GUEST ARTICLE: How to build a robust security culture

  • 21 Sep 2023

SecurityIn this guest article, Alexis Potter, Managing Director of leading site security specialist, BauWatch UK, offers a robust strategy for protecting sites, which will help to ensure projects stay on track and investments remain protected…

Economic uncertainty and soaring construction materials costs continue to place considerable strain on the construction industry, and the importance of safeguarding project sites against break-ins is more crucial now than ever as we head into longer nights.

Every stolen tool, missing piece of equipment, or pilfered fuel tank can significantly impact a project’s timeline and budget, making security a top priority for builders and contractors.

If the construction industry is going to weather this economic storm, we must not let theft derail progress. Contractors need to arm themselves with the knowledge and tools required to secure construction sites effectively. This article provides a strategy for site protection, helping projects to stay on course, whilst investments remain protected.

Plan to succeed, not fail

Taking a reactive stance and failing to establish a comprehensive security plan from the outset of a project is a recipe for disaster. The adage that ‘it won’t happen to me’ is all too common in our industry, and dealing with thefts after they’ve happened is not only costly, but opens the firm up to substantial headaches from impacted insurance premiums and reputational damage.

Begin by conducting a thorough risk assessment of your construction site before work begins. This will help to pinpoint areas where break-ins are more likely to occur and identify the location of high-value assets on-site. Often it’s as simple as ensuring high-value equipment and tools are stored in sight of CCTV cameras.

Meanwhile, parking assets outside of a security cordon will render any security systems useless. When creating your plan, it’s crucial to adopt a worst-case-scenario mindset. Preparing for high-risk, low-probability events ensures you’re prepared for unexpected challenges should they arise.

Communicate effectively

In a busy project environment with often fragmented supply chains, clear communication is a central pillar of an effective security strategy. Within this, systematic and repeated training is an essential step in ensuring teams are equipped to secure construction sites.

The importance of site security has to be clearly demonstrated to your team with a standardised site induction. Training records should be kept digitally and physically, and with each session, a security angle needs to be incorporated, with informal toolbox talks held on every site.

Remember, it doesn’t have to be complicated either. Teams should be reminded of simple measures and best practice that will help to prevent incidents. For instance, clear ways to mitigate on-site risks could include encouraging site workers to remove keys from machinery, storing keys in secure locked boxes and ensuring gates are locked.

Good communication also goes beyond the site. It’s important for on-site workers to collaborate with off-site support from your security provider, such as CCTV monitoring teams. Often, when they’re unaware that sites are vacant is when problems occur, and opportunistic thieves strike. Adding to this, it’s crucial teams in the field make security providers aware of working patterns, especially when things change to prevent false alarms.

Be agile

All projects work on an evolving timeline, so it’s vital to think about a project’s threat level in the same way. It’s about being vigilant throughout the construction process but also recognising that risks evolve as projects progress.

For example, during the initial civil phases of a project, there is a high risk of fuel theft from heavy vehicles used in excavations. Later in the project, hand tools may be an easily lifted target for opportunistic thieves. A traffic light system can be used to evaluate each site. Red lets your team know that the threat level is high, while amber and green are sequentially lower threat levels.

This means being honest about your site security strategy and tactics. It’s important to stay agile, constantly evaluating and re-evaluating the threat level.

Don’t defer, Deter

A huge part of an effective security system is reminding criminals about the risks and showcasing your level of alertness. Well-lit sites can act as an effective deterrent for criminals and illuminate dark corners where trespassers might go unnoticed. Visible measures, like CCTV towers and temporary fencing work are effective deterrents, as most opportunistic thieves will be put off taking spur-of-the-moment chances.

The onus is on firms to fortify defences and cultivate a culture of smart security. The construction landscape is no place for complacency, and those who champion proactive measures, prioritise communication and harness innovative strategies to safeguard assets will be able to rest easy in the face of thieves. Let’s not merely react to threats but anticipate and deter them. Together, we can ensure that our projects not only stand tall but also stand secure, building a legacy of safety and resilience for the industry.”

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