By Jim Kollaer – www.constructioncitizen.com
My first construction boss told me everything he thought I needed to know about jobsite security. He said, “If it is not nailed down, someone will steal it.”
That advice holds true today, but probably needs to be amended to say, “If it is not nailed down, kept stored in a locked, secure container or tool box, behind a chained and locked perimeter fence with 24-hour 360-degree video on a jobsite with one entry gate, a 24-hour armed security guard and dogs, it will be driven off, carried off or destroyed.”
In many cases, quoting one subcontractor, “Some construction jobsites are secure, but many are still like the “Wild, Wild West” where it is “may the lowest bid win” and “winner take all.” “Take all” means that they might take tools, equipment and building materials if you don’t have a jobsite security plan that prevents it. The construction industry rebound may also require you to pay closer attention to the security and safety of your jobsite. Last year, according to industry sources, the construction industry lost over a billion dollars in materials and equipment theft. You do not want your company and your jobsite to become a target and a statistic.
We still find jobsites -- especially residential, multifamily and small commercial projects -- where prime contractors hire subcontractors who hire other subcontractors or “sub subs” who hire “independent contractors” from a labor broker or service or even day workers. Those workers may or may not be certified, qualified, or identified to do your work. When they show up on your jobsite, you want to have the means and methods to prevent them from causing damage to the project, or injury to other workers on the site, and your jobsite security plan can make the difference. (Click here to read more on id-payroll fraud) http://www.constructioncitizen.com/blog/let-me-see-your-id-payroll-fraud/1008062
As a General Contractor, there are three areas of jobsite security that you need to cover, as a minimum, just to protect the job, your workforce, the owner’s interests, and to ensure that you can complete the build with a minimum of issues and incidents. Those three key jobsite security items can be remembered by the word ACT.
ACT stands for Access, Control and Technology and are the mainstays of jobsite security today. If you pay attention to them, you will fare well during this next “up” cycle.
Access for the workers, equipment and materials you need to build the project is key to the security of your jobsite, and is the first step in your plan.
Workers –It is mandatory that you know each worker on your jobsite at all times - whether they’re on your crew or working for one of your subs. It is critically important that you not let unsafe, drug- or alcohol-impaired or unqualified workers enter your site. It should go without saying that you do not let thieves on your site for any reason. Theft rings are becoming more brazen and sophisticated as the economy recovers. We have actually seen instances where gangs of thieves dressed in uniforms come on a jobsite, claim to be from the government, steal ID information, equipment and materials, and then leave without ever being confronted. (Click here to read more about these events.) http://www.constructioncitizen.com/blog/kollaer/jobsite-security/1008101
The only way to prevent this kind of theft is to identify anyone and everyone who comes into the jobsite with a positive ID from a recognized company combined with either a driver’s license, a personal ID or bio identifier like palm print or iris identification. In order to do that effectively, each worker must go through a single controlled access gate where a designated person or team is charged with keeping rosters, monitoring who comes on-site, knowing which deliveries are scheduled each day, and keeping informed about possible safety and security issues that could impact the jobsite.
Equipment and Materials
Construction equipment is becoming more sophisticated and more expensive, whether surveying stations (a favorite of snatch and grab thieves), forklifts and front end loaders (a hot “aftermarket” item for jobsite thieves), or the lasers and cranes that are being used on your builds. Thieves are aggressive and are targeting, with some success, those costly items as well as the commodity materials used in construction today. An example is a multifamily jobsite where the thieves stripped copper tubing out of the cooling system to sell as scrap. (Click here to learn more about this incident.) http://www.scraptheftalert.com/allTheftReports.aspx
Some cities and police departments require that all equipment be bar coded and identified in an inventory, be stored off site, or, if stored on-site, be incapacitated during the hours when they are not in use. The same goes for equipment used by the crafts. With tracking and location finding systems, “find my phone” is fast becoming, “find my front end loader, and nail gun or laser.”
Supplies, materials and the trucks that deliver them to your site should be scheduled, and logged in and out so that they can be monitored while they are stocking your site. That monitoring goes for the drivers, the helpers and workers responsible for unloading the trucks on site as well. Those people talk to their friends and family about what is going on in your site and can be a source of problems if they are allowed to roam freely on your site. Sheathing, wallboard, studs, and other bulk materials should be marked and identified so that they can be found should they be stolen from your site. Irvine, California and other cities now require identification as part of their security planning to reduce materials theft on construction jobsites in the city. Limiting the access points into the site is a first critical point in your ACT jobsite security plan.
Control is the second leg of your ACT jobsite security plan and it begins with the site design and security plan that you develop and implement. Integral to that plan is the security fencing that surrounds your entire jobsite as part of your ACT plan. It should be a minimum of six, but more likely eight feet tall, be covered in a material that limits easy viewing at ground level of your jobsite. It is important, as we have stated, that the perimeter have limited and planned access points. Some cities require that the fence be covered as long as you are storing materials and equipment on the site, or until the structure is secured under lock and key. These cities even specify in their permitting codes the screening materials they require you to attach to your security fence.
Control focuses on the access points - especially on the worker ID process, the drug and alcohol testing, the OSHA required safety courses, and certifications that you or your vendors provide to your workforce. Cities are requiring you, as part of your security plan, to inform and meet with the local police, fire and health agencies to exchange information, and review your site security plan to avoid or respond to any problems that might arise during the build.
Jobsite control extends to the way that you monitor the site during the off hours - whether through the use of cameras, guards, private security or even an agreement with the local police to drive by the jobsite more frequently while it is under construction.
Security control includes random inspections and testing by third parties to ensure that there has been no “ID substitution”, that each individual worker is who he says he is, that workers have the skills and certifications that they claim to have, and that their safety courses are up to date. Some owners require the minimum 5-hour OSHA safety course, while others require a minimum of passage of the 10-hour course before the worker will be allowed to enter the site or work on the project. That requirement extends to all subs as well as the general contractor’s workforce.
Technology is the third leg of your ACT jobsite security plan. Wireless cameras are being used more frequently to monitor jobsites on a 24-hour basis. A number of cities and many insurance underwriters now require that the recordings from those cameras be stored off site and be kept for inspection for a minimum of 60 days in case of an accident, vandalism, lawsuit or theft on the jobsite. Those camera locations should be coordinated with the local authorities and with the neighbors who also might have camera locations that can help you monitor activity on-site. Some cameras are motion triggered, as are floodlights that you might use to act as deterrence to thieves, vandals or anyone who might try to enter the site after hours without permission.
The ID technology being used in jobsite security includes the increasing use of wireless and RFID chips. Those technologies should be considered in your ACT plan. Levels of identification and certification of the workers on your site can include: company photo ID cards, some with embedded RFID chips, hard hats with embedded RFIDs, driver’s license, bio sensors - including palm print ID, fingerprint ID, and iris scanners.
Increasing levels of security include combinations of those technologies and are being used on construction sites more frequently than ever. The monitoring of those IDs for ID substitution (where a person with a similar face and name gains a certification and then substitutes another picture so that the unqualified worker can gain access to your jobsite), is critical to the safety for the other workers on your site. You can hire specialists to do that work on staff or you can hire private third party firms such as FCBackground in Texas to come on-site to do that work for you.
The EPA, OSHA and other state and local agencies require monitors and testing of all types to be used to control and test for toxins and other chemicals that might cause problems for the workers on your jobsite. Increasingly, those monitors are wireless and are linked into a network that monitors the overall health of your jobsite and a sometimes tied into the BIM for your job as a way to fully monitor the site. These technologies should be included in the technology portion of your ACT jobsite security plan. While your projects may not be of a size that justifies all of those measures, you should be aware of what is required and what is available so that you can keep your jobsite and your workforce secure.
Equipment control is becoming more sophisticated. Bar coding, wireless location technology and mobile tool cribs have been in use for over a decade. According to a recent article on tool tracking in ENR magazine, the current state of the art looks like this: "Last year, we introduced PROTOid, a line of sockets and wrenches with embedded RFID tags in the tool itself," says Susan Hebrank, marketing services coordinator for CribMaster, which offers fully automated, mobile tool cribs. Stanley Black & Decker, which owns CribMaster, acquired Aeroscout, a maker of real-time locating systems, in 2012. The firm is looking to bring its active wireless location technology to tools, says Hebrank. “Wireless linking of the people, equipment and tools on your jobsite is a reality today and is available from a variety of vendors should you need it.”
Jobsite security is serious business for all of us in construction. Done well, it can save money, reduce risk and support the health of our businesses. Done poorly, it can cost everything you have worked to create. Never has jobsite security been more top of mind than today - when markets are recovering, skilled worker shortages are emerging, workers are desperate for jobs and construction schedules are once again pressuring our subs and their workforce. No matter where your project is located, what size it is, whether it is a “ground up” or a remodel, you need to be aware of and ACT on your jobsite security needs and requirements in order to ensure that your jobsite is safe and secure throughout the entire construction period. In the words of my first construction boss, “Nail it down, lock it up and ACT now.”
Jim Kollaer is Managing Director of Kollaer Advisors, LLC, in Houston, Texas, and writes about the construction industry from his background as an architect, real estate broker, strategic consultant and executive coach. You can read his blog at http://www.constructioncitizen.com. You can contact him at mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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