Five ways to protect your construction site from theft

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By Sarah Spohr

Special to Ontario Construction News

On construction projects across Canada, theft is rampant. In fact, the latest reports suggest the cost of stolen equipment ranges from $300 million to $1 billion annually.[1]

When you take into account the additional costs of stolen tools and building materials, the situation becomes dire. And with the price of wood skyrocketing due to COVID-19-related home repairs, not to mention damage to trees due to infestation and wildfire, even the cost of lumber theft is reaching new heights.[2]

Construction theft is a threat for anyone in the industry, with many businesses experiencing several thefts each year. Whether your team leaves heavy equipment or machinery on the side of a highway over a weekend or locks up tools every night in a secured trailer, you may still be at risk.

And the theft is only the beginning of the problem. Missing materials and equipment costs construction companies in other ways too, from project delays and lost or wasted man-hours to unplanned expenses, such as rental equipment costs or liquidated damages.

Construction companies must take active steps to protect their job sites, their equipment and their tools and materials in order to protect their businesses. Consider these 4 tips:

  • Mark your equipment. Engrave your own identifying information – your business name, or a specialized code – on each component, including attachments and removable parts. Keep records of your equipment, including that identifying information and any people who have access to the key in order to facilitate recovery.
  • Make the site less appealing. Thieves want to get in and out quickly. Adding layers of security to your site can deter thieves by making the job seem too challenging. Enclose your site with appropriate fencing and minimize openings. Post signs reminding people of the punishment for trespassing. Provide ample lighting and place security cameras strategically around the site.
  • Lock it up. Put smaller items and tools behind locked doors or in properly secured gang boxes. Require employees to disconnect batteries, remove ignition fuses and remove or secure ignition locks from all equipment – and store everything in a secure location. In some cases, it’s good practice to require them to bring all equipment back to the shop, to avoid bringing tools home or leaving them in a vehicle where they’re vulnerable.
  • Take advantage of technology. Newer technology options can make a dramatic difference in the security of a job site. If those security cameras are motion sensitive and tied to Wi-Fi, project managers or police can receive alerts in real time, limiting the opportunity for risk. GPS trackers and internet-enabled tags equipped with sensors can monitor equipment in real time, enabling recovery of the equipment.

Less than one quarter of the stolen construction equipment is ever recovered,[3] so it’s best to hold on to your equipment from the beginning. Taking clear and obvious steps to secure your equipment, materials and tools may be enough to send them away. And utilizing the high tech options could mean the difference between a theft that is a total loss and one that is recoverable.

About the author:

Sarah Spohr, NSCO, ABCP, is the Risk Services Leader for global insurance brokerage Hub International’s national construction practice and is based in Calgary, AB. Sarah has over 15 years of occupational health and safety experience working with high profile aerospace, construction, manufacturing, and energy processing operations. Sarah provides solutions in the areas of risk mitigation, safety, and regulatory compliance in both English and French. Prior to joining HUB, Sarah managed the safety management program and the day-to-day safety operations for a heavy construction company in western Canada.

[1] https://www.ner.net/

[2] https://www.ctvnews.ca/business/it-is-a-gold-mine-builders-warned-of-rising-lumber-thefts-across-canada-1.5424837

[3] http://www.ner.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Annual-Theft-Report-2016.pdf

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