Construction site security is a gritty and complex issue. They’re expensive to run, they’re constantly vulnerable and at risk – and they remain that way until the very end of the project.
More than anything, construction sites need to be kept secure, particularly as the criminal underworld is conspiring against the sector all the time.
It’s the truth, and we all know it: The construction sector in the UK tends to react quickly to the state of our economy.
Are things going well – with robust growth and low inflation?
Everywhere you turn, there are construction workers in hard hats, building, measuring, and surveying things. When things are not going quite so swimmingly, construction sites are more of a rarity or become completely abandoned, as was commonplace during the economic turmoil caused by the COVID pandemic.
Despite slower growth across the board in 2023, the construction sector has proved an interesting exception. Even though it makes up just 6% of UK GDP, it’s the only area of business that has experienced growth. Output now stands more than 7% above its average level in 2019. Therefore, this makes construction by far the most significant performing sector in recent years.
As a multi-billion-pound industry, it’s clear that construction is a key driver in our country’s financial well-being.
However, on a practical level, there’s some shade along with economic sunshine:
Site Security Situations
More construction equals more building sites. This is good news, but the boom has created an underworld. The statistics don’t lie; security threats to sites have become a significant problem:
Allianz Cornhill recently reported* that in 2020, thieves stole nearly £17.5 million worth of tools from building sites in London. There are two things here: firstly, the figures are for London alone. And, the figures are just for tools.
Bold-as-brass, opportunists and career criminals also help themselves, often on a weekly basis, to larger pieces of equipment, such as plant machinery, excavators, and trucks. Moreover, vehicles such as these have a low recovery rate, primarily due to registration and identification issues.
The most serious consequences of theft are the astronomically high equipment replacement costs. But, there are other knock-on effects, too. For example, expensive project delays and the time and money that needs to be spent on any possible damage to the site or the surrounding area. And, of course, price hikes in materials and insurance cover.
Why Are Construction Sites Vulnerable?
They become unoccupied. There’s always When these sites are vacant overnight, at weekends and on public holidays, they become exposed and susceptible to criminals.
They stand out. In effect, building sites telegraph their activity – there’s no hiding what’s happening. Equally, if there is a pause in the construction project – say overnight, on weekends, or public holidays, sites are at risk.
They store valuable items. Tools, equipment and machinery are specialist items. They find eager buyers on the black market. Also, other items can be stripped down and sold separately. Thefts from building sites are quite the niche industry, it would seem.
Fly-tipping is an issue. Should the site be unoccupied for prolonged periods – perhaps in the early stages of development – it could become a target for fly-tippers.
Securing your construction site is critical. It demands so much more than merely erecting a fence and hoping for the best. In Clearway’s view, solid operational practices are as important as external surveillance strategies; in other words, what you do, and why and how you do it.
Construction Expertise – With Clearway
We have several years’ experience in safeguarding building sites and understand how exposed they can become.
Clearway will offer you expert advice on the security measures that will work best for you in the form of a risk assessment. In effect, it’s a health check, yet rather than for your body and soul, it’s for your site, plant machinery, tools and materials. It’s a cliché, but this is all about prevention rather than cure; processes that will make your building site an uninviting prospect.
Here are our recommendations, with specific examples of the security measures, products and services we can provide. Start with the following:
Broadly, the assessment will uncover and identify any potential dangers and hazards, and their likely severity. Then, the focus will be on minimising, controlling or ideally removing the risk, followed by an in-depth re-evaluation.
We’d advocate for a construction site SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats), or the ISO 31000 standard for a thorough risk assessment. This is an excellent way to identify what security you have in place right now and any areas of weakness or possible consequences should there be a breach.
In fact, you should update this regularly, and certainly if the site conditions or the project scope change.
You may also wish to think about security plans and audits. Here’s what they are:
You can create a security plan from your risk assessment with your objectives, strategies, actions and resources. In addition to aligning it with your budget and project plan, it should be realistic, flexible and jargon-free.
You should also ensure that all your stakeholders are aware of it: clients, suppliers, employees, contractors – everyone who will be affected by the site’s security.
A security audit is an independent, detailed and systematic review of your security policies.
Using a variety of methods, including interviews, inspections, tests, surveys and reports, an audit is a powerful, objective way to measure and improve the strength and effectiveness of your existing security.
You will also need to use a set of criteria and indicators (in other words, a benchmark) for your evaluation. For instance, the ISO 27001 standard.
Your Construction Site Security
If you truly want to protect your site from theft and vandalism, don’t give trespassers with the intent to steal or damage the property the slightest chance.
It sounds obvious, but this must go beyond the basics; otherwise, the flimsy measures put in place for your building site will be noticed by those you’d rather didn’t spot them.
Securing the edges of the site by installing a two-metre fence and locks is, if we may use casual terms, a no-brainer. It acts as a physical barrier and of course, a deterrent.
We offer electric perimeter security, with audible detection systems to inform site responders when the fencing is disturbed. Also, these fences can be sophisticated: regular monitoring via our accredited Alarm Receiving Centre can be included, as well as high-voltage shocks as the ultimate disincentive. Fences can be combined with:
CCTV Systems and Surveillance
CCTV Towers will record 24/7, with the images viewable on a PC or a mobile device from any location. They have powerful pan, tilt and zoom capabilities. And, unlike some “traditional” CCTV systems, they capture images with high-resolution precision.
Our NSI Gold Cat II ARC centre can receive the pictures, with highly trained staff ready to take the most appropriate action.
Video Verified Alarms
Once activated around your construction site, a video alarm takes pictures of the incident, pieces them together into a 10-second video clip and forwards it to a monitoring centre or the client for further action if necessary.
Battery-powered vacant property video alarms make excellent use of mobile network technology and can operate on a stand-alone basis. In addition, they sound a deafening 100-decibel alarm.
This technology is ideal for a construction site, as it picks up and identifies both genuine and false alarms.
Concrete Barrier Blocks
These solid, physical concrete blocks are highly effective. You can deploy them as a continuous impenetrable barrier, or to prevent access – especially from vehicles. Also, at smaller access points.
Nothing on four wheels will get over these blocks. Or, past them.
What We Think
Devising a multi-layered approach to your construction site security builds a series of measures that, taken together, are your best defence.
Site security is all about being proactive and taking the right measures before the fact rather than after.
If you protect your expensive assets, you reduce risks. Plus, you ensure the safety of your workforce in the often-vulnerable surroundings of a building site. Creating a safe environment for workers and visitors shows that you’ve invested in the people who matter. And that you’re safeguarding the future of your project.
Not least, that you’re contributing to the overall success of the construction sector. You can’t say fairer than that.
Some Quick Tips on Site Security
Don’t let thieves operate in their comfort zone – poor lighting or even pitch-black darkness. With no dark or shadowy corners, you’re making your site a far less attractive proposition.
Warning signs that let people know about the penalties of unauthorised access may seem redundant. But, this can be an effective, assertive message, and combined with other security measures, it could make them think twice.
Zero Tolerance Policies
Speculating this way is uncomfortable, but criminals can emerge from within your staff. And authorised visitors. Setting clear expectations with prominently displayed anti-theft policies makes everyone aware of where they stand and engenders a culture of accountability.
Equipment Registration and Management
Do you have a centralised system to track machinery, equipment and tools? Proper identification of your valuable assets could make all the difference. You may wish to use unique markers on each piece, and maintaining an effective inventory is a practical way to protect your investments.