Construction sites face several risks, including theft, accidents and vandalism. Many sites are relatively empty after working hours, and thieves are often tempted by the presence of valuable equipment.
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, roughly 1,000 pieces of commercial equipment are reported as being stolen every month to the National Crime Information Center, and countless more go unreported.
The bureau reports that many thieves belong to organized crime rings that enter job sites after hours to load valuable equipment onto trailers and resell it to other buyers or dismantle it and sell spare parts.
Vandalism and theft cost the construction industry billions of dollars every year. However, there are plenty of ways to ensure there is adequate protection for your site. By using a combination of approaches, including active and passive security, you can protect your site’s assets. Outlined below is a closer look at the most important points, and a checklist to ensure that your bases are covered.
1. Create A Security Policy
One of the best ways to reduce theft and vandalism on a construction site, beginning in the pre-construction phase, is to devise a comprehensive written construction site security plan before work gets underway.
While devising this policy, consider the possible risks that the site could be facing. For example, is the site in an area that has a history of crime? Will it have items of particularly high value compared to other construction sites? Is the project under construction controversial in some way? All of these factors can raise the risks and require greater security than a standard construction site.
It is also important to consider the site’s location; rural sites and urban sites have different types of safety concerns that need to be addressed. The type of project is also a factor as vertical projects tend to have different safety concerns.
Your construction site security plan should include the following information:
- The location of the site
- A map of the construction site with boundaries and adjacent properties marked
- The estimated start and completion dates
- A description of the proposed work
- The name and contact information of the site security manager
- A list of the layers of protection that will be offered at the site, such as security officers, fencing and surveillance
- A list of personnel and contrators involved in the project
- Identification procedures for verifying those who enter and exit the site
- The number and location of access points to the site and how they will be secured
- Reporting procedures for security incidents
- Parties responsible for working with police, insurance companies and site owners in case of incidents
- Quantity of measures such as cameras, lights and security officers used
- Backup plan for how cameras and lights will function should power to the site be compromised
Ensure that your security policy and plan are posted in a visible location where everyone can see them. It is also good practice to establish a line of communication with local law enforcement at the beginning of the project, encouraging police to patrol the jobsite at night and providing a phone number for them to contact if they observe any unusual activity in the area.
In the event of an incident, it is also recommended to have included with your plan, an inventory list of machinery, tools and materials.
2. Hire Carefully
A key component to securing your construction site is controlling who can enter and exit the premises. Therefore, it is important to take a look at the employees, suppliers and contractors who will be given access to the site, from the architects and builders to cleaning crews and outside security personnel.
Although it may be tempting to install a team as quickly as possible, it is important to make sure that all of the employees are qualified for the type of work that they will be completing.
Construction site supervisors should check the references and identification of those who will be working on the site, or work with contractors who conduct all of these checks on anyone they hire to ensure they have a history of safety consciousness and honesty.
Ask for a list of those who will be working on the project with names, dates of birth and other identifying features for access control purposes. Those working at the site will be responsible for reporting security breaches that they observe, so it is important to have a responsible team of workers at your site.
3. Require Workers to Report Incidents Promptly
Video surveillance and onsite security officers are incredibly valuable, but you should also require all workers at the site to report any incidents of vandalism or theft immediately. At the start of the project, clearly explain the procedures for reporting and who to contact in these incidents.
Many construction sites use a standard construction incident report to ensure that all of the relevant information is included. Construction site supervisors can devise their own incident report or find an example online and customize it to meet the needs of their particular site. It may be a good idea to have separate reports for missing items versus vandalism.
4. Keep A Record of Security Incidents
It is important to keep thorough records of any security incidents that take place on your construction site. First, it is useful to have as much information as possible about each incident as this can help with investigations. In addition, having thorough records can help you identify any suspicious patterns of activity that are taking place.
Some construction site supervisors will keep manual records, while others will place the security company they hire in charge of keeping these records. It is important to include reports from security personnel as well as others working on the property, local law enforcement and other parties who report incidents.
5. Ensure You Have Adequate Lighting Throughout the Site
Construction sites that are poorly lit in the evening can be attractive to thieves who want to sneak onto the site after workers have left for the day.
Lighting should be installed at every entrance to the site; lighting the entire perimeter of the site will also make it easier for anyone passing by to notice if something suspicious is occurring after hours. In addition, strong lights should be placed around any expensive machinery and materials to eliminate hiding places and deter criminals.
Using motion-activated lights that turn on automatically when they detect motion can serve as a powerful deterrent to thieves. Adequate lighting is also important if you will be using surveillance cameras to ensure that the images captured are clear enough to aid in identifying suspects.
When setting up security lighting on the construction site, it is important to be mindful of any residential areas located near the site and ensure that the security lights used will illuminate the construction site without shining into the homes of residents nearby. Once lighting has been installed, be sure to inspect it thoroughly at night to make sure it is set up for optimal visibility.
6. Secure The Perimeter And Use Gates to Limit Access
Securing the entire perimeter of the construction site is an essential step. The site should be closed off as much as possible, with a minimum number of entrances made available to avoid people being able to walk onto the construction site undetected. Having a limited number of entrances also makes it easier for security personnel to secure the site after hours.
Ensure that the fence around the site is tall enough that it cannot be easily breached and does not have any gaps at the bottom or between sections or panels. In addition, check that the zones adjacent to the fencing are kept clear as trees and other objects may make it easier for trespassers to bypass the fence. Fencing should be inspected regularly to ensure it remains intact, particularly after storms.
Effective locks and interior fences should also be placed around important equipment, supplies and tools to create an additional barrier protecting high-value unattended assets.
Electronic locking devices, keys and codes can be used to restrict access to only those who need to be in a particular area of the site, and a record should be kept of those who have received them. Any keys or codes that are unused should be secured.
Enlisting security officers to control access points during the day allows only approved personnel to enter the site. They can also keep records of who is entering and exiting the property and at what time, which is useful for safeguarding against anyone remaining on the site after hours. This is also helpful in determining who was present at the time of any incident that may occur.
7. Place Warning and Informational Signs at Strategic Locations
One aspect of construction site security that is often overlooked is signage. Some potential intruders may avoid a site when they see signs outlining the potential penalties of unauthorized access. Posting clear and concise signs that remind intruders of the criminal nature of entering the site and causing damage or stealing property is an affordable way to enhance site security.
Not every incident of theft or vandalism on a construction site is a case of someone attempting to gain valuable equipment. In some cases, troublemakers in the area may simply be looking for something to do, and being reminded of the penalties for this behavior can be incredibly discouraging to such individuals.
It is also important to post warning signs indicating to the public that surveillance cameras and security officers are being used. Signs should also be placed to identify hazardous areas to reduce the risk of on-site accidents among workers and visitors.
8. Secure Valuable Equipment
There are several approaches that can be implemented to secure your valuable equipment. In addition to broader measures such as keeping everything in locked areas, storage trailers or sheds, other precautions, such as removing tires from smaller equipment and chaining pieces to one another, are also efficient.
One good approach is known as the “wagon train circle”. It entails placing more easily transported mobile equipment, including compressors and generators, in the middle of a circle surrounded by larger pieces of hard-to-move equipment. You can also immobilize equipment by using anti-theft or anti-vandalism devices on it or disabling it when it is not in use.
Another way of deterring vandalism is locking the oil and gas tank caps on heavy equipment and parking it in a well-lit area.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau recommends installing hidden fuel shut-off systems and removing fuses and circuit breakers when construction equipment will be left unattended. Lock-out devices and secure lever controls can be used to fix equipment in a curved position, which will stop it from moving in a straight line.
9. Keep An Inventory of Valuable Assets
One of the best ways to prevent the theft or other loss of equipment, and to locate missing items, is using a central system to identify and track the inventory of equipment and tools.
It is good practice to identify everything with unique markers that are placed in multiple conspicuous locations on the equipment as well as a few hidden locations. You may opt to engrave numbers to help with inventory; by marking your equipment in multiple places, it will be more difficult for thieves to shave off identifying numbers.
Keeping an updated inventory list helps to ensure that your equipment remains on site and can make it easier to recover any equipment that is stolen.
Record the serial numbers of all company and personal equipment, and use signs that state that all assets have been marked and inventoried. Consider including photographs of all expensive tools and equipment and set up a program for verifying all deliveries.
Be sure to check inventories regularly to ensure they have not been misplaced or stolen; it is far easier to track them down if their absence is noticed early. Heavy equipment with a high value can be registered with programs such as HELPTech or equipped with GPS tracking devices and enrolled in programs such as IRONWatch, to raise the chances of recovering the items if they are stolen.
Set up a checkout system for all equipment and tools, and make sure that those who use them sign them out and then sign them back in when they return them. That way, everyone will be aware that they are personally responsible for the item while it is in their possession.
10. Install Security Cameras
Installing security cameras is a wise investment for construction site security. The presence of cameras can often be enough to deter some thieves and vandals, and when something does happen, the footage may help law enforcement to successfully recover stolen items and identify vandals and thieves. Modern cameras can watch over a broad area of the site, reducing your overall expenses, and they are made to withstand harsh weather conditions and tampering.
CCTV monitoring systems can be used to capture the vehicle traffic entering and exiting the site. You should also ensure that security cameras are pointed at any buildings or storage containers that contain valuable assets. Video analytics can assist with footage taken in poorly lit areas.
Certain cameras offer features that allow them to be panned, zoomed and tilted remotely so you can look around the site in real time. Some video surveillance systems also offer a talk-down feature that allows security personnel to address intruders in real time from another location, which may be enough to prevent any activity before it progresses.
Professional video monitoring from a security company provides another layer of protection as these trained professionals know what to look for and how to react and can quickly dispatch authorities in case of any incidents.
11. Post Security Officers at Strategic Locations
Construction site supervisors should strongly consider having security personnel on site, whether they choose 24-hour protection or an extra layer of physical protection at night and on weekends and holidays.
The presence of security officers is a highly successful deterrent to thieves and vandals. They can be placed at entrances to the site as well as in areas housing high-value assets on larger construction sites for additional protection.
Good construction site security companies offer 24-hour controlled access and will require visitors and vendors to sign in and out, maintaining logs of who is on the property at all times.
They will patrol the site constantly with regular checks to ensure all equipment and materials are secure and can help manage trespassing and loitering activity that takes place in and around the construction site. Security officers can also detect and report dangerous situations as they arise.
It is essential to choose a construction site security firm with proper licensing and insurance to ensure employees have been properly screened and have successfully completed background checks and fingerprinting.
It is also possible to hire armed officers if your construction site is in a particularly high-crime area, or if the project is controversial, which makes it more vulnerable to vandalism and attracting protesters.
Using around-the-clock security officers in conjunction with security cameras offers benefits beyond deterring theft. For example, monitoring employees and contractors helps ensure they remain productive and adhere to the proper safety regulations to reduce liabilities.
Security camera footage can be valuable in the event of a lawsuit or workers compensation claim. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that more than 150,000 construction-related accidents occur each year; monitoring by security cameras and officers can help to reduce these risks.
12. Remove Valuable Items Once They Are No Longer Needed
It is good practice to remove equipment and materials from the construction site when they are no longer needed to reduce the chances of theft and vandalism. Construction sites should not be used for storing items; those items should be returned to their original location when they are no longer being used. In addition, someone should be tasked with carefully supervising all of the garbage removal from the site to ensure nothing valuable is removed with it.
The Checklist In Review
Here is a useful checklist for tracking all of the points mentioned above to ensure maximum security for your construction site.
1. Security Policy
- Assess the risks
- Consider the site location
- Map the site and its access points
- Draft a construction site security plan
- Include contact information
- Create a backup plan
- Post the security policy in a visible location
2. Responsible Hiring
- List names and identifying information of all employees and contractors who will access the site
- Verify their qualifications
3. Incident Reporting
- Require workers to report incidents of vandalism and theft
- Explain reporting procedures
- Set up incident reports
4. Keeping Records of Security Incidents
- Determine how and where security incident records will be kept
- Create digital backups of security records
5. Install Appropriate Lighting
- Install lights at all entrances
- Verify the perimeter is lit well at night
- Place strong lights in areas where high-value assets are kept
- Consider the impact of your lighting on nearby residents
6. Secure the Perimeter and Control Access
- Establish the least amount of access points possible
- Place a tall fence around the site’s perimeter
- Ensure the fence has no gaps and the zones adjacent to it are kept clear
- Inspect fencing regularly
- Use electronic locking devices to limit access to necessary parties only
- Share keys and codes responsibly
- Use security officers or other responsible parties to control access points
7. Use Strategic Signage
- Post signs reminding intruders of penalties
- Post warning signs that surveillance cameras and security officers are being used
- Use signs to identify hazardous areas
8. Secure Valuable Equipment
- Use storage trailers and sheds to secure equipment
- Remove tires, oil and gas tanks or fuses and circuit breakers as appropriate
- Park and place items strategically to make it harder for thieves to access them
9. Create an Inventory
- Identify valuable items with unique markers in multiple places
- Keep an updated inventory list and check inventory regularly
- Use registry and GPS tracking programs as appropriate
- Set up a checkout system for equipment and tools
10. Use Security Cameras
- Place cameras at strategic locations
- Set up a system for monitoring cameras or hire a security company
- Create backup plans for cameras to operate without power or in the event of tampering
11. Hire Security Officers
- Determine the number of security personnel needed and when they will be used
- Post officers at access points and have others patrol the grounds regularly
- Ensure your construction site security firm has proper licensing and insurance
12. Remove Unneeded Items
- Remove equipment and materials when they are no longer needed
- Supervise garbage removal from the site
Reach Out to The Construction Site Security Professionals
The value of stolen or vandalized goods is only one potential loss that can arise from an improperly secured construction site. There are also costs associated with lost productivity, potential lawsuits, on-site accidents and public relations issues.
Although there are many steps you can take to reduce the possibility of construction site crime, the extra layer of protection offered by construction site security experts is an investment that can pay off significantly.
If you are looking for trained professionals to protect your construction site, reach out to the construction site security experts at American Protection Group. APG offers armed and unarmed security officers and security services such as 24-hour monitoring.
We serve several states with our top-notch construction site security services, and our officers and dispatchers are experienced in coordinating with local police departments to handle suspicious activity and security issues.
Our security specialists can assess your construction site and suggest solutions that will provide it with maximum protection, ensuring your site is kept safe from foreseeable and less-obvious risks so your project can stay on budget and on schedule.