How to Prevent Construction Site Theft

With construction projects taking anywhere from multiple days and even years coupled with the various tools and equipment left behind at job sites, construction site theft is a big issue.

These two factors make it a top priority for construction site managers to prevent construction site theft.

The National Equipment Register (NER) estimates the value of construction equipment stolen each year is as much as $1 billion/year.

The cost of lost equipment isn’t the only issue you have to deal with in the fallout.

For example, missing lumber can mean delays while you get replacement material. The increased cost of replacing stolen equipment and material means you’ll have to pass on the higher cost to your customers in your bid.

Another problem construction companies deal with is increased insurance premiums. Insurance companies know that less than 25% of stolen equipment is recovered each year. So, just like you have to pass the cost off to your customer, insurance companies have to do the same thing.
The solution is to make theft as hard as possible and make it apparent to would-be thieves that it’s not worth the risk.

how to prevent construction site theft

Top Ten Pieces Of Equipment Stolen

The National Insurance Crime Bureau and the National Equipment Register published a report that ranked the top 10 most stolen construction equipment.

  • Mower, riding, or garden tractor – 43%
  • Tractor -12%
  • Loaders (Skid Steers/Backhoes/Wheel loaders) 17%
  • Excavator – 3%
  • Fork Lift – 2%
  • Generator, compressor & welder -2%
  • Bulldozer – 1%
  • Light Tower – 0.5%
  • Brush Chipper – 0.5%
  • Others – 17%

Since this list only includes the top equipment stolen each year, it does not include the other things that can be stolen from construction sites, your materials. Luckily, our security tips will help you keep them safe as well. Let’s get into it.

Put Equipment Away

Small tools go missing far too often because it doesn’t take much to steal them. A thief can walk on a job site and walk off with any handheld power tool they desire without breaking a sweat. Worse so, small tools are just as easy for employees to steal.

If your site has a building, then just store smaller tools in there. If not, then you’ll want to look at other storage options like shipping containers. If the item is small enough to fit inside, then it better get put away when the day is done.

Keep Records Of Purchase & Uses

Keeping thorough records of inventory aids you in keeping track of your equipment. It also helps aid law enforcement in recovering stolen items. Earlier, we said that only 25% of stolen items from construction sites are recovered. One has to think that your odds of recovering a stolen item increases when you know its serial number. In 2004, the 17-character Product Identification Number (PIN) for earthmoving equipment was introduced by ISO.

This PIN is slowly being adopted by equipment manufacturers. Keep records of the year, make, model, and PIN, along with photos of your equipment. Develop a procedure to check materials used on job sites daily. Security policies for employees work well, for example, a sign-out log and clear chain of command.

Register Your Equipment

The National Equipment Register is a database that allows heavy equipment owners to register them in their database. This can help law enforcement recover and return your equipment if stolen. This won’t guarantee your items will be stolen, but you can take an extra step to deter possible thieves.

Perform Employee Background Checks

You know it, I know it, everyone knows it. Some people are more likely to steal than others. Unfortunately, for some people, a steady paycheck is not enough. You’ll want to hire people without a criminal record, especially if the crime was theft, as this CAN be a sign that someone is liable to steal from your job site.

When evaluating a background check, it’s important to understand the different risk factors that can lead to employee theft. Theft isn’t the only crime you should consider an automatic DQ. You also wouldn’t want to hire someone with a DUI as a driver or someone with a violent history for any position. Background checks ensure the safety of your employees, your equipment, and possibly your customers.

Mark Property Lines

Signage allows you to mark where your construction site begins and ends clearly. Property lines can be ambiguous, especially around new constructions. Regardless of if your property is protected by a fence, marking your property line is another step you can take to deter thieves.

In almost every state, the law dictates that you must let people on your property know when they’re being surveilled. So if you have video cameras on your property, make sure you include that in plain sight.

how to prevent construction site theft

Put Up A Fence

It’s best not to leave your property line up to interpretation, and it’s even better if you have better control over who has access to your construction site. A fenced-in construction site with proper lighting, signage, and surveillance cameras is the holy grail of construction site theft prevention.

Most would-be-thieves will give up when they realize they’ll have to negotiate a fence. Many companies, including Rent National, United Services, and Rent A Fence, offer construction site fence rentals. Fences are also great for keeping eyes off of your equipment.

Quick Tip: Designated Employee Parking

Have your employees park in designated areas to take away their ability to load smaller construction tools and materials into their vehicles. Mark the parking areas clearly with signage to make sure the area stays clear.

Lock All Vehicles

The harder you can make it for thieves to run off with your equipment, the more likely they are to quit or not even try in the first place. Taking the extra step to not only lock your vehicles indoors but lock them down is an additional safety measure that all but guarantees nobody but you has access to your equipment.

Ways to lock your equipment:

  • Activate wheel locks
  • Activate the ignition lock
  • Invest in vandal covers
  • Chain your vehicles to the ground

Lock Up Keys

Lock up your site keys and vehicle keys off-site if you can. Consider access control or even pin-code locks when many different companies and contractors might be accessing the site.

Train Your Crew To Report Suspicious Activity

Preventing construction site theft is a team effort. You want your employees and local law enforcement on your team to give you the best chance of preventing theft and finding thieves if they make off with your equipment. When your crew knows to report stolen equipment or suspicious activity at the construction site, it can allow you to take measures quicker, making all of the difference.

Enforce A Zero Tolerance Theft Protection Policy

Establish clear guidelines for what your employees and subcontractors are allowed to and not allowed to do on the job site and with equipment. Never leave the workplace rules up to interpretation or imagination.

This policy should include your policy on the consequences for stealing, your policy on employees removing tools, equipment, materials, or scraps from the site for personal use, your policy on theft, and your policy on employees being on the job site after working hours.

Hire A Security Guard

Hiring a security guard can be expensive, but having a body on the ground at all times on your construction site can prevent petty theft. A more effective and inexpensive way to guard a site is with off-site surveillance agents and video monitoring but security guards can be effective against theft if you can afford it.

Install Security Cameras

Visible security cameras can entirely deter most burglars. In the case of employee theft, security cameras can give you irrefutable evidence in a possible claim against an employee you accuse of stealing.

When installing a security camera for your construction site, look for cameras that can operate without power or internet access, are waterproof, heat resistant, and portable. Other features to look out for are PTZ cameras that can remotely move/zoom, wireless security cameras, and remote viewing.

how to prevent construction site theft

Incorporate Remote Guarding

Remote guarding is the process where off-site agents are alerted when cameras or motion viewers sense activity on-site after hours. When the agent is alerted by the artificial intelligence in the camera, they have access to a “call-down” speaker and strobe lights. An agent can warn the intruder that they are being monitored and dispatch police.

Final Thoughts

The best strategy to protect a construction site is a multi-faceted approach that prevents unauthorized access, alerts employees and intruders of security measures, and allows you and/or law enforcement to surveil the premise in real-time.

If you need help installing the most essential security measure, security cameras, get in touch with the team at Safe And Sound Security to discuss your options.

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