While on vacation, my husband and I woke to the sound of the phone ringing. Our employees called to inform us that our tool trailer and tools had been stolen. We normally do not leave them at the job site, but wanted our employees to be able to work while we were gone.
Unfortunately, this is not an unusual occurrence in the construction industry. In fact, according to The National Insurance Crime Bureau (a non-profit organization that helps investigate and prosecute insurance criminals), it is estimated that theft costs the construction industry $300 million to $1 Billion, each year. This does not include the additional expenses incurred by material theft, business interruption, and production delays.
How to Protect Residential Construction Sites from Theft
While equipment theft is an ongoing problem, contractors should have a heightened awareness on prevention during week nights, weekends, holidays, summer months, immediately following a catastrophic event and during economic downturns.
It is recommended that equipment should not be left at the construction site. However, sometimes this is not a practical solution and practicing loss prevention becomes crucial.
Currently, smaller residential general contractors are working in the midst of a tight economy, with low profit margins, and cannot afford expensive preventative measures. Some less expensive alternatives can be very effective, and may include the following:
Secure the Construction site, Machinery and Tools:
1.) Install lighting. Thieves are less likely to trespass on a well-lit jobsite.
2.) Maintain a clean jobsite, with materials and tools stored out of sight.
3.) Secure tools in a locked trailer or a steel storage container. Utilize a “bolt-cutter proof” lock on the doors.
4.) Re-key your large equipment so it is not commonly keyed.
5.) Utilize hub and/or hitch locks to prevent the trailer from a quick “hitch and go” theft.
6.) When possible, abut large machinery to the trailer and materials, making it difficult to remove them without also having to move the large machinery. Park your equipment in such a way that it is obvious if it is taken, such as camp-wagon style.
7.) Post surveillance and no trespassing signs. Even if surveillance is not installed, the signs may discourage a thief and cause him to move on to an easier target.
8.) Practice “just in time” delivery. Have materials delivered when they are actually needed. Many contractors will not accept any deliveries on Friday, due to increased theft potential over the weekend.
9.) Run background checks on employees and utilize loyal, long-term sub-contractors to minimize internal theft.
10.) Maintain a presence on the job site and send the message that theft is not acceptable.
11.) Install theft deterrents, such as alarms and surveillance, fuel cut-offs, hydraulic by-passes, track locks, engine cover locks and GPS systems (for post-theft tracking of larger machinery.)
Prepare for potential claims:
12.) Keep inventory up to date. If possible, scan copies of equipment receipts. This will help mitigate the process should a claim occur.
13.) Mark or engrave tools and inventory.
14.) Record the serial number on your equipment in an obvious and a hidden place.
15.) Take photographs of equipment and trailers. If possible, snap a picture of the serial number on larger machinery.
Fortunately, even though the value and mobility of equipment makes it a target for theft, good prevention techniques can be highly effective. Westfield Insurance Company offers equipment coverage to protect our contractors in the event of theft. Talk to your Westfield independent agent and tailor the proper coverage of your policy to fit your specific insurance needs.
What loss prevention techniques have worked best for your construction site? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.