Don’t Let Theft Walk Away with Your Profits

As part of our research into how we can serve your needs better, we make it a point to regularly visit contractors at their jobsites. On one recent occasion, I inadvertently entered the building site from the opposite side and didn’t immediately see the job trailer. This meant walking around the unfinished building, past unattended equipment and trucks filled with tools and materials. Although I was wearing a company-issued hard hat, I was clearly not an employee, yet no one questioned or seemed concerned about my presence.

It occurred to me later how easy it would have been for me to pick up a tool and leave, or even climb into the cab of a machine and do some damage. Now granted, most theft and/or vandalism occurs after hours. But when crews are busy and preoccupied, and vehicles and equipment are constantly moving in and out, it’s not inconceivable for it to occur even in broad daylight.

The point here is it pays to take precautions at all times. Construction theft and vandalism have become common occurrences, and hold the potential to cost your company thousands of dollars annually if left unchecked.

Prior to starting work, it’s important to develop a customized security plan for each project. During pre-construction planning, assess the security risks at that particular location. Consider area crime rates, the amount of pedestrian traffic, lighting around the site perimeter and other factors that could exacerbate security concerns.

Determine if it’s necessary (or practical) to place a fence around the site. If so, a guard should be posted at all entrances to ensure only authorized personnel gain entry, and entrances should be properly secured at the end of each work day. If a fence is not used, workers should be instructed to question anyone not recognizable as an employee or sub.

Depending on the neighborhood, you may want to hire a security firm, or at minimum, contact the local police department to request regular patrols in the area of the site.

Unfortunately, a large percentage of construction thefts are “inside jobs” involving current or past employees or subcontractor employees. As such, it’s advisable to conduct background checks, where feasible. Also consider implementing an equipment tracking system that requires workers to log use of individual tools. Several electronic systems are available that make this a simple, yet effective process for reducing losses of hand tools and consumables.

For larger equipment, make sure any keys are removed at the end of the day and/or equipment is disabled to prevent starting. Circle larger machines around smaller ones, and position a bigger unit in front of the job trailer door to prevent entry. Implementing an equipment tracking system can further aid in theft control/recovery. Many of these systems issue alerts if equipment is started after hours or leaves a specific geographic area.

Whether a machine or tool is stolen or property or equipment is damaged, it will have both direct and indirect costs to your business. As such, it’s crucial to take steps to protect against unauthorized access to your project locations. Left unchecked, theft and vandalism will erode already thin margins and wreak havoc on your company’s bottom line.

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