Construction Site Security
Jul 14, 2021
7 min read
Ensure the success of building your home by taking the first step--securing the construction site.
In lieu of our recent issue with damage, it is a good time to review security at construction job sites and development projects. Not only can security help with damage prevention or reporting, but it also hinders criminal activities like vandalism and thievery. These places are increasingly targeted by criminals, a trend that is only expected to continue. Equipment like generators and tools tend to disappear when no one is looking. Also, it’s a big waste of time for reporting and finding replacements. Lastly, it becomes dangerous for our staff and the public when mischief-makers break something unintended and run off into the night without warning others of the safety hazards.
So why does this matter? When clients are on a cost-plus contract, it will increase their project costs. Even on fixed-price contracts, it would be a line item. Whether as simple as ordering fencing or going to the higher expense of patrols, there are costs associated with construction site security. Another important consideration is time. Damaged materials or work would have to be reordered and time spent to restore the area. There are the direct costs of the products, but the indirect costs of the construction mortgage financing are associated with the extra amount of time. The other aspect is the sense of safety. Our clients need to be at ease knowing the home isn’t open to the elements and we’re doing everything reasonably possible.
The first line of defense is a physical barrier. Putting a fence up can protect site workers and the general public. From a worker’s perspective, we can close off the site and lock down the entrances. That makes sense, really, if there are active construction sites all around and other projects look like better targets. For the public, it is a lot more intimidating with restricted access. Also, there are less likely to have children (or curious clients) walk into and become a danger to themselves. Fencing is just general safety practice. Furthermore, we can put up a bit of marketing to showcase ourselves.
Construction Doors and Security Locks
Oddly enough, just having construction doors installed with locks is enough to keep most people out. We try and install this as soon as the framing is up. Only the people who need access have access. Construction Doors and locks are basically old doors and locks that can get banged up while the rough-in work is being performed. There will be hundreds of times when a tool belt will scrap along with a door or paint drops on the knob, that we understand the importance of using temporary solutions instead of the final products.
Often, we will use “smart” key locks that we can rekey on the fly. We keep one set for our trades and then reuse for each project and change it to a brand new set before the owner moves in. Certain people prefer having a physical key. But copying keys is timely and more costly in the long run.
The best way is to have a punch code lock configured to have a unique code per trade. The old-style punch locks allow multiple codes but don’t keep a history. The new ones keep track of usage, but construction sites don’t have wifi installed early on.
Within the last couple of years, manufacturers have addressed this issue. Now locks generate their own hotspot or use Bluetooth, which can track access with each code usage. While these locks are getting “smarter,” it’s a solid barrier that keeps unwanted guests outside, and those are the best sorts of deterrents.
It can be difficult to uncover what motivates an intruder to enter a construction site uninvited. For this reason, it’s tough to generalize the statistics. However, it was discovered that a majority of the convicted burglars would scan for surveillance cameras before entering a property and that the presence of surveillance cameras would be motivation enough to seek a different target. In addition, if a theft were to take place, having cameras gives enough evidence to speak with the police and also filing an appropriate insurance claim.
When we put cameras in, we need to find a high enough space and overlook the job site. And place the cameras close enough to determine license plates from the clips. Typically it should be pointed at where materials are because this is the most common area thieves would try to access. In areas where multiple jobs by different companies are taking place, a competitor can take a forklift and steal an entire stack of lumber for another job at the expense of the first company. Usually, one or two wide-angle lensed cameras are sufficient to cover the job site. Sometimes if something odd happens on-site, it’s good to have a record of what happened and review it.
Lighting and temporary power poles
With the notion of “more lights, less crime,” the idea that well-lit spaces deter crime, studies have shown that this is true. Dimming or turning off streetlights at night increased crime rates in those neighborhoods. The lights study found that the developments that received new lights experienced crime rates that were significantly lower than would have been the case without the new lights. Better lighting will deter offenders who benefit from the cover of darkness. Also, timers can be added to power cables, run lights, and even a radio that turns on at conspicuous hours to deter unwanted guests.
Legally, no one can live in a construction zone at night. As much as we love building, camping in the home isn’t really an option for us. The only other alternative is to have patrols. Now we don’t tend to resort to the patrol option unless it’s for subdivision development or if the home has particular assets (i.e., golden light fixtures). Trust me, fixtures are some of the most expensive items of any home that need extra protection from magically disappearing if they aren’t installed right away. This is all balanced against what the budget is and what the risk tolerance is of the client. A patrol is likely to push anyone who isn’t supposed to be there. The costs are usually $500 and up for monthly spot check surveillance at night or to hire a security guard at $25 per hour.
Tools and Mess
Leaving tools out and about is just asking for trouble. Having an untidy workplace with unsecured tools is an easy target. Every day, at the end of each day, the site should be clean and clear. Even with fencing, locked doors, and cameras rolling, if there is nothing left out to be stolen, then nothing will be stolen. If anyone suspicious were to walk along, it should look like an empty site. An empty site that isn’t worth their time, and they would just leave to the next target.
The last thing I wanted to mention is about having good people around us. If we only hire professional trades and subcontractors, who also, in turn, hire professional people, we will reduce the chances that a stray person with bad intentions will be exposed to our job site. The cheaper and more economical trades are lower for a reason. Maybe that reason is that they don’t do background checks. However, it could mean disaster, especially since these individuals are granted access to the site. And while it seems obvious, we have to respect all the individuals on our job site. Acting inappropriately and unprofessionally could come back to haunt us when the other party wants to get even.
We really have to take additional care when it comes to in-progress work sites, especially the safety or security of unoccupied construction zones after hours. This has been a glimpse of the preventative measures that construction companies can take. Hopefully, it has given you some enlightenment, and you can feel secure about our measures at Parasol Properties.
This article was last updated on May 26, 2022