Removing the Threat Of Construction Site Theft

Construction site with blue gate and padlock

The labor cost that comes along with working on a construction site is enough before factoring in the possibility of theft. Industry experts estimate annual losses at roughly $400 million in the United States. Many of these stolen items fall under insurance deductibles, so the contractor bears the brunt of the loss.

Keep this checklist in mind to help prevent construction theft from happening to you.

  •  Establish a written job site security plan and assign supervisory security responsibilities.
  •  Encourage security awareness among all workers and require prompt reporting of incidents of theft and vandalism.
  •  Maintain an inventory control system for all equipment and tools. Keep careful ownership records by finding numbers on each machine, writing them down and identifying where the numbers are located. Take pictures of large ticket items. Keep this information readily accessible.
  •  Mark your equipment with an identification system, such as a driver's license number (state initials, number, followed by DL). This is the only traceable number in all 50 states. Put numbers in two spots: obvious and hidden. Weld company name on equipment.
  •  Disable heavy equipment before leaving job site. Obtain universal keys. Removing a battery or steering wheel may discourage a thief. Be sure to disable equipment with hidden switches.
  •  Install anti-theft devices on equipment, such as fuel cutoffs, hydraulic bypasses, track locks or alarms.
  •  Install GPS on larger pieces of equipment.
  •  Lock oil and gas tank caps where possible as a means of deterring vandalism.
  •  Try not to leave equipment in remote areas. Park equipment in well-lighted secure areas.
  •  Keep equipment and supplies locked in securable storage sheds.
  •  Keep expensive items off of a job site.
  •  Provide for nighttime lighting of the site.
  •  Install fences that limit all accessible entry points. The National Equipment Registry recommends adding a fence around the site and augmenting it with motion sensor lighting and an alarm system. Walk the perimeter on a regular basis to look for breaches where someone could enter the site. If a breach exists, repair it immediately.
  •  Provide parking areas outside of a site for employees and visitors.
  •  Post trespass warning signs. This could elevate the theft from a misdemeanor to a construction site felony crime. Other signs to post include: "Private Property," "Vehicles May Be Searched," the contractor's and builder's contact information and reward program signs.
  •  Use surveillance cameras. The idea of being caught on video may deter some criminals.
  •  Change padlocks on gates and around site several times during construction.
  The most commonly targeted items are:
  • Copper wire and scrap metal
  • Tools
  • Generators
  • Doors and windows
  • Plumbing supplies and fixtures
  • Loaders
  • Backhoes
  • Bobcats
  The most common reasons for theft are:
  • Older and existing equipment lack the 17-digit vehicle registration numbers.
  • Many sites are open.
  • Subcontractors and deliveries constantly flow in and out of sites.

  Did You Know?

Most construction site theft occurs during peak building seasons in July and August. Texas has the highest incident of heavy equipment theft, followed by North Carolina.


Source for construction site statistics: National Equipment Register 2016 Equipment Theft Report

For additional Loss Control guidance, please visit the Plan & Protect safety hub.

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