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Building Site Crime Prevention - Image

Building Site Crime Prevention

Recent media coverage of theft from buildings and building sites highlights the importance of recommending a range of reliable security measures to our clients. An insurance claim was rejected after a July 2020 theft of lead roofing from a National Trust property (not a Murray Birrell project), and an alternative replacement material had to be used, despite Listed Building regulations.

This article isn’t just the obvious list of “take ladders down at the end of the day” and “lock tools away.” We’ve looked at the roles new technology can play, both on and off-site.


More than half of builders in the UK have been victims of tool theft, according to research by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB). If anything is too big to lock away out of sight, marking items with indelible ink or an identification mark can help in their recovery, especially if the equipment is listed on a police-approved national tool register. Cloud-based software can help track items that have been fitted with a tracking device.

Locking tools in a van, whether on or off-site, is often not much of a deterrent. On average, tools are stolen from a tradesperson’s vehicle every 20 minutes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, according to research from insurance company Direct Line.

There is also a constant threat of theft while a site is open and work is in progress. Always have a secure and well illuminated perimeter. Visible intruder alarms, high-quality locks and controlled entry points are great deterrents. In June last year, Essex police were searching for a man who had walked on to a highways construction site one lunchtime and made off with £10,000 of surveying equipment.

Depending on a risk assessment that takes account of factors such as the value of equipment and materials that will be left on site, and the relative remoteness of the location, current technology makes it affordable and easy to upgrade security measures. Wireless and battery powered alarm systems can include cameras and motion sensors installed on scaffolding, linked to lights and speakers to give warnings to intruders they have been spotted. A link to a central control can deliver video footage of an incident and trigger sending a security responder, or the police, to the site.

Such measures will also deter children who might otherwise decide they would like a building site to be their new adventure playground.

Off site – social media and remote working

Social media is increasingly used in the construction and property development sectors, though users need to be aware of unwittingly disclosing sensitive information. Here is some advice from the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB). Do not send information via social media that allows current projects to be identified, and avoid giving details of systems that you work with, especially relating to safety and/or security. Also, be wary of posting site photographs if you haven’t turned off geotagging on your device

More people working from home more often has increased risks associated with company systems being accessed from domestic hardware and through residential connections. This can leave unencrypted data then being stored on equipment. Some of the free consumer VPN protection software that is available to prevent this actually reads data stored on computers.

We know passwords should be protected and systems should be kept up to date, though we are certainly nothing like experts in this area. It has never been obvious where a small business could go for advice and practical help with cyber security, though the Home Office is currently working with a not-for-profit organisation to establish a national support programme. 

BRIM is setting up a network of Cyber Resilience Centres across the country. Each CRC will operate on a collaborative membership basis; members who need cyber security services can receive them from other members who are on a vetted list of trusted partners, with the simplest work performed to fixed rates and standards. Basic membership is free, and includes entry-level help for non-tech business owners to understand sector jargon in the first place, and to evaluate the solutions that are being recommended to them.

These days, it’s a lot more than just “Walls have ears.” Please contact us if you have any site or property security issues you want to discuss.

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