7/30/2014 2:00 AM

Don't Let Crime Plague Your Construction Site

Whether it be arson, vandalism, or theft, construction sites are prime targets for criminal acts. These criminal acts can create some significant added costs, including insurance deductibles and consequential premium hikes; work delays; and replacement of lost equipment, tools, and building materials. Of course, such an event can also affect your overall job site and your client's deadline.

The good news is there are several steps you can take to diminish the risk and financial impact of criminal acts involving your job site:

1. Research the work area prior to beginning a job.

Carefully researching unfamiliar work areas is especially important if you're not planning to hire on-site security, but should be done regardless. The local police or sheriff department can tell you if a particular area has a high crime rate. If you ask, they'll also usually be able to send a patrol car out to periodically check your site once the work begins. You might additionally ask friendly competitors if they've had any problems in a particular area.

2. Ensure the job site is well-lit and fenced.

Most thieves and vandals will think twice before acting if they have to climb or cut a fence and perform their 'work' without the protection of dark. Motion detector lights and lights with infrared triggers will illuminate when movement triggers them. This can scare off intruders and alert neighboring businesses and houses that someone might be lurking around. Most experts recommend using a chain-link fence since it, unlike many other barriers, will offer an enclosure that still allows visibility. Of course, chain-link can be a more expensive barrier. If it's not in the budget, then designate enclosed storage areas to hold tools, construction materials, hazardous items, and flammables.

3. Implement an inventory system for all tools and equipment.

This will help you keep track of everything on your work site. Smaller tools that are easier to carry and conceal are often targeted by thieves. Assign the site foreman or supervisor to keep a running log of when a tool goes out, the worker using it, and its return. You can use an etching tool to create a serial number on any piece of equipment or tool that doesn't have a distinguishing number. It's also wise to put your company's logo or name on expensive items.

4. Consider installing ignition cutout switches and GPS.

You can immobilize heavy vehicles and machinery by installing ignition cutout switches. GPS should also be a consideration for expensive heavy equipment and machinery. These are relatively compact and easy to install. The GPS will alert you when the equipment is being used, where it's at, and if it leaves where it should be.

5. Security, be it real or faux.

A security camera isn't just a visual deterrence to criminals. It can also help you catch brazen thieves and possibly retrieve your stolen goods. A security guard and/or guard dog only elevates the level of security at the site. There are also electronic devices that emit a barking sound to give the illusion of a real guard dog. Whether you actually have a surveillance system, guard, and watch dog, post the warning signs as if you do.

6. Control access points to the work site.

Whenever possible, a site should only have a single entry and exit point. Keep in mind that it will be increasingly difficult to monitor the coming and going of individuals on a site with each additional access point. You might also consider asking employees to park off-site.

7. Plan out deliveries and installations.

Items like HVAC systems, plywood, windows, and doors often come days or weeks before they're actually ready to be installed. Since the target on these items becomes larger the longer they sit around virtually unattended, you should either install them to some degree as soon as they arrive; store them in an enclosed, secure area; or, most preferably, schedule the delivery as close to the projected installation time as possible.

8. Have a lock-up procedure in place.

Designate certain employees to ensure the day's end lock-up, which should include ensuring that all supplies are securely locked in their designed area, vehicles are locked and key-less, and oil/gas tank caps are locked.

9. Involve the community.

Ask nearby residential and business neighbors to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity during non-work hours.

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