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Securing Your Construction Site: Identifying & Mitigating Risks

Updated: Mar 11

According to the Chartered Institute of Building, theft from construction sites costs the industry around £800 million each year and this figure is expected to rise in the coming years. Learn how to protect a construction site from thieves and trespassers.

 

Highlights:

  • 92% of UK construction site managers have been affected by theft.

  • 1 in 5 construction sites across the UK is targeted by thieves every week.

  • Construction sites are vulnerable to theft due to lack of security measures, valuable equipment and materials, easy access, and high demand for construction materials.

  • Commonly stolen items from construction sites include power tools, copper wiring, building materials, heavy equipment, and fuel.

  • Construction firms can take measures to protect their sites.

  • Liability claims resulting from injuries to trespassers are a significant security risk that is often overlooked by construction companies.

  • The Occupiers' Liability Act 1984 sets out the duty of care that occupiers of private properties owe to trespassers.

  • A recent HSE prosecution against a construction company highlighted the tragic consequences of failing to ensure sufficient fencing and monitoring of the perimeter to prevent unauthorised persons accessing the site.

 
workers in construction site

Construction sites are prime targets for theft, vandalism, and trespassing, all of which can create safety risks and result in significant financial loss. In the UK, the rising level of theft from construction sites is a growing concern for contractors, developers, and property owners.


According to a report by the Chartered Institute of Building, theft from construction sites costs the industry around £800 million each year and this figure is expected to rise in the coming years.


In this blog post, we'll discuss the security risks facing constructions sites, including the causes of theft, items commonly targeted and what companies can do to protect their sites from thieves and trespassers.


Causes of Theft from Construction Sites:


There are several reasons why construction sites are vulnerable to theft, including:


  1. Lack of security measures: Many construction sites have inadequate security measures, such as fencing, lighting, and CCTV systems, which make it easier for thieves to gain access.

  2. Valuable equipment and materials: Construction sites contain expensive equipment, tools, and materials, such as copper wiring, expensive plant, all of which are attractive targets for thieves.

  3. Easy access: Construction sites are often located in remote areas (new homes developments), which makes it easier for thieves to gain access without being noticed.

  4. High demand for construction materials: The high demand for construction materials, such as steel and copper, has led to an increase in thefts from construction sites.


What is commonly stolen from construction sites in the UK?


There are several items that are commonly stolen from construction sites in the UK, these include:


  1. Power tools: Power tools, such as drills, saws, and nail guns, are often stolen from construction sites due to their high value and portability.

  2. Copper wiring: Copper wiring is a valuable commodity and is often stolen from construction sites for its scrap value.

  3. Building materials: Construction materials, such as bricks, cement, and steel, can be stolen and sold for profit.

  4. Heavy equipment: Heavy equipment, such as excavators, Telehandlers, bulldozers, and cranes, are also targets for theft due to their high value.

  5. Fuel: Fuel theft is also a common occurrence on construction sites, as thieves can siphon fuel from vehicles and equipment.


Construction firms can take the following measures to protect their sites from the impact of undesirables:


  1. Erecting sturdy and secure fencing around the construction site to separate public and private space

  2. Installing lighting to remove areas of concealment and aid in assessment following notification of intrusion

  3. Installing CCTV cameras around the site to deter thieves and provide evidence in case of theft

  4. Employing security personnel to patrol the and provide an additional layer of security

  5. Installing GPS tracking devices on equipment and vehicles to help to locate stolen items and deter thieves

  6. Keeping valuable equipment and materials locked up in secure storage containers or buildings to make them less accessible to thieves

  7. Displaying warning signs around the site to deter trespassers and make it clear that the site is monitored

  8. Conducting background checks on employees and contractors to identify potential security concerns, such as employees with criminal backgrounds (insider threat).


Securing construction sites is essential for preventing theft, vandalism and arson, however there is another security risk that is often overlooked, namely liability claims resulting from injuries to youths who trespass on construction sites.

Trespassing is not only dangerous for the trespassers, but it can also lead to significant financial loss for construction companies.


The duty of care that occupiers of private properties owe to trespassers is set out in the Occupiers' Liability Act 1984. Under this legislation, property owners, landlords and developers must take reasonable care to ensure that trespassers are kept safe from potential hazards on site, particularly those that an occupier is aware of and that an unlawful visitor is likely to encounter, as an accident in such circumstances would be considered entirely foreseeable, but could have been prevented had the occupier behaved in a 'reasonable' manner.


To meet their duty of care requirements, occupiers are expected to fence off private property, and should post signs to warn trespassers about possible hazards in order to deter them from illegally entering a property or site.

This is especially important in the context of children trespassing on construction sites, as the law recognises the fact that children may be too young to understand the concept of trespass, and are naturally inquisitive, meaning that it is foreseeable that they will illegally enter sites and in doing so be exposed to the risk of injury, unless effective measures are taken to stop them.


Example:


A recent successful HSE prosecution against a construction company due to failures to prevent unauthorised access to their site.


What Happened?


In 2022, the HSE reported that a civil engineering firm had been fined £600,000 for breaches of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015. Howard Civil Engineering Limited were in control of a construction site for a new build housing development which was situated adjacent to an existing housing development and, in particular, busy pedestrian footpaths and roads.


A seven year old had managed to gain (unauthorised) access to the site and become trapped in a drainage pipe which had been fixed in to the ground in preparation for the installation of fencing posts. Having become trapped, he was not discovered until the following morning when construction work had resumed, by which time he had tragically suffocated.


The construction company pleaded guilty for failing to ensure sufficient fencing was in place, with inadequate planning and monitoring of the perimeter, to prevent unauthorised persons accessing the site. At some places, fencing was deemed non-existent and in other areas it was well below six feet in height.


The above example is not an isolated incident, the unfortunate reality is that incidents involving youths trespassing on construction and void property sites are a daily occurrence. Construction companies can face significant financial losses as a result of liability claims due to injuries sustained by youths who trespass on their sites.


The costs of these incidents can include:

  1. Legal fees: Construction companies may have to hire legal counsel to defend against liability claims, which can be expensive

  2. Compensation: Construction companies may be required to pay compensation to injured trespassers, which can be a significant financial burden

  3. Damages: Construction companies may be required to pay for damages caused by the incident, such as medical bills and property damage

  4. Fines by the HSE for breaches of existing legislation (HSWA 1974)

  5. Insurance premiums: Liability claims can increase insurance premiums for construction companies, leading to higher costs in the long run

  6. Non-tangible costs such as reputational damage, lost tendering opportunities, loss of key accreditations required to do business


Preventing Injuries to Trespassing Youths:


The above costs are nothing compared to the loss of life or injury to a child. Companies therefore have a moral responsibility to safeguard children entering their sites. The best way to prevent injuries to youths who trespass on construction sites is to prevent trespassing from occurring in the first place. Construction companies can take several steps to deter trespassers and keep their sites secure, including:


Perimeter Barriers:

Erecting sturdy and secure fencing around the construction site is one of the most effective ways to prevent trespassing. Examples include timber hoarding, or better still (from a sustainability perspective) recyclable hoarding, ballast mounted V-Mesh, or dug in fencing systems


Security Lighting:

Motion-activated lights are particularly effective. Examples include the NEXSUN range from Nightsearcher, or the innovative new lighting system by Device Smart


Surveillance Systems:

Installing CCTV cameras around the site can help to deter trespassers and provide evidence in case of an incident. These can include conventional CCTV, solar CCTV towers or Reconeyez Video Verification technology


Manned Guarding:

Employing security personnel to patrol the site can provide an additional layer of security. K9 teams are much more effective than lone security officers in protecting large sites


Construction companies need to take the necessary precautions to prevent injuries to youths who trespass on their sites. In addition to the financial costs of liability claims, these incidents can also have a significant impact on the reputation of the company. Preventing these incidents is not only important for the financial well-being of the company, but also for the safety of the trespassers themselves.


Conclusion:


The rising level of crime impacting construction sites is a serious concern for companies in the UK. However, by taking the necessary precautions and investing in security measures, companies can protect their sites from thieves and trespassers.


A combination of security fencing, lighting, CCTV systems, security personnel, equipment tracking, secure storage, signage, and background checks (insider threats) can significantly reduce the risk of theft and safeguard the site and its assets. Companies should take these steps seriously and make sure to implement them on all construction sites.


 

Contact us if you have questions about how to protect a Construction Site. Propertysec is a market leader in vacant property security, trusted to secure, monitor and protect empty properties and sites across England and Wales.







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