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Protecting Construction Sites Over Christmas

Over Christmas, when a construction site is vacant, the best gift a site manager or developer can receive is peace of mind that their valuable assets are safe, by having effective security systems and processes in place.

The festive season typically sees construction sites closed and vacated for up to two weeks, giving thieves and vandals the perfect opportunity to gain access to sites across the UK.

Whilst the damage caused by a trespasser may amount to a criminal offence, according to the Human Rights Act 1998, the act of trespassing is not, in itself, a criminal offence (unless a statutory provision makes it so). This makes it far more likely for intruders to try their luck breaking-in to construction sites, especially if they know the sites are unprotected and easily accessible.

A Federation of Master Builders report showed that more than half of builders in the UK have experienced tool theft, with tools being stolen directly from construction sites and vehicles. Concerns have continued to grow, due to the current Coronavirus pandemic, as more construction sites than ever are, or will be, vacant.

One of the UK’s biggest insurance companies, Allianz Cornhill, believes that theft alone is estimated to cost the UK construction industry more than £800m annually.

Aside from thieves who want to steal valuable plant machinery to sell-on, there are other reasons why people may want to trespass on a construction site, such as teenagers looking to vandalise a site just for the adrenaline rush. It’s more common than you may realise.

A comprehensive report issued by The Chartered Institute of Building revealed one in five construction sites experienced vandalism and theft on a weekly basis. At best, this can cause inconvenience and downtime for individual tradespeople. At worst, theft on a larger scale can cause a site-wide shutdown, and in both cases, there is always additional and unwanted expense for individuals or the developer.

Experience shows the leading causes of theft are:

  • Multiple pieces of equipment sharing the same keys or keys kept in obvious, often unsecured locations.
  • Containers, sheds or vehicle cabs left unlocked or open providing easy access to thieves.

Although the above facilitate construction site theft, the risk increases over the Christmas period due to sites being left unoccupied for a longer period of time than they would normally. The following steps should, therefore, be taken to reduce the risks of illegal access, theft and vandalism on construction sites of any size over this period:

  • Lighting:
    Keep the site properly illuminated with good lighting, even when the site is closed. Some feel that lighting only aids intruders, but being highly visible whilst trespassing and stealing is way more off-putting for perpetrators. Good lighting also significantly helps when CCTV is installed.
  • Materials:
    Don’t keep an excess of materials on-site. Purchase, or delay delivery of, what you need, when you need it, so it doesn’t get stolen if left sitting around.
  • Plant Protection:
    It’s unlikely you will be able to remove heavy-duty plant from the site due to its sheer size. A sensible option would be to fit tracking devices. These not only enable a vehicle to be immobilised remotely but, according to statistics, dramatically improves the likelihood of recovery.
  • Perimeter Protection:
    Ensure you have robust perimeter protection in place, such as strong, high fencing and locked access gates.
    Consider installing temporary concrete barriers inside temporary fencing or hoarding to prevent vehicle entry to the site. Preventing vehicle access to a site makes it more difficult for thieves to carry heavy or bulky materials away.
  • Out of sight:
    Ensure all tools and valuable materials are locked away securely or moved to a different, secure location.
  • CCTV:
    Install one or more temporary CCTV towers and movement sensors to work alongside bright lighting. This acts as an effective deterrent, as the risk of being captured by 24/7 live video recording would be too high for thieves.
  • Contact:
    Ensure one or people are contactable at all times, especially in the event of theft, vandalism or arson.

Clearway’s solar-powered CCTV towers are a practical and effective solution for keeping construction and development sites protected, whether occupied or not. With a pan-tilt-zoon camera attached to a 6m telescopic mast, they provide near-360o coverage, significantly reducing the possibility of criminals entering and exiting a site undetected.

Video is recorded 24/7, with the direction and focus of the camera being determined by multiple movement sensors placed at strategic points around the site. When movement is detected, our Alarm Response Centre is alerted and will immediately take control of the tower, observing any activity, switching on lighting and initiating a voice challenge to any unwanted intruders to confirm surveillance is in operation. If appropriate, the ARC will immediately dispatch a rapid-response mobile security unit, and/or alert the police as required.

Read more about our construction site security here.

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