Keep thieves away from your site< Back to Blog

With widespread CCTV coverage and advancements in webcam technology, you might think that theft from modern-day construction sites would be rare or at least on the decline.

Wrong! In fact the exact opposite is true.

The Federation of Master Builders report that 51% of UK builders have had tools stolen and, research carried out by Allianz Insurance shows that plant theft claims from the construction industry have risen steadily over the last five years. While tools are what’s most frequently stolen, thieves are also targeting larger items such as excavators and JCBs, with some builders also reporting incidents where site workers have been threatened by offenders during a theft.

Costing the industry an estimated £800 million a year in the UK, construction theft is clearly a major problem. And, that’s not even counting the costs which come over and above the re-purchase value of a particular item, for instance lost productivity, costly delays and increased insurance premiums.

At Sheriff Construction, we’ve recently been reminded of this issue as thieves have stolen expensive jet wash machinery directly from one of our worksites. Because of this,  we thought this was a good time to look at some best practice in the prevention of construction theft. Here’s our top tips:

  • Wherever possible, fence off the site and place ‘No Trespassing’ signs at strategic positions. If you have other security measures like cameras or onsite guards, put up notices to inform the public of this too.
  • Install adequate security lighting so there are no dark corners across your entire site. You can save energy costs by going for solar powered static and motion sensor lighting.
  • Install extra security cameras that cover the whole site, thereby sending a clear message to thieves that you are not an easy target.
  • Train employees to be mindful of the ‘opportunistic thief’ at all times, avoiding things like leaving tools or equipment in public sight or unattended. Even if your back is turned for just a few minutes, that’s all a would-be thief might need.
  • Lock tools and building materials in storage boxes/ cargo trailers with heavy gauge, tamper resistant locks and chains. 
  • At the end of each day, take a moment to secure heavy equipment. You can use simple methods like removing batteries or using locks that freeze controls or go for more high-tech solutions like alarms, fuel and ignition cut-off switches and GPS tracking devices.
  • Maintain an inventory log of all materials, tools and equipment on site, along with a register of equipment assigned to specific workers. At the end of each day, use the log to check everything is accounted for.
  • Keep all keys in central and secured locations and maintain a log of who checks them out.
  • Keep a centralised (and very detailed) record of all equipment in your company, noting down the make, model and serial number alongside photos taken from different angles. Since 2000, equipment manufacturers have been using a 17-digit product identification number (PIN) on all pieces of heavy equipment, so be sure to engrave or bead weld this number on each piece of equipment and add it into your inventory.  While this might not prevent theft, following this tip could help you to reclaim something in the event of a stolen haul being found.
  • Register heavy equipment with companies like The Equipment Register. Doing this can help police to locate and return stolen items to their rightful owners.
  • Schedule deliveries on an as-needed basis so as to avoid large stockpiles of materials that will look like Christmas come early to thieves. If you don’t use security guards, make sure extra members of your team are present during scheduled deliveries so that there’s no chance of thieves stealing this window of opportunity.
  • Establish and enforce a theft prevention policy among your team. Sadly, some thefts from construction sites are committed by the company’s own employees. You may feel you can trust your team completely but it’s best to lay down the rules so that everyone understands the consequences of stealing from the company. Make it clear that theft is not tolerated and offenders will not only face dismissal but also prosecution.
  • Perform a regular security health check at your site: Examine fencing for holes or breaks; check that locks on tools and equipment are not loose; check your security signs are all in place and that they haven’t been defaced; make sure keys are stored where they should be; and check cameras are working properly

It’s often said that there are two types of thief – those who deliberately scope out their targets and plan exactly how to get what they want and those who are opportunists and primarily looking for easy wins. While the ‘planners’ are more difficult to address (basically, if they want it bad enough, they’ll probably find a way of getting it), the ‘opportunists’ are somewhat easier to deal with (a ‘no trespassing’ sign plus a visible camera system might well be enough to put them off).

The key to avoiding onsite construction theft is making sure your site looks as unattractive as possible to criminals.

While offering no guarantee of a crime-free zone, putting the tips outlined above into practice can be effective in deterring criminals from making your site their target. As a result, both your equipment and people remain safe.

Do you have any anti-theft tips to share? Tell us your thoughts over on our Facebook or LinkedIn pages.


Image source: Freepik