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PROPERTY & CASUALTY
FEB 28, 2020
Preventing Construction Theft and Vandalism
As the construction industry continues to grow, so does the amount of theft and vandalism. This is an exposure that faces almost all contractors, yet many contractors are unaware of this. Equipment and materials stolen from construction sites each year amounts to as much as $1 billion, according to the National Crime Information Bureau.
Small handheld tools, copper wire, lumber and heavy machinery are some of the most frequently stolen items from jobsites. Trespassers may not only be trying to steal equipment, they also could be looking to vandalize equipment. Vandalism not only includes graffiti on a trailer or building, but it can also be damaging the equipment stored on site.
Both theft and vandalism can lead to decreased productivity and possibly higher insurance premiums, which will impact an employer’s bottom line.
Secure jobsite access points
One of the main causes of theft and vandalism on a jobsite is a lack of security. If there is not a locked fence around the site, it is much easier for someone to enter and steal materials, equipment, tools, etc. Having a fence is a very important measure for jobsites where equipment and tools will be left overnight. Evenings and weekends are prime days for vandalism and theft. The fence will control access points.
When deciding on a fencing material, a see-through material, such as chain link, should be used. This will allow any thieves to be visible from outside the jobsite in the event they are able to get past the fence.
Having a strong gate for the entrance and exit to the site area is also very important. A strong fence with a weak gate is just as easy for trespassers to enter the jobsite. It is recommended that gates are made of heavy construction and have hinge pins that are spot-welded to prevent easy removal. According to the International Risk Management Institute, the locking hardware of the gate should be a “casehardened chain and a high-security padlock permanently attached to the fence, or shielded or blind locking devices.”
Light the way
Another common cause of theft and vandalism is lack of lighting on a jobsite. If there is poor lighting, it can allow someone to enter the site unnoticed. If there is proper lighting, it can help deter unwanted visitors.
Motion-sensor lights also are an added protection feature, as they turn on when motion is detected. It is important to test the lighting after hours to ensure all bulbs and power sources are working at night.
Proper storage of tools and equipment can also help prevent theft and vandalism. Tools should be stored in a secure, locked gang box after the day’s work has been completed. It is ideal for equipment and tools to be transported back to the yard or office at night, but that is not always possible. If equipment must be left on site overnight, it should be anchored with a chain or cable.
Immobilizing large equipment is also a storage practice that can be used to minimize theft. This can be done by lowering all blades and/or buckets on the machinery and removing the battery. Smaller equipment, like bobcats or skid steers, are more likely to be theft targets because of their smaller size. These can be secured by positioning larger items or equipment around them in a way that would make it difficult to access.
The keys should be removed from the equipment each day and stored in a secured area, ideally away from the jobsite. The fuel caps should also be locked to avoid vandalism of the fuel tank and fuel theft.
How to handle theft if it occurs
Unfortunately, a jobsite can have all the best practices in place and a thief can still manage to steal. If equipment is stolen, having information on the make, model number, serial number and purchase date of the equipment can help law enforcement track it down. Having a picture of the machinery can also aid law enforcement in finding the stolen piece of equipment.
It is a best practice to take a picture of each piece of equipment and save it in a secured location, away from the jobsite.
Registering your heavy equipment through the National Equipment Register (NER) can also help increase your chances of recovering a stolen piece of machinery. The NER is a national database of stolen heavy equipment and ownership to help recover stolen equipment.