Construction site theft is an expensive, growing concern. Costs rise as contractors lose building materials, tools and equipment and liability insurance premiums rise. Often those losses are passed on to customers.
Sites are especially vulnerable to theft, both by on-site workers and by criminals who recognize an easy opportunity. In fact, experts say that most thieves are in and out within 10 minutes, taking what is easily and quickly removed.
You can’t eliminate theft entirely, but you can take steps to reduce it and make your sites less vulnerable. Thieves are good at knowing what contractors fail to do to protect a site.
Even before you start a job, check with others in the industry to learn what the risks are in the area. Then follow this checklist of measures you should take to crack down on theft by both employees and criminals looking for an easy mark:
1. Mark and Register Your Equipment
- List it with a national registry such as the National Equipment Register. Keep an inventory and photos.
- Use warning and reward decals.
- Paint equipment and tools with a distinctive color.
- Stamp items with a company identification number.
- Mark it with “microtagger” thermostat plastic coating that contains coded pigments or metal particles.
2. External Security
- Erect a chain link fence around the site and install lighting. If you cannot erect a fence, take other precautions to protect vehicles.
- Ask the police to watch your site at night and on weekends.
- Hire security guards.
- Require delivery people to show a company ID, a driver’s license and credit card.
3. In-House Security
- Have a theft prevention policy and an incentive plan that rewards employees for keeping losses to a minimum.
- Discuss loss prevention during safety meetings.
- Make surprise visits to sites.
- Enable employees to report suspicious activity anonymously.
- Conduct background checks on employees.
4. Storing and Issuing Tools
- Immobilize equipment that could be hotwired.
- Attach anti-theft devices, such as steering wheel locks, kill switches, and wheel and axle locks.
- Store materials and small equipment in a shed with a double-cylinder deadbolt and monitored security alarm.
- Assign equipment by serial number to supervisors and work teams.
- Restrict storage access to authorized employees.
- Issue only the tools needed that day.
- Standardize procedures for handing out and returning keys.
- Stamp “Do Not Duplicate” on keys. Keep a list of the people who have been given them.
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