the project at hand. As such it’s our recommendation that 24/7 monitoring or security guards are actively used on sites, not just to
react to crime but to actively prevent it.
Secure storage can be further enhanced with the use of monitored moisture detectors to protect against water ingress and vibration detectors. Should either of these monitored systems be triggered a mobile response officer will be dispatched to ensure no damage occurs to property.
Physically securing fuel stores on site is trickier due to the health and safety legislation around combustible material storage. Secure cages and padlocked fuel caps are often ineffective and susceptible to brute force attacks, as such they need to be factored into a wider security plan of the site itself to deny thieves the opportunity.
Common forms of Construction Site Security
CCTV - Construction Site CCTV Systems provide 24/7 monitoring offering protection as well as advanced warning to any potential threats to a construction site. Often a more cost-effective solution to other security solutions and highly customisation to your needs. CCTV can be tower mounted and move with the site, able to run of its own power and transmit via 4G to a control centre. AI in CCTV cameras has improved security even further, facial recognition can be used to instantly match a provided photo to stored historic surveillance footage.
Access Control - Preventing unauthorised access to a site is key to not only deterring crime but ensure safety standards are met throughout the construction of a project. Building sites can zone areas so that only pre-approved contractors and employees are granted access, leaving visitors to follow signage to reception without becoming a hazard.
Security Guards - Security guards form the core of any secure premises, preventing unauthorised persons from entering the site. They are highly visible and flexible, being able to undertake traffic marshal, banksman and fire marshal duties within the day to assist with day-to-day running. For smaller sites this might include reduced hours such as weekend and nights or reduced further such as mobile patrol visits that work in conjunction with a 24/7 CCTV system.
Perimeter Detection Systems - Infra-red perimeter beams add a second layer of defence for remote monitoring of constructions sites. Placed strategically around to create a virtual 'wall' they will alert a control room once triggered, usually followed up with CCTV investigation or a immediate mobile patrol dispatch dependent on site manager preferences.
Secure Storage - Secure storage offers not only physical protection against theft of tools and materials, but also shielding from elements. They should be relied on only to stop opportunistic thieves as can be easily defeated with planning and cheap, readily available, power tools. When used in construction with other security systems they afford construction companies vital time until a mobile patrol driver or the police arrive.
Hoarding & Fences - Shielding the site, its layout and weak spots helps deter thieves from pre-planning. Hoarding are preferred due to being much harder to climb or cut through, see through while providing extra advertising space.
Physical Barriers & Gates - Physical barriers should be used in locations where heavy plant equipment could be simply driven out - or in. While they may be defeat-able with enough time the extra noise and time taken can often deter would be thieves.
Security Dogs - Often deployed on sites with a high risk of trespassing, such as those with tower cranes. Security Dogs offer a higher level of protection and detection beyond what a single guard can provide with only a moderate increase in cost.
Security Lighting - A cost effective solution to reducing crime, it removes the illusion of being hidden at construction site entrances, often one of the first recommendations in a risk analysis. Enhanced lighting works well with most other security measures, improving CCTV footage (particularly low-quality ones) and helping guards to better identify potential intruders.
Plant Immobilisation & Tracking - Immobilisation & tracking tools used in conjunction with highly visible signage provides an effective deterrent as well assisting law enforcement in recovering stolen goods, reducing the profit criminal organisations can make.
As you’ll probably realise by now there’s a vast range of security options for construction site security, using every solution would likely dig deep in to profits margins which we fully understand are major concerns. At Veritech Systems we evaluate each site and recommend the most cost-effective solution without compromising on security, for example using supplementary secondary options such as perimeter beams to a primary option like CCTV.
We offer free no obligation quotes for sites already in progress and those in planning or tender phase, contact us to arrange a site survey or give one of our security experts a call to see how we could help you.