Construction sites with their security weaknesses are an irresistible lure for opportunists. Valuable resources, like materials, timber, machinery, tools, and equipment, are particularly prone to theft if left on-site unattended. Believe it or not, that doesn’t always cross the mind of the project managers. But it should.
So, what precautions should you take to protect your workforce and high-value assets from prying eyes? We have three words for you to focus on: construction site security.
In collaboration with the teams, construction managers have the tough task of addressing all the challenges, undertaking a risk assessment, and establishing both physical and virtual construction site security plans that enable the workers to carry out quality work safely.
In this article, we’ll walk you through 9 tried-and-true steps to amp up your construction site security strategy. But first, let us share some interesting data to help you understand why building site security is so important.
- Why should you care about building site security?
- What is the cost of neglected job site security?
- How to improve your building site security?
- 1. Establish a thorough construction site security plan before the project starts
- 2. Make a complete inventory of the equipment
- 3. Implement a secured perimeter
- 4. Keep the access points and equipment locked and secure
- 5. Apply stringent access control
- 6. Gain real-time feedback with a video surveillance system in place
- 7. Invest in a security alarm system
- 8. Secure the outdoor construction site with adequate lighting
- Final word
Why should you care about building site security?
To care about the building site’s security is both a project manager’s virtue and duty. But why should you do so?
1. A building site is a crowded place
Whether in or around the building site, you might see a handful of engineers, builders, potential investors, and other visitors who are involved in a dynamic process. These groups can easily turn into malicious insiders, posing a lot of difficult-to-manage security risks, for instance:
- Theft of expensive resources from the building site areas;
- Vandalism and arson, resulting in some kind of damage;
- Attacks on and robbery of construction workers;
- Breach of cybersecurity;
- Intentional or accidental entry of unauthorized people;
- Workplace dispute which can cause chaos on the site;
- Risk of injuries resulting in compensation claims.
…and the list goes on…
2. New global concerns equal new security risk dimensions
Sadly, these days, we care about even more uncertainties. During the exceptional COVID-19 circumstances, many building sites have paused operation – be it to observe the social distancing measures or because of the interrupted supply chains. The vacant building sites, however, mean new challenges for the construction project managers: to maintain high levels of safety and security while staying in the budget limits.
3. High-value machinery offers the thieves fast, easy, and high returns
Construction thefts is a highly-profitable business. That’s because each piece of equipment is a mobile target, has high-demand, and is a ready source of cash after being re-sold. Moreover, the risk of detection and arrest are low because many construction managers lack the resources, internal control, and the accountability to find them all. Embracing technology platforms, like Handle, is a promising way to coordinate and protect the construction workflow.
What is the cost of neglected job site security?
Be it a wheeled machine, small driven equipment, or portable tools, their loss is a nightmare for the building’s construction team. Statistics show that the theft of equipment and materials from building sites accounts for $1 billion annually in the USA alone, often stolen during the active construction season or when the machine is idle. Thieves’ targets are mostly anything on wheels.
Not only thieves threaten the building sites, though. The municipal fire departments in the USA reveal that 3,840 fires in structures under construction happened between 2013 and 2017, causing huge monetary losses and safety risks.
The point of this illustration? No matter the reason for the construction assets loss, the negative financial results always go beyond control. Because of:
- Downtime and less productivity on the construction site, leading to…
- Inability to complete the job in time, going along with…
- Unfair costs for renting or replacement of tools and equipment, resulting into…
- Unsteady cash flow, project derailing, reputation loss, and higher insurance premiums.
The bottom line? Construction security measures are expensive until you compare them to real loss. That being said, building site security matters and is an increasingly prized commodity.
How to improve your building site security?
One thing is clear, safety and security hazards are never 100% preventable. But there are plenty of things you can try to secure your construction business and workers’ health. Here’s how:
1. Establish a thorough construction site security plan before the project starts
It’s tempting to start building from scratch. However, without an initial site security assessment in place, sooner or later, business owners or construction site management will stand in front of a very complicated and time-consuming endeavor. That is why the first step to improving building site security is to assess what security and safety risks your business can face.
From exposure to the neighborhood to the value of the equipment used, the security plan should encompass all construction weak points. A map of the boundaries, perimeters, logistics, and all the susceptible-to-burglary entry points will help you to better understand what to focus on. When it’s ready, communicate all the details and roles with the construction teams.
2. Make a complete inventory of the equipment
To complete the plan, simply create a workable list (register) of all machinery, tools, and equipment on-site. Then, develop a strategy and tracking mechanism to keep them protected.
To increase the likelihood that your valuable machinery will get back to you if it gets stolen, take photos of both the owned or rented items. Take the time to assign a unique number to your equipment and encourage everyone you work with to mark their tools and keep a list of all Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs). Stenciling your brand over the equipment is an excellent anti-theft measure, too.
3. Implement a secured perimeter
Perimeter protection can preempt preventable break-ins at night or when the works are paused. Аnything from anti-climb heras fences to construction hoarding will make it very difficult, if not impossible, for anybody to enter. Plus, all of the above offer time-saving and flexible protection as they can be quickly deployed and repositioned.
Consider the following reminders to find out whether you need an upgrade:
- Keep in mind that the fences and gates need to go all around the site perimeter, reaching at least 8 feet in height;
- Beware of cavities beneath the fence. Natural terrain peaks and hollows may result in poor fence installation and let unwanted visitors enter freely;
- Don’t allow a rotten or broken fence to attract intruders;
- Do bushes surround the site perimeter? Keep the overhanging branches and foliage trimmed to prevent ill-wishers from hiding there or climbing over the fence.
4. Keep the access points and equipment locked and secure
Although gates and fences pretend to be the first line of protection, we often see that a wire or loose piece of chain is expected to save the day. Forget about the primitive locking tools and ensure gates are secured with robust industry-grade lock mechanisms. For instance, use sturdy padlocks instead of shackles because the latter can be easily cut out. Last but not least, apply a silicone spray to locks every month to avoid rust build-up, keys stuck in the lock, and easier access for thieves.
Something as simple as a shed or container can keep the array of your valuable equipment hidden from nighttime intruders. Keep them locked up! For ladders, tools, or other equipment, you can tie them to the floor with ground anchors. And for your mobile equipment, use wheel locks to prevent vehicle and trailer theft.
A good security tip you might have never thought of is to paint the machinery in an awkward color, i.e., pink. You may find it both affordable and excellent as a deterrent. After all, who would grab a rainbow-colored tool?
5. Apply stringent access control
An adequate round-the-clock access control system will be there when you can’t be and make you better prepared in case of emergencies. These steps may help you towards this aim:
- Ensure minimal but practical points of access and monitor them in real-time;
- For the perimeters that keep the equipment or store sensitive information, make the access indirect;
- Maintain a visitor register to gain details about who passes the construction site access points;
- Confirm belonging to the construction site with key cards, photo badges, and IDs;
- Escort the visitors or do not give access to those who have no business to be there;
- If the budget allows, opt for automated door locks and you won’t rely on keys that can be easily duplicated.
- Don’t trust “workaholics” who are hanging around the job site. To encourage workers/visitors to be more responsible, mark out boundaries with landscape paths and signs.
6. Gain real-time feedback with a video surveillance system in place
Security guards alone are not enough to prevent a “try-to-grab-tools” story. If your yard is too large or unlit at night, the guards will drive around the site every 10-20 minutes with no option to react.
Construction site security cameras have advantages absent from the traditional guard service. They are the cost-efficient, “all-seeing and all-hearing technical eyes” that support the construction management 24/7 in detecting everything that happens on-site.
When selecting networked cameras to suit your needs, there are a few key points worth bearing in mind:
- The best practice is to use carefully planned, central stationed monitored video surveillance camera system with advanced video analytics capability, audio monitoring and pan/tilt/zoom;
- Higher-end CCTVs that offer face recognition features are what you need to detect suspicious people on site;
- Not all surveillance cameras are created equal, so ensure you opt for a durable, weatherproof camera to withstand the elements;
- ANPR functionality comes handy as it allows you to distinguish clear images of vehicle number plates and machinery markings;
- If the lighting is an issue, infrared night surveillance cameras are your best bet;
- Consider portable security cameras to ease the set up every time you move to another construction project.
The problem is: even the most reliable surveillance system hides virtual risks. To avoid phishing attempts, malware risks, and the sharing of sensitive information, the security plan should address the cybersecurity best practices and procedures.
7. Invest in a security alarm system
Face it. Many thefts and vandal acts occur because nothing can disturb the uninvited guests. It’s worth investing in a security alarm as it is a verbal warning to deter criminal gangs. Your choice depends on the size of the construction site, its position, and whether you store expensive items overnight. But overall, you can consider these few suggestions to burglar- (or arson- and vandal-) proof your building site:
- Set up the alarm systems throughout the entire construction site. If it’s wireless – which will be easier to fit – consider a system that is designed for dense concrete and steel structured buildings;
- Establish an exclusion zones warning system to keep workers or visitors away from falling objects, moving machinery or crane-loading operations;
- Reduce the risk of arson on-site with implementing fire safety standards and installation of a wireless fire detection system.
- If fuel theft is an ongoing risk, install a fuel tank alarm, alarms on the external gates surrounding the fuel store, and control switches.
- Consider mobile security alarms, particularly for when you want to protect an unmanned building site.
If you already have security alarms at the construction place, check if they are operating properly.
8. Secure the outdoor construction site with adequate lighting
A dark construction site is easier to spot. So, if you are a security-savvy project manager, fit motion-triggered security lighting alongside the perimeter, driveway, and where the expensive machinery is located. Your electrical specialist can help you determine the lighting needs, following the OSHA standard 29 CFR 1926.56, and install lights with the other security systems (i.e. CCTV systems, mobile security alarms, guard posts, etc.).
Keep your emergency lighting always ready in case of a power cut with a back-up. That’s how you will push your construction site security further. After all, it’s essential for the health and safety of your workers too.
9. Put up warning signs
One foolproof way to deter criminals — without spending an arm and leg — is to put up display warning signs around the perimeter. For example, “No Trespassing”, “Unauthorized persons keep out”, “Private property to keep out” and alarm decals may cause the potential intruder to feel the hassle and pick another, “easier” target.
Getting everything secured in construction needs a strategic play. Those contractors who take steps only when theft, arson, or trespassing happen are just throwing money out of the window. So why leave the construction site up to chance? Minimize the security-related risks at the site with a well-versed plan and a timely response to any intruder’s attack!
This is a guest post from Harry H. Knowles, a qualified CCTV installation expert at the London-based Fantastic Services providing 40,000+ property maintenance services each year on three continents (Europe, USA, and Australia).