Preventing Construction Theft: Tips for Contractors

Published May 20, 2015 by Whirlwind Team

Construction job site theft: at first, you may not notice the little things that walk away from your site here and there. However, once perpetrators of the theft - often comprising names from your company's payroll (we're sorry to say) - figure out nobody's watching, larger quantities and higher-dollar items may disappear as well. According to figures from entities like the National Association of Home Builders and the LoJack Corporation, construction theft accounts for as much as $1 billion dollars worth of losses each year

That's a big chunk of collective change, and small to medium-sized construction companies don't have the financial wiggle room to lose any amount of money in a recovering economy where providing affordable products and services are essential to remaining in business. Thus, implementing security measures protect your site can be one of the most lucrative steps you can take to prevent significant financial losses in the future.

5 Tips For Preventing Construction Job Site Theft

When it comes to job site theft, there is more than money on the line. Consider that theft will affect your schedule, having to extend a project's timeline in order to procure replacement equipment and materials. If the theft is occurring at the hands of one of your own, it is also demoralizing to the company and the sooner you can replace a dishonest employee with a loyal counterpart, the better off your company culture will be.

There are a handful of scenarios that make construction sites easy targets for thieves:

  • Job sites are often poorly illuminated during nighttime hours
  • There is little to no security in place after hours and on weekends
  • To keep things easy, many sites have a single key that opens several locks or fires up multiple pieces of machinery
  • Truck cab doors are frequently left open or unlocked
  • General identification numbers and records are nonexistent or loosely maintained

The following tips can help your company do its very best to prevent theft and unnecessary loss of equipment and materials on your job sites.

  1. Increase after hours lighting. Adequate lighting is a part of any construction company's safety program, but it's also essential after working hours if you want to protect your materials and equipment. Thieves are much less apt to hit a site that is well lit after hours and on weekends. Aim for lighting that casts an even glow, eliminating shadows. In fact, even a dim glow will go a long way at helping neighbors and passersby identify a theft in action, so there is no need to produce stadium-quality lighting. Put your lighting system on motion-sensitive detectors to reduce electrical costs. Movement-triggered illumination is often enough to give a prospective job site thief a run for his money.
  2. Know that nothing is off limits. While most foremen are aware that copper pipes are a construction thief magnet, they often write off materials that would seem to have less value or that are heavy and cumbersome to move. Unfortunately, that thieves will steal anything. Bob Vila writes about a Colorado Springs subdivision where more than $50,000 worth of materials disappeared from the project, including large, cultured stones. Developer Matt Dunston was quoted, "You have to be a very motivated thief to steal cultured stone. " The takeaway is that NOTHING is off-limits in a thief's mind. There is a market for everything and that is how you need to think about the items stored at your construction sites and open-air storage lots.
  3. Schedule material deliveries in the nick of time. The more things that are laying around waiting to be used, the more tempting it is for those who prey on construction sites. Schedule materials deliveries so that they arrive as they are needed, rather than being exposed or laying around weeks before they'll be used or installed.
  4. Lock up anything not in use. Invest in durable,  heavy-duty storage lockers or sheds that are secured each night with a high-quality lock. A simple padlock is not enough. Then, encourage your employees to take a little extra time each day to lock up tools, lumber and any loose materials that are easier for a thief to steal.
  5. Make friends with the neighbors. There are so many reasons why you should work to make friends with the neighbors on your construction sites (want to reduce construction noise/dust complaints, anyone?). Having a neighborhood watch is one of them. Introduce yourself and chit-chat with neighboring homes and businesses to develop a rapport. Give them your phone number and encourage them to call the police if they notice any suspicious construction site activity or suspect a thief in action.

Has your construction company been the targets of job site theft? What solutions worked for you? Whirlwind would like to hear about them in our comment box below.

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