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7th February, 2024

How to Prevent the Theft of Heavy Machinery on Construction Sites

Construction site security systems, CCTV, electric fences, and secure storage stores can prevent heavy machinery theft on your site.

Construction sites and valuable plant machinery are prime targets for criminals. Construction professionals have witnessed a 50% surge in construction site crime rates since the COVID-19 lockdown, and unfortunately, the problem isn’t going anywhere. 

Construction site security should be at the top of your priority list. According to a study conducted by Allianz Cornhill, over £70 million worth of construction plant machinery, including excavators, compressors, and even cranes, are stolen from construction sites each year. It estimates that inadequate security arrangements on security sites cost the industry over £800 million annually.

To tackle the problem, site and procurement managers must take a multi-pronged approach to site security. Immobilisation devices, GPS tracking devices, and theft insurance will take your construction site security to the next level.

Construction Site Security Statistics 

The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) surveyed tradespeople and found that 92% of respondents have been affected by theft, with 21% reporting weekly site robberies. Construction sites are opportunists’ number one target, something that shows no signs of changing. 

The Construction and Agricultural Equipment Security and Registration Scheme (CESAR) also found that as little as 5% of unregistered plant machinery is recovered. Once a piece of heavy construction machinery has been stolen, the chances are that it is gone for good.  

Alan Harris, Engineering Director at Allianz Cornhill, said, “Construction companies must wake up to the fact that small investments in security and registration […] can pay dividends.” Fences, CCTV systems, and movable lights are all up-front investments, but Harris says the benefits of building a stronghold against theft are endless.   

Consequences of Construction Site Theft  

When construction site security systems fail, the ripple effect can cause problems in every area of your business.

  • Financial loss. Plant machinery is a valuable investment. Excavators alone cost tens of thousands of pounds. The loss of just one of these pieces of machinery can be devastating for contractors. 
  • Project delays. The theft of critical equipment or materials can result in project delays, affecting timelines and potentially leading to contractual penalties.
  • Damaged reputation with customers and suppliers. Failure to secure plant machinery might make customers and suppliers lose faith in contractors’ ability to manage construction sites. 

Why Construction Site Theft Happens

Here are the most common reasons why construction equipment goes missing. 

Plant Machinery Is Not Secured Properly 

It’s unrealistic to expect sites to move heavy machinery every single night. However, plant machinery that is left on-site overnight is vulnerable to theft. 

There are a few solutions. 

  • Contractors can lock or immobilise equipment that is not in use. 
  • Contractors can move expensive machinery into storage containers and place large concrete blocks or cars in front of the containers. 
  • Contractors can off-hire their machinery during seasonal closures and long holidays. When the season starts again, they can re-hire the equipment and resume work. 

Insufficient Security Measures 

Your existing security measures might need to be more to scare away intruders. As you might have guessed, construction sites are most vulnerable to theft at night. 

Site security in construction might seem like a no-brainer, but thieves are finding more modern solutions to traditional security measures. Thin chains, poor-quality locks, and low fences could all spell disaster for your construction site. 

Even heavily guarded construction sites are not immune. Plenty of site managers hire construction site night security and still experience theft. 

Benefits of Theft Prevention

The benefits of theft prevention might seem obvious, but let’s dig a little deeper. 

  • Improved efficiency. When you prevent theft, you are not necessarily speeding up the project, but you are stopping it from slowing down. You are boosting project productivity, which increases the likelihood of meeting deadlines. 
  • Time and cost savings. By investing in theft-prevention aids, you are saving yourself so much money in the long run. Your construction project will run more smoothly, lessening the chance of incurring costs or losses due to delays. 
  • Improved reputation. No amount of money can compare to a good reputation, which will pay dividends for years. 

How to Keep a Construction Site Secure: 10 Tips 

Construction site security systems are just one of the solutions for site managers who want to protect their assets. But standard security systems like CCTV cameras are just one of the tools in your arsenal. 

1. Install CCTV 

Visible CCTV surveillance cameras are one of the most effective security arrangements on construction sites. 

Once your CCTV system is operating, a single security guard can monitor your site. This can help to recoup the cost of buying and installing the system, making it a cost-effective solution. 

Site managers who work on short-term construction projects might be tempted to forego CCTV entirely, but the consequences are not worth the risk. Temporary CCTV systems can boost security on even the shortest construction projects. Temporary systems provide the same video quality, can be monitored remotely, and can be reused on later projects.  

2. Work With Reputable Security Companies 

The Chartered Institute of Building encourages site managers to only hire security guards approved by the SIA (Security Industry Authority), which regulates the UK’s private security industry. 

Professionals must obtain an SIA-recognised qualification to work as a security guard, door supervisor, or close protection officer. Construction site night security staff also gain their accreditation through SIA, which makes them qualified to protect your plant machinery.

3. Use Immobilising Equipment

Electronic immobilising tools can stop thieves in their tracks. Even if thieves get past your first line of defence, they cannot steal expensive plant machinery fitted with an immobilising keypad. The machine will not start until an authorised User Code or ID is input into the keypad. 

4. Keep Your Construction Site Well-Lit 

Construction site security is much more than storage containers and tall fences. Site lighting creates the appearance of watchfulness, even when no one is on the site. When lighting solutions are used with CCTV cameras, the chance of your equipment being stolen is significantly reduced. 

9m Tower Lights are ideal for people who want to improve construction site night security. Each tower illuminates 3000 sqm of area and is mounted on a sturdy movable trailer. The light is constantly on, which is even more of a deterrent than motion-activated lights. 

5. Invest in Secure Storage 

Tight deadlines and long travel times can make keeping your kit on site overnight unavoidable. 

Anti-Vandal Secure Stores are designed to defend against the elements and any unsavoury characters who make it past your construction site’s first lines of defence. Thieves cannot penetrate the fortified walls and doors, keeping your equipment safe until the next working day. 

6. Smart Parking

Sometimes, the best theft-prevention tips are completely free. 

For this tip, you need to strategise. You can significantly reduce the chance of theft by cleverly parking vehicles and machinery when not in use. If an expensive piece of plant machinery is blocked in by a truck on each side, it is far less likely to disappear overnight.  

7. Catalogue Your Inventory 

Keeping on top of your site inventory will allow you to spot thefts immediately and act swiftly.

Hiring construction equipment from a digital supply chain partner is the easiest way to do this. YardLink gives contractors instant access to live hire reports so you can see a breakdown of your inventory at any time.

8. Install Equipment Tracking Devices

Cloud-based tracking equipment offers one of the more modern ways to protect your plant machinery from theft. Portable GPS tracking systems can improve site night security.

Modern GPS tracking systems allow contractors to track their equipment in real-time via an app. These systems offer peace of mind and increase the chance of recovering stolen equipment.  

9. Secure The Perimeter 

Temporary Fencing is ideal for site managers who want to protect their assets. Hiring fencing is more cost-effective than buying fencing, allowing contractors to off-hire the items between seasons or projects. 

For added protection against intruders, you can also invest in electric fencing. 

Read Security Fencing and Pedestrian Barriers: How Safe Is Your Site for more guidance. 

10. Buy Adequate Theft Insurance

Theft insurance won’t stop your equipment from being stolen but can significantly lessen the financial burden.

Contractors typically buy general HIP (hire-in-plant) insurance to protect themselves against third-party injuries, property damage, and damage to tools. If you hire plant machinery and would prefer to be covered through your hire partner’s insurance, you must ensure they have adequate HIP insurance. 

At YardLink, our damage waiver protects our customers in the event of damage, loss, or theft of equipment whilst on hire.

To learn more about plant machinery insurance, read How to Choose the Right Plant and Machinery Hire Partner for Your Construction Project

Final Thoughts

Finding time and cost-effective security for construction is challenging. Luckily, many solutions exist for contractors and project managers who want to safeguard expensive plant machinery.  

We recommend using a combination of theft-prevention tools and strategies. CCTV, fences, and storage containers might not be effective enough to prevent theft on their own, but together, they form a strong barrier against potential thieves.  By investing in theft-prevention equipment, you can ensure you reach important milestones and deadlines. The money spent on theft prevention is nothing compared to the financial savings on project delays, insurance deductibles, and labour.


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