Job-Site Theft Is a Massive Risk. Here’s How to Prevent It

red hard hat on pavement

Theft on a construction job site is a massive risk, with potential damages that scale with the value of the items stolen. Without a proactive theft reduction and security strategy in place, your business could seriously suffer.

The good news? Job-site theft is relatively easy to prevent in most cases – and it’s remarkably cost-effective when executed properly.

The Many Sources of Theft

When putting together a plan to prevent job-site theft, it’s important to recognize that there are many different potential sources of theft. There are certainly plenty of professional criminals out there who intentionally and methodically scout locations for potential goods to steal; these people are legitimate threats to your construction job site, as they might have a lucrative opportunity to get their hands on appliances, tools, or other big-ticket items.

However, you also need to be aware of opportunists; these are people who ordinarily do not steal but may be motivated to steal under the right conditions. If the construction site is easy to access, and if expensive goods are left in plain view, it might motivate people to do something they otherwise wouldn’t.

It’s also important to recognize that internal thefts are also not only possible but frighteningly common. You likely trust most, if not all, of the people who work for you, but you can never rule out the possibility that one of your employees will steal from the business or its clients.

How to Prevent Job-Site Theft

These are some of the most important strategies for preventing and mitigating job-site theft:

  • Practice timely delivery. Be mindful of when and how you deliver items to the job site. For example, it’s unwise to plan a delivery on a Friday afternoon when you may not have time to fully unload it; if a massive pile of assets is left unguarded over the weekend, it might be gone by the time you get back to the site on Monday.
  • Lock and effectively position your trailers. Always keep trailers locked and position them strategically. For example, butting the end of the trailer against a solid wall greatly reduces the possibility of a person accessing the goods inside.
  • Take tools home with you. One best practice for reducing theft on the job site is to take all your tools home with you. Even simple tools can be somewhat expensive and can therefore be an attractive item to potential thieves. If you prevent these tools from being at the job site in any capacity, you won’t have to worry about them being stolen.
  • Label/mark your tools. Additionally, it’s a good idea to label or mark your tools. This isn’t going to deter every thief, but it is going to deter at least some thieves and make recovery much easier in the event that they are stolen.
  • Fully immobilize equipment. Don’t assume that people are going to avoid operating equipment just because they don’t have the knowledge or experience to do it. It’s your responsibility to fully immobilize all equipment on the job-site so it can’t be used by potential thieves or vandals.
  • Conduct background checks on employees. Employee background checks are vital for ensuring that your organization functions smoothly, and they give you an opportunity to weed out problematic individuals before they ever set foot on a job site. That’s not to say that someone with a criminal background can’t turn their life around – as they certainly can – but we also need to be realistic and understand that someone with an extensive track record of committing theft is more likely to commit theft than someone with no criminal history whatsoever. The bottom line is that you need to be cautious and thoughtful about who you hire.
  • Document people going in and coming out of the job site. It’s a best practice to document people going in and coming out of the job site. This includes not only employees and contractors but also visitors. It’s a bit of an annoying step at times, but this log is going to serve as valuable evidence if anything turns up missing.
  • Install surveillance cameras. Similarly, it’s a good investment to install surveillance cameras, even if you don’t have them monitored 24/7. If you know that theft on the job site occurs at a specific time, you can consult the video feeds and, hopefully, track down the person responsible.
  • Request patrols (where applicable). Build a good relationship with local law enforcement officers. Sometimes, if you ask, they’ll be willing to conduct a regular patrol in and around your construction site. It’s a fantastic, free, and relatively easy way to deter potential thieves.
  • Be wise when setting out the trash. Leaving empty boxes on the curb could attract thieves to the area. For example, if you unbox a new refrigerator, install it, and then leave the box on the curb, someone driving by could get the idea to break into the site and steal that refrigerator while it’s not being monitored.

It’s almost impossible to reduce the risk of theft to zero on a construction job site. If someone is sufficiently motivated, they can likely find a way to penetrate your defenses and steal the items they desire. However, you can dramatically reduce the incidence of theft just by making it more difficult, as most people open to stealing are simply looking for an easy, convenient score. Collectively, these strategies should significantly reduce risk.