How to Prevent Theft on Your Construction Site

Construction site at night
••• Thomas Lim / EyeEm / Getty Images

The theft of equipment and materials from construction sites is a growing problem, even these days with the ability to monitor activities via webcam 24/7. It's such an issue, in fact, that it accounts for $1 billion in annual losses and other costs for construction companies. The numbers have been growing by at least 10% per year since 1996 and are expected to continue doing so.

The problem goes beyond just losses resulting from theft. Companies have to pay to replace equipment or rent it in the interim to keep projects on schedule. There are other costs involved as well, not the least of which is the resulting downtime caused by the lack of availability of equipment or supplies. Delays cost money and lots of it, as do increases in insurance premiums that occur as the result of excessive claims.

Construction sites can be easy targets. The main reason is that they typically lack proper security and loss prevention practices. Studies have shown that security-related issues like these are among the leading causes of construction site theft:

  • Poor overall site security
  • Open cabs providing easy access to thieves
  • Multiple pieces of equipment sharing the same keys
  • Unsecured jobsites, particularly at night and over weekends
  • Lack of product identification systems

Thieves target materials like copper and other metal supplies as much, if not more than they do equipment. In fact, there is no bigger target for copper theft than construction sites and no greater problem of metal theft in the U.S. than the theft of copper.

No matter what they are attempting to steal, most criminals have been conditioned to believe that construction sites are easy targets. The sad truth is that, for the most part, they're correct. If you don't want your site becoming a costly statistic, you might want to try implementing some or all of these preventive measures.

Keep Your Jobsite Well Lit During off Hours

Thieves count on being able to remain inconspicuous. They like dark, unprotected jobsites where they can get in and out undetected. Bear in mind that most construction site thefts are committed by employees or other people with enough access to the site to know their way around in the dark. Even if they think someone might be watching them, most thieves will seek out easier targets, especially employees.

Be Present as a Manager or Boss

Let your employees know you're observing what they are doing. Comment often about the job and the progress individuals or teams are making. Make notes and bring up observations in meetings. Along those lines, hold regular meetings to go over various project details and recognize individual accomplishments. If your people know that you are aware of their activities, it makes it much more difficult to engage in questionable behaviors.

Schedule Supply Deliveries on an As-Needed Basis

Don't keep an excess of supplies sitting around. Purchase what you need when you need it so it isn't right there waiting to be stolen for weeks at a time. This obviously will require good planning and communication between you and your people so your projects don't become delayed. The good news is that this ties in with the previous point—if you are in constant contact with your people, you always know where you are on your projects and can plan accordingly.

Keep Good Records

Tighten up your inventory and make sure there is a paper trail that follows when supplies arrive onsite. Make sure you always have a paper trail that maps what happens to your supplies from the point of ordering to receiving, to implementing. People are more protective of things for which they are held personally responsible.

A great place to start in getting your site management more under wraps is with construction software. Not only can many of these tools manage supplies and orders, they can also, through extensive tracking and records, help tighten up any loose areas that could lead to theft on the job site.