29th April 2020
Plant and tool thefts increase during lockdown

Construction firms have quite enough to be dealing with at the moment. Site closures, redundancies, furlough and legal challenges resulting from delays to contracted works are just some of the issues construction businesses have been facing over the past few weeks. But, with more and more sites standing empty as firms bow to the pressure to down tools until the crisis has passed, they are also falling prey to opportunistic thieves.

New figures make for grim reading

According to the Construction Equipment Association (CEA), which owns the plant marking and registration initiative CESAR, construction sites fell victim to a massive 50% increase in plant and tool thefts in the first two weeks of lockdown. The organisation warned that widespread site closures were enabling criminals to take advantage of the situation, calling on the police “to be as vigilant as ever” and to investigate “any unusual activity on or near construction sites which have been closed”.

“Abrupt abandonment” of sites

The main issue here is the suddenness of site closures, which have often occurred on the spur of the moment and with little warning. Nick Mayell, Datatag’s CESAR Police Training and Liaison Officer, explains: “The abrupt abandonment of work-sites has left machinery unsecured and vulnerable. Whereas a company would normally ‘wind-down’ for seasonal closures by ‘off-hiring’ kit and moving their own machines, sites have closed overnight – in the blink of an eye – and the thieves are having a field day.”

Preventing theft in challenging times

Industry experts have released advice for firms facing site closures in these challenging conditions. Firms should, where possible, remove plant and tools off site to a head office or other concrete or brick building, as opposed to leaving them in plant containers. Where this is not possible, plant containers should be walled off with concrete blocks or large vehicles to block the doors and bar access. It goes without saying that no vehicle keys should be left on site.

Other measures that may be successful in deterring thieves include installing active CCTV or body heat cameras, or fitting equipment with immobilisers and/or tracking devices.

The importance of site security

Construction firms struggling financially as a result of the coronavirus pandemic can little afford to lose vital tools and equipment on top of the other challenges they face. Plant theft was on the rise even before COVID-19 took hold; research from Simply Business revealed that the number of incidents surged by 54% between 2016 and 2018. The crisis should therefore hopefully serve as a much-needed reminder to site operators of the need for robust security measures at all times.

No matter what measures firms take, it is impossible to prevent all instances of plant theft – and that’s where insurance comes in. For example, policies such as our Contractors All Risks facility provide cover for contractors’ own plant as well as hired-in plant if required. Just contact us on 0345 345 0777 or email for more information.