Digging in to construction industry

Last year, vandalism, fire and theft cost the construction industry £800m and there’s reports of a 50% rise in opportunistic theft during the Coronavirus lockdown that we’re currently experiencing.

The Construction Equipment Association say there has been a significant increase in raids on vehicles and sites resulting in theft of tools and plant equipment leading them to warn the industry to tighten their security measures.

A survey carried out by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), 92% of respondents said they’d been affected by theft and just over a fifth reported weekly site robberies.


Construction is a huge and valuable sector which requires both the storage and on-going use of high value vehicles, materials, tools and machinery, all of which have a resale value!

Breaking the stats down, the industry loses £400 million through theft, and around the same again through vandalism and fire. Statistics provided by insurance group. Aviva, shows that around 40% (approximately 100,000) of all construction site fires are started deliberately.

And it’s not just assets and sites that are affected, given the sheer volume of people who make up the workforce, it’s not difficult to see how they can be targeted or rendered vulnerable by inefficient security measures on site.

Criminal activity presents several overall threats:

  • To operations, including ongoing works and schedules. The disruption this causes costs the industry millions of pounds each year.
  • To property and materials, including buildings and outbuildings, structures under construction or demolition, as well as construction materials, tools, equipment, plant, fuel and petty theft of workers’ possessions and assets.
  • To life, including trespassers causing damage which has the potential to injure, maim or kill, such as ripping out fixtures and leaving wiring unsafe, as well as deliberate actions such as arson which threaten life as well as property.

With these figures in mind, it’s obvious then, that security within the construction sector is becoming more and more important.

The consequences of poor security should not be underestimated and can affect financial margins, the completion timeframe, business reputation, the built asset itself and, worst of all, the lives of personnel.

Understanding the risk and conducting effective planning for appropriate project security is therefore essential and will help in enabling a safe and productive construction environment

As the figures from the CIOB show, theft from construction sites is a common occurrence. This can, and does, include fuel theft and the theft of personal possessions from the workforce.

Research by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) show that that over half of all builders in the UK have been victims of theft as well as having damage done to their vans and vehicles.

Chief Executive of the FMB, Brian Berry, says “Some builders have even been assaulted by would-be thieves. The impact of this on the nation’s smaller building firms is particularly disruptive. Not only is there a high cost in terms of both time and money spent replacing these expensive tools, and to fix the damage caused, but without the right tools, firms are simply unable to work.”

It’s not just the smaller items that are being targeted. Construction sites are prime pickings for organised gangs who want to make big money from large machinery.

Excavators and JCBs proved to be the most expensive claims, according to Allianz, with one example costing £650,000 where a number of items of plant were stolen during the Christmas period at a quarry site. One of three claims that fell within the £100,000-£250,000 bracket involved a fraudulent hirer stealing 13 items of plant over four separate deliveries.

The most up to date figures on arson with the construction sector were released by the Home Office in 2017 which reveals that intentionally caused site blazes increased by nearly 43 per cent between 2015-2017.

During 2015, there was a total of 119 deliberately caused fires and by 2017, this had increased to 170, accounting for 42 per cent of fires that took place that year – the highest on record since 2011 (199).

Digging in to construction industry

Fire safety is crucial in all workplaces, but construction sites carry a particular risk given the volume of potentially combustible materials used and stored on site.

Another factor adding to the rise of deliberately caused fires, could be that investment in fire safety on site may be less of a priority when times are tough – especially when contractors are working on such thin margins. AXA Insurance head of customer risk management, Douglas Barnett, says “construction companies are under pressure to reduce costs, and because of this, a reduction in both training and site security may occur.”

Some construction companies rely solely on CCTV rather than manned security on site. However, CCTV may not be able to film all areas of the site, neither can it hear possible intruders looking to start a fire or detect smoke when a fire has broken out.

In some cases, fires have been started by youngsters who see construction sites as a place to hang out and cause damage with, seemingly, no personal cost, it can also be an act of fraud by the company itself or revenge. In order to make up the margin on a project, it has been known for companies to delay payment to subcontractors.

Payment data submitted to the government in July last year revealed that the largest 20 contractors failed to pay 38 per cent of invoices in the timeframe agreed in the contract terms (on average). These late payment tactics could lead to suppliers deliberately starting fires in response.

The word Terrorism brings to mind some of the awful attacks against Western Society in recent years including the Manchester Arena Attack, Westminster Bridge and, of course, 9/11.

While we might not hear about it as much on the news, the risk is still there and is very real.

Whilst nowhere near as common as theft or vandalism, the potential threat to life means that terrorism is something that must be taken seriously, not just in the planning of the building, but throughout the construction process.

High profile projects, those that are owned by companies with political connections or are simply located near to a potential target all run the risk of being targeted so it’s imperative they have adequate security on site to assess and prevent incidents that could prove fatal.


By implementing a fully holistic security plan for your construction site, you’ll be able to reduce the likelihood of the site becoming a target.

There isn’t a “one size fits all” solution as every site presents its own unique challenges, working with your Security partner you will be able to provide a significant deterrent to those wishing to cause damage.

Digging in to construction industry

  • ACCESS RESTRICTIONS – reducing the number of access and egress points on a site and ensuring they are manned by fully qualified security officers
  • ACCESS CHECKS – ensure that all contractors and sub-contractors show ID on arrival and departure from site
  • CONTAINMENT – fences, gates, barriers, bollards and hoardings should be used wherever possible to preserve the site and limit access
  • TECHNICAL – Lighting, CCTV, control systems and intruder alarms all work as visible deterrents and should be monitored by trained security personnel.
  • MATERIALS & EQUIPMENT – secure tool vaults and locked containers should be used to safeguard tools, materials and equipment which all have a resale value. Fuel is particularly attractive to thieves so you must consider adequate protection for fuel stores and also vehicles and plant machinery that are left on site.
  • GUARDING – a mix of static guarding and mobile patrols ensured the entire site is protected at all times. Manned guarding at access points ensures a detailed log is kept of all personnel and vehicles on site while mobile patrols secure areas of specific concern and provide an extra layer of security when a site is locked down. All security officers working on site must be highly trained, qualified and hold a current Security Industry Association License (SIA).


All in all, there’s a wide range of threats facing the construction industry and its costing the sector millions of pounds every year – what policies and procedures do you have in place to protect your workforce, assets and site?

We have a highly experienced team of construction and civil engineering security guards who are fully trained and insured. We can work with you as a security partner to ensure your site has the best level of security possible.

If you would like to know more about how we can help you then please call 0800 612 0749 or email sales@strongguardsecurityuk.co.uk or visit our website at https://strongguardsecurity.co.uk

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