General Construction 333 views Aug 26, 2017
Theft from construction sites – is the prevent message getting through?

Theft from construction sites has always been a major problem and losses are now estimated to exceed some £900 million pounds every year, a figure that has changed little since the Government last took a serious look at the situation back in the year 2000.

Advice to the industry in terms of increasing security measures on site has not changed much either, but as high levels of theft continue then it can only be assumed that the message is not getting through.

According to the police and most other security experts, one of the biggest reasons tools, materials and plant are damaged or stolen is because they have no designated storage areas.

With losses this high you would consider this to be a priority but clearly there are many sites that have not created storage spaces or created storage areas with robust security fencing.

As an added layer of protection say the experts, it is possible to install commercial intruder alarms to help alert the police or act as a deterrent for other would-be thieves.

Controlled entrance check points, engraving expensive tools, regular checks, security cameras all seem obvious precautions, but once again the assumption is that many of these measures are not in place in spite of numerous warnings

A recent review conducted by leading insurer Allianz Cornhill, reveals that over £70 million of construction plant alone, including excavators, compressors and even cranes, has been stolen from construction sites in the last year, despite initiatives by the Government to encourage plant manufacturers to improve in-built security features.

The insurer has also discovered that thieves have become more sophisticated in the methods they employ, even posing as plant manufacturers maintenance workers in order to remove vehicles from site.

The problem, in part, stems from the tight deadlines which many construction projects operate under. Ease of use is of primary importance and the equipment needs to be available for operation immediately, without the need to disable immobilisation systems or search for unique keys.

This has led manufacturers to develop plant with a single common key operation system, leaving much equipment on site wide open to thieves who can easily obtain keys says the insurer. The rate of theft is often made worse by the common practice on building sites of leaving keys somewhere in or near the equipment. Of those pieces of equipment that are locked up, a large majority are secured with a small chain and padlock that are easily removed.

Thieves are also attracted to plant because of the very low recovery rates – less than 10 per cent compared with motor vehicles, which enjoy a recovery rate of around 55-60 per cent. This is because items of plant have few identifying marks that can be readily and easily seen and lack of registration documents mean it is difficult for the police to identify stolen plant and return it to the owner.

Alan Harris, Allianz Cornhill Engineering Director, said:

“The UK construction industry can ill afford to continue to lose equipment to theft at this rate. We knew the problem was bad but had not realised the massive economic impact this must have on the industry. As the commercial and residential property markets slow and the construction industry sees increasing pressure on profits, it cannot sit back and let more and more equipment be snatched from under its nose.

”Construction companies must wake up to the fact that small investments in security and registration can pay dividends. Money spent on security measures such as physical locking devices, covert identification marking of equipment and effective site and depot security can quickly be recovered through insurance discounts, reduced claims and less downtime. This will mean lower rates of theft and, ultimately, a lower cost to the industry”

But we have heard it all before of course so the assumption probably means that contractors will be hit by even higher insurance premiums and when that cost becomes totally prohibitive – then maybe we will see real action to stop the theft epidemic. Shame it has to be that way

By Talk Builder  Follow me on Twitter @TalkBuilder