Theft and vandalism at construction sites is an increasingly common problem and sites can be easy targets for both the opportunist thief and the well organised criminal.
It is estimated that theft and vandalism on UK building sites costs the industry in excess of £400m a year or more than £1m a day. But, for site management teams, it is often a delicate balance between protecting and securing a site and its assets and working to strict budgets.
Equally, when you consider that a one-off single site theft can easily cost £50,000 in materials, plant and machinery damage, and delays to building projects often result in expanded costs for extended labour and contract damages clauses, prevention would seem better than the cure.
Securing high-value plant and equipment is not the only security challenge facing site managers. Depending on the locality and the nature of the build, each site will have its own issues of concern.
These could include arson, protestor activity, attempts by competitors to discover details about the development and, of course, the challenge of safeguarding construction site employees and members of the public.
No one-size-fits-all solution
When considering site security, budget constraints mean it can be easy to limit your response to the installation of cameras and the creation of a perimeter fence.
While both of these things can assist and be a deterrent, the existence of a camera does not necessarily prevent a crime from happening. And, because of the changing physical nature of a construction site, perimeter fencing can only be temporary in nature.
The frequent access required by a variety of people on a construction site means that, whilst a perimeter fence may be effective in keeping members of the public out, it is not adequate protection in terms of access control.
As every construction site will differ in terms of scale, location, duration of work and risks, it is not possible to deliver a one-size-fits-all security response.
The first starting point should always be a full assessment of the security risks at each individual site and this should be an ongoing process as these risks can change on a daily basis.
For example, when final fixtures and fittings such as appliances are installed, the site will become much more attractive to thieves and the security strategy must respond accordingly.
Equally, attention must be paid to higher-risk points in the build involving excavation where additional consideration must be given to safeguarding employees and members of the public.
The harsh reality is that a high proportion of site crime is committed by people with links to the industry, or even by employees on the site itself, so awareness of employee’s history and close monitoring of site access is vitally important.
A variety of tools and techniques are now available to support construction managers in achieving a secure and protected site.
These include, among others, external lighting, perimeter protection, tracking devices for physical assets, guarding, CCTV, alarm systems and lock systems.
An effective security solution should be bespoke, practical and robust, whilst aligning to cost pressures.
The benefits of a comprehensive security response can yield multiple benefits, protecting assets, helping to deliver projects on time and minimising the risk of accident or injury.
Terry Barton is managing director of Kingdom Security