It has been said that every construction site is a crime scene waiting to happen. Not only are these properties relatively empty after working hours, but those left unoccupied for extended periods owing to work stoppages are even more vulnerable to criminal activities. Valuable tools and equipment left unattended are often too much of a temptation for thieves and vandals to resist.
Then there is the ever-present threat of the construction mafia; armed gangs that invade construction sites, harassing workers and threatening violence unless their employment demands are met.
Site security is an ongoing challenge, says Databuild CEO, Morag Evans. “With criminals using increasingly creative ways to access a site and remove and/or destroy construction material, appliances, tools and equipment, criminal activities are costing the construction industry around R1 billion each year, with only 6% of stolen equipment recovered.
“Besides the expense incurred to replace any stolen or vandalised items, the loss can cause further delays to the project which ultimately, are costlier than the value of the stolen or damaged goods.”
While most site managers understand the importance of having deterrents in place, the days of flimsy fencing secured by a chain and padlock are long gone, Evans continues. Instead, construction site managers should look to digital technology as a more effective means of improving on-site security.
Livestreaming work being done on a construction project has proven to be an effective deterrent against theft and other illegal activities. Surveillance cameras enable site managers to not only monitor activities from as many vantage points as they choose, but also around the clock, thanks to cloud-based technology. Surveillance cameras have also become more durable over the years and nowadays can produce high-definition recordings, with some even including remote zoom, pan and tilt controls to further maximise visibility.
Drones are rapidly becoming integral to improving security on job sites. They provide construction teams with an overhead view of equipment, materials and people and thus can be used to spot intruders from a safe distance. Night-vision cameras and thermal sensors enable them to provide imagery that the human eye is unable to detect. Many drones can be operated with a mobile device, which enables site managers to closely survey the entire job site from the comfort of their home or office.
This may sound futuristic, but robot guards are already being deployed on construction sites around Europe and the United States, patrolling and monitoring site entrances and exits 24/7. Always on duty and always alert, these robots move quickly and efficiently to chase down any unwanted intruder and even capture their identity.
Global positioning system technology uses monitoring sensors to track the movement and positioning of materials and equipment on the construction site. The system can be set up so that any sudden changes trigger an immediate alert which is sent to the relevant site manager, contractor or security personnel.
The consequences of ineffective security should never be underestimated, Evans concludes. “The negative impacts of a poorly secured construction site are about more than financial margins and the project outcome; poor security protocols place valuable lives at risk and these can never be replaced.”
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