What is the security risk exposure on your construction sites? How many instances of loss or theft do you incur every year? How much do those instances cost you? What do you do to ensure construction site security?
If you’re a project owner, General Contractor (GC), or Construction Manager (CM), then these are critical questions to ask. With every instance of theft or vandalization, there are not only the up-front costs to consider, but also the lost time or lost productivity that can result.
BUT, security systems and deterrence measures can be costly. This article explores the top-4 construction site security methods available to contractors and breaks down the potential ROI (return on investment) of each on a per-project basis.
Why Construction Site Security is Crucial
Wondering what the stakes are with respect to construction site security? Let’s set the stage:
- It is estimated that losses stemming from theft on construction sites total approximately $1 billion per annum, in the United States alone.
- The average cost per instance of theft is $30,000, with only one in four items being recovered.
- There were more than 11,000 incidents reported in 2016, amounting to greater than 32 per day.
These losses are dealt at the hands of both thieves that might be employed on construction sites as well as pedestrian traffic that may garner unwanted access to sites after hours.
Construction sites are often targeted due to the expensive nature of much of the equipment being used on-site, as seen above. Many construction sites also make low-risk, high reward opportunities, being that many modern construction sites remain unsecured.
To make the situation worse, the cost to GCs and CMs is not just replacing the stolen equipment. It is also the lost productivity and time resulting from missing equipment, time spent on police reports and insurance claims, as well as the cost of renting or financing equipment to fill temporary needs and mitigate the risk of project delays.
Having a robust construction site security program to protect your sites can help you mitigate losses while also creating positive ROI on the project. Find out more below.
Top 4 Construction Site Security Methods
Completely securing a construction site from any threat of loss or damage might be an unrealistic goal. However, there are several steps that can be taken to keep workers accountable and dramatically reduce the risk of unwanted access to a project site.
The following construction site security methods are not designed to be used in isolation, but rather, coupled or combined to build a comprehensive security strategy. Discover when it makes sense to consider each solution as well as the potential ROI on the investment.
1. Video Surveillance
Video surveillance solutions have come a long way. Gone are the days of pixelated 480p cameras with 12-hour memory stores. Today, most modern construction site surveillance solutions are bolstered with high-definition coverage, 360-degree coverage, alarm systems, infrared lenses or motion lights, automated alert systems to detect suspicious behavior, and more.
These modern security systems, if properly deployed, can offer complete site coverage. And in doing so, these systems enhance the chances of catching culprits after the fact and recouping lost assets.
The best part? They don’t put anyone’s personal safety at risk.
The downside? They might do less to prevent the crime in the first place than a physical presence on the construction site.
TrueLook is one of the leading solutions for contractors that are looking to outfit and secure their sites with construction cameras.
Here are some of the key features of a TrueLook construction camera package:
- Various HD camera options, from fixed position, to robotic PTZ, to indoor cameras.
- Live jobsite viewing for any authorized individuals.
- Custom time-lapsing if you are interested in creating a project progress video.
- 24/7 intelligent security automation through motion alerts, so you know if anything suspicious is happening on any of your sites.
Best applications for video surveillance:
- High-profile mega projects that have extensive amounts of equipment on-site.
- Large project sites, such as campuses, that might be impossible to patrol without the use of technology or technological assistance.
- Projects with large insurance liability. A robust video surveillance system with remote monitoring services can lower your project liability and decrease your insurance premiums.
Interested in finding out more on construction insurance programs?
The ROI equation:
A mid-large sized project = 8 – 15 HD cameras (with infrared or motion lights)
Cost per camera = ~$5,000
Annual camera cost (12 cameras) = $60,000
Monthly service fees = ~$300
Annual service fees = $3,600
Total cost = $63,600
2-3 incidents per project, per year? = positive ROI on video surveillance
2. On-Site Security Personnel
Security guards are a staple within the construction sector. Though they are seldom used as a sole security mechanism, they make a powerful addition to many construction site security programs and can often serve additional purposes beyond site monitoring and patrol.
Some of the primary risks that security guards protect construction sites from include theft of materials, damage to the project or property, stealing of designs or ideas, protecting labor, and keeping things organized.
Security guards also present certain risks for GCs:
- Limited site coverage, due to unsafe areas and the potential for injury.
- Risk of injury on the job resulting from an altercation, and the insurance liability that follows.
- Liability for assault and battery if a guard takes it too far.
Best applications for on-site security personnel:
- Smaller project sites with fewer possible points of entry, and less perimeter to patrol.
- High-crime areas and locations that might require a greater amount of deterrence, being that physical bodies are often seen as more intimidating than silent (or possibly unseen) deterrence mechanisms.
- Projects in busy urban settings. If there are hundreds (or thousands) of people within close proximity of your jobsite daily, then a physical deterrence mechanism can be instrumental in preventing unwanted site access.
The ROI equation:
24/7 surveillance = 2-4 guards on 12-hour rotations
Average wage of a security guard in the United States is $15/hour
24 hours x $15/hour x 28 days/month = $10,080/month
4 or more incidents per project, per year? = Positive ROI on security guard services
This may seem like a steep price to pay. But, on large project sites, you might have millions of dollars of equipment on-site at any given time. And at an average of $30,000 per item, it only takes a couple instances to warrant the cost of a security team.
3. Equipment Management Systems
Studies have determined that 79% of employees will steal from an employer, at least once. This brings new urgency to the notion that construction companies need to not only protect from outside, but also within.
The first step in developing an equipment registry is tagging every item on your building site with a serial number, license plate, or other identifying feature. Some of these items must be registered in accordance with legal mandates (license plate on a forklift), however, others are optionally tracked by the project owner, GC, or CM with tags (equipment such as impact wrenches, electric nibblers, etc). Someone on-site should then be responsible for ensuring that all equipment is properly checked-out and check-in.
Though equipment registries themselves do little to prevent theft from those external to your workforce, a by-product of a registry is generally a concentrated equipment store on your site. Having most of your equipment consolidated in one secure location makes it less readily available to potential thieves, thus, reducing losses.
Though a registry can be managed manually, one of the best ways to track equipment is by leveraging equipment management software. Tenna is one of the leading software solutions for construction firms that are looking to enhance their equipment visibility.
“Contractors can easily decrease theft on their jobsites and storage locations with equipment management technology. Platforms such as Tenna allow for total visibility over a contractor’s mixed fleet to combat theft and loss, which gives them the confidence that their equipment and tools are always accounted for and can be recovered if stolen or lost. Equipment management systems provide tremendous ROI in these situations alone. When a contractor can recover a single stolen asset vs. purchasing a replacement, the system has immediately paid for itself, and more.”
Here’s how Tenna works:
- Internet of things (IoT) hardware allows for the tracking of construction equipment of all asset types, from heavy equipment down to small tools and assets.
- GPS tracking allows project owners/managers to pinpoint the location of any asset at any given time.
- Intelligent insights on the Tenna platform enable users to make more informed equipment decisions, so that they can maximize their utilization rates and can enhance the predictability of their projects.
Best applications for equipment management systems:
- Large projects that have a large volume of subcontractors under management by a GC or CM. The bigger the project, the greater the equipment requirements, and the greater volume of worker traffic that can lead to loss.
- If a construction site is in a high-theft region. Technologies like Tenna can trigger automated alerts that prevent theft, by notifying equipment owners if their gear is on the move outside of operating hours. This tracking technology also aids in the police search and recovery process.
The ROI equation:
For small to midsize asset tracking, utilization, reports, and mobile accessibility =
Limited function asset tracking = $15 to $35 per asset, per month
Advanced functionality = $50 to $100 per asset, per month
As a proxy, let’s say that midsize asset tracking with mobile accessibility and utilization reporting = $50 per asset, per month
Let’s estimate that a midsize construction site might have 50 tools on-site that warrant equipment trackers
50 tools x $50 per tracker = $2,500 per month
= ~$30,000 per year
1 incident per project, per year? = Positive ROI on an equipment management system
4. Access Control
Construction access control systems are an underrated security mechanism available to project owners, GCs, and CMs. They bring software and hardware together by connecting turnstiles, door strikes, or other entry points to LTE-connected smart devices that verify worker credentials and prevent unqualified/uncertified workers from entering a jobsite.
This security approach is two-prong:
- It safeguards the project from potentially dangerous workers (unapproved, uncertified, or those with ill intent) entering the site and eliminates the risk of receiving any non-compliance related fines.
- It secures the perimeter of the jobsite entirely, making it much more difficult for unwanted individuals to gain access to the site afterhours.
Note: The effectiveness of an access control program is limited by the on-site enforcement as well as the ability to effectively secure the perimeter of the site.
Best applications for access control:
- High-rise projects that have a small surface-level security exposure and can be easily maintained through a single (or a couple) access point. The fewer the access points, the fewer possible points of exploitation for those with criminal intent.
- Large projects that may have dozens or hundreds of subtrades entering and exiting the site throughout the course of a project.
- Projects in heavily regulated states (such as New York), where municipal directives, such as Local Law 196, place a much higher precedent on the proper training of construction workers.
The ROI equation
Annual turnstile lease = ~$12,000
Mid-size construction site = 2 turnstiles
myComply Smart Brick = $1,000/year
Cost to lease 2 turnstiles and 2 myComply Smart Bricks for a year = ~$26,000
myComply Projects Pro subscription for one project = ~$8,000
Cost of fencing to secure a mid-size project site for a year = ~$12,000
$26,000 + $8,000 + $12,000 = ~$46,000/year
1-2 incidents per project, per year? = Positive ROI on access control
An access control solution is particularly powerful because security is just one of the many benefits it provides. In addition to monitoring site traffic and enhancing overall construction site security, an access control solution also monitors worker qualifications, tracks worker time and attendance data, fuels automated reporting, and more. Find out more below.
Construction Access Control Systems: The Foundation for Site Security
When it comes to regulating and monitoring the flow of subtrades/workers, while also dramatically reducing the risk of unwanted or negligent site access, an integrated access control system is the best starting point for GCs and CMs.
Here is why you need to seriously consider an access control system:
- Successful implementation requires a perimeter lock. Implementing an access control solution is the perfect excuse to tighten up your construction fencing and ensure that no unmanned, or unregulated access points exist or are being utilized by workers.
- Only approved workers are allowed on-site. With an access control system, it is no longer possible for anyone with a hardhat and a vest to walk on-site. Only workers that have been registered by subtrades and approved by GCs/CMs are allowed to enter the site.
- Site safety. One of the greatest threats to the safety of workers on your sites is other workers that might be conducting work that they are unqualified for. With an integrated access control system, entry points only permit access to workers that have up-to-date and valid certifications.
- Regulatory compliance. The added benefit to preventing unqualified workers from entering a project site is that GCs/CMs protect themselves from the threat of non-compliance related fines. In most states, workers that are unable to present certifications can cost the firm managing the project tens of thousands of dollars. Learn how one myComply customer eliminated accidents/incidents and non-compliance fines from there project, here.
“On this particular job, we have over 50 contractors, so on any given day we have 40-80 people on the site. Tracking every certification at orientation is easy… but tracking when they expire can be a very…daunting task, at times. With myComply, both systems are just automated. When someone’s certificate or license expires, they’re just not allowed onto the site.“
Construction site security is not something to be taken lightly. Construction is a notoriously low-margin industry and owners, GCs, and CMs cannot afford to risk any unavoidable losses from theft or damage.
If you’re looking to build an integrated security program on your project sites, then there are four site security methods that you should seriously consider:
- Video surveillance
- On-site security personnel
- Equipment registries
- Access control
By coupling some (or all) of these tactics, you can better monitor the workers conducting work on your project, flip the risk-reward equation back in your favor, and generate positive ROI.
myComply is the leading access control solution provider in North America. If you would like to explore the solution that is already empowering over 5,000 of the leading contractors in NA, like Monadnock, Bozzuto, Suffolk, and Skanska. Book a demo with a product expert today to find out more!