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Security on construction sites

Protecting construction sites from arson, theft, and ensuring the safety of workers and members of the public should be a priority among duty holders.

The risk of having poor security measures on construction sites can result in serious injury or even, fatalities to workers or visitors.

But there are also other considerations. Serious fires can ravage buildings, injuries can bring litigation cases and theft of expensive equipment can prove a costly headache for firms. Making sure the construction site has the right insurance is essential.

This feature considers three distinct health and safety responsibilities – protecting workers and visitors, preventing arson and damage, and preventing the theft of equipment and tools – in order for sites to minimise the risk.

The UK construction industry is one of the most dangerous of all sectors. The latest figures from the Health and Safety Executive show that 50 workers were killed in the year April 2010 to March 2011, up from 41 fatalities in the previous year.

The best way to manage construction site security is to implement an overarching health and safety strategy, undertake risk assessments, and review the processes regularly.

Let us work through some core topics.


According to RISC Authority, more than 40 per cent of all fires in industry and commerce are now lit deliberately.

Figures also show there are around eleven construction site fires every day in the UK, costing the construction sector an estimated £400 million a year.

But arson does not just result in property loss: some 90 people die and more than 2,000 are injured each year in deliberately-started fires.

Therefore it is clear that a formal arson prevention strategy is vital if construction sites are to protect life, property and equipment.

A key step is to give a designated person responsibility for fire risk management to conduct assessments, ensure workers are properly trained, and keep the strategy running smoothly, conducting regular reviews as it progresses.

In terms of physical security, sites need to look first and foremost at their first line of defence: the site's perimeter. By installing robust security fencing sites will be sending out a clear message to arsonists and intruders. Manned guarding can also be an effective tool.

Fencing should be high – at least 2.4m, according to RISC – and should be strong enough to deter entry. Moreover, perimeter security should feature welded mesh or palisade fencing so that intruders can be visible – arsonists do not like to be seen.

Other measures – like CCTV and good lighting – should also be considered.

Children and members of the public

It is crucial that children do not get onto construction sites. Many children regard sites as something of a play area without realising the very serious dangers they present.

Manned guards can help stop children gaining access to sites out of hours. Static guards can be present on sites at all times, and in some cases may be more effective than routine patrols.

Sites could also consider developing a social responsibility strategy, perhaps visiting local schools to educate children as to the dangers of accessing construction sites.

For members of the public, sites should implement risk assessments for any day-to-day operations that might put people at risk, for example, when heavy vehicles are entering or leaving the site.


The theft of equipment and materials is costly and can disrupt or even halt business operations.

To stop thieves gaining access to sites and stealing vital tools, a range of measures can be employed. Keyholder systems, burglar alarms and physical guarding can all prove effective.

Conduct an appraisal or inventory in order to identify a site's key pieces of equipment. Identify what might be prey for burglars and implement strategies to keep these high-risk pieces of kit safe from harm.

Consider storing important tools in hard to reach areas, such as away from the perimeter fence, to make theft more difficult and use an internal security system.

Chains and wheel clamps can keep tools protected, as well as electronic systems, like immobilisers.

And in the event of theft, a working CCTV system could prove pivotal in catching offenders. What's more, tracking devices and security marking mean even if equipment is stolen it can be retrieved.

Risk assessments, regular reviews and a formal strategy for safety, arson and theft will help reduce the risk to life and prevent financial loss.ADNFCR-3408-ID-800620393-ADNFCR