Theft is a big problem for construction managers. It’s hard to secure a construction site—you can’t lock up all your valuable equipment and materials inside a structure that hasn’t been built yet.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau’s 2014 heavy equipment theft report — the most recent one available — found that a total of 11,625 heavy equipment thefts were reported to law enforcement that year, an increase of 1.2% from the year before. Just 23% of the equipment was recovered, making it a very costly problem indeed for the construction industry.
So what can you, a construction manager, do to secure all that valuable equipment and protect your bottom line? We’ve compiled a list of straightforward options that will immediately work wonders in protecting your construction site.
1. Use good lighting
Nothing is more of a deterrent for a thief than trying to steal from a site that is lit up like Carnegie Hall.
You can find lots of lighting options on sites such as Amazon, ranging from a few bucks to several hundred dollars, depending on your needs. If you have a small site to protect, you may only need a few lamps that will probably cost you less than $100 total.
If you’ve got a bigger site, you may have to pony up for dual-head LED lights mounted on tripods that could run your bill into the thousands.
But compared to how much you could lose from theft, it’s probably worth it.
2. Put tracking devices in your equipment
Modern technology makes securing expensive equipment easier than ever before.
It’s simple to install tracking devices on a front-loader or a backhoe, and you could also attach them to a large pallet of lumber or other shipments of expensive materials. If any thief is unwise enough to make off with your stuff, you can provide their location to the police and get it back right away.
GPS Trackit, for example, offers cloud-based software that enables you to monitor all the equipment you’ve tracked. Another company called CloudHawk offers software that also uses GPS location to track equipment in real time, in addition to optimizing maintenance by tracking usage hours.
These devices are helpful in other ways. Imagine a scenario where a worker misplaces equipment and is unable to find it, causing headaches for the site manager and even delays. With a tracking device, the problem is resolved quickly. You could also use them to monitor usage hours.
You should also engrave company identification numbers on your property so it can easily be identified later and will serve as proof that it belongs to you.
3. Install fencing
Job site theft, like most theft, is a crime of opportunity. So make your site an unattractive target for thieves looking to make an easy score by installing fencing.
Sometimes thieves will cause thousands of dollars in damage just to steal a couple hundred dollars worth of metal by ripping it out of the walls. So even if you don’t keep a lot of expensive equipment at the site, it’s in your best interest to pay for some good security.
If possible, have only one entry point to the construction site, and only allow authorized personnel with credentials onto the property.
How much can you expect to pay? Well, it can get pricey—about $240 for 60 feet of fencing for a month. Depending on the company, there may also be an installation fee, so you could be looking at thousands of dollars in fencing per month if your site is large enough. But again, you could lose a lot more through theft.
4. Get surveillance, and install signs warning would-be thieves
Again, job site theft typically happens when you make yourself an easy target for criminals. If they see signs warning that your construction site is under surveillance, they’ll probably move on.
A good surveillance system provides a complete picture of the job site, so if anyone does make off with materials or heavy equipment, you’ll have footage you can take to the authorities. It has the added benefit of helping to provide a safe working environment for both employees and visitors, and it enables you to monitor the construction process in real time. It may even save you from a liability lawsuit.
Surveillance systems can be pricey. For example, OnsiteView offers camera systems for between $2,995 and $4,895, as well as monthly hosting fees of $285 to $455 per month. But the good thing is you can reuse these systems for later construction projects. And again, just one theft can exceed that price tag many times over.
5. Plan deliveries
When you don’t plan deliveries adequately, expensive materials and equipment get dropped off when no one is there to secure it. And that just makes it easy for the thieves.
By planning deliveries properly, you can make sure someone is there to secure a delivery when it arrives. But it’s not easy—construction sites can be large, complex, and even disorganized places, and it takes a lot of skill in construction management to make sure each delivery arrives at a time when someone can protect it.
Good construction management software can help you out here. If you feel disorganized when it comes to materials deliveries and management, then maybe that’s a sign you need new software to help manage your operation and help you plan out deliveries so they’re never left unattended.
How do you keep your construction site secure?
These are just a few tips to help you keep thieves out of your job site, but undoubtedly a few of you out there have picked up some tricks of the trade when it comes to securing a site. Let us know what measures you have in place to prevent theft and how other construction managers can take similar steps.