The foremost duty of any business owner is to ensure the safety of the employees under their care. This might mean ensuring that an environment is free from hazards and that reasonable steps have been taken to prevent hazards from developing. But it also means securing the site against criminals who might wish to do it harm, and it is here that a sound security strategy can be most helpful.
Fortunately, crime of the sort under discussion here has been falling since the nineties. There have been many theories put forward to explain this trend and undoubtedly many factors have played a part. But two of them stand out: improvements in practices and procedures and improvements in technology. In this article, we’ll take a look at both of them: we’ll examine how both can play a role in safeguarding a business from criminals – be they thieves, vandals or arsonists.
Safeguarding a business against theft
One of the most common motivations a person might have in targeting your business is simple predation. A thief, simply defined, is someone who wants something you have and is willing to take it from you without your consent. Clearly, such people must be thwarted.
Construction sites are particularly vulnerable to thieves, as by necessity they are more exposed than completed buildings. Moreover, they often have highly-portable, high-value goods lying around – all of which might make tempting targets for would-be thieves.
The situation is complicated still further by the fact that many construction projects must hire outside specialists – since construction inevitably involves many short, highly-specialised tasks. This means that there are invariably unfamiliar faces on site a lot and unauthorised entrants might not be recognised. A thief might simply wander onto an unsecure site wearing a hard-hat and hi-vis jacket, pick up a collection of power tools and wander back off. This loss might not be noted until days later without good safeguarding methods.
In order to safeguard against this, it’s important to put procedures into place. Visitors should be made to sign in and issued badges so that they can be easily recognised. Help can also come in the form of technologies like electronic keys, which track who has accessed a given area at a given time. This helps to identify the likely culprit of a theft after the fact.
Safeguarding a business against arson
Among the most severe threats posed to any business is that posed by fire. The consequences of fire can be disastrous. It can utterly destroy goods and property and cause horrendous death and injury. Since one of the main duties of any employer is to provide safety for their employees, it follows that fire prevention should be foremost on any list of concerns.
So how should one effectively guard against fire? The first step is to conduct regular fire risk assessments. This activity consists of going around your site, identifying possible places in which a fire might start and taking steps to prevent it from doing so.
A fire risk assessment should identify these two things so that they might be separated. This will help to minimize the likelihood of a fire occurring. A risk assessment should also account for what might happen if a fire should break out – who might be affected and what means do they have of protecting themselves? This might mean installing fire-detection systems and ensuring that staff have the knowledge and training required to act appropriately in the event of a fire.
Like any other problem, the first step is to identify the probable causes. Before proceeding, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the basic science behind fire. Fires need three ingredients in order to start. One of these is oxygen, which we’ll assume as given for the purposes of simplicity. Another is fuel and the third is ignition.
Depending on the nature of the business, a workplace might be filled with potential sources of ignition. Welding and grinding equipment can give off sparks, but more widely-used equipment like lights and heaters might also become potential sources of ignition. The government’s advice on fire safety can be read here.
Arson is deserving of special mention since its causes are wildly different to those of an accidental fire and so it must be guarded against in a different way. Whilst accidental fire can be guarded against by keeping sources of fuel and ignition separated from one another, this is not an effective strategy in guarding against an arson attack. An arsonist will look to cause the maximum possible amount of damage. They may do this by introducing their own sources of fuel and ignition and by starting fires in more than one place simultaneously.
Suffice to say, arson attacks can bring about terrible consequences for the business, so guarding against them is hugely important. As part of the fire risk assessment you undertake, you should devote special consideration to the ways in which an arsonist might start a fire and what might happen if they should succeed. This will allow you to take steps to reduce the risk to your property.
It’s also worth researching the local area, to see whether arson – and indeed vandalism in general – are problems. If your findings should indicate that arson is a particular risk, then you should focus your security measures on combatting it. These efforts should be especially concerned with night-time – when the vast majority of arson attacks occur. Take into account vulnerable areas, such as those that your CCTV cannot see and see if these blind spots can be addressed. If they cannot, then move valuable materials into view of your security systems.
A common target for the arsonist is a skip, which is often filled with flammable waste material. An arsonist’s job is therefore a relatively simple one; they need only douse the bin’s contents in an accelerant, such as petrol and they will have created a perfectly mobile flame-carrying device. In order to guard against this, it’s advisable to secure skips to the ground, to lock their lids shut, check that those locks cannot be easily broken apart too. Ideally, skips should also be stored far away from any buildings. Emptying a skip regularly will ensure that its contents cannot be used as a source of fuel.
What can I do?
The potential losses inflicted by an attack can be minimized through crafty logistics. This means storing the smallest possible amount of high-value goods on site. A good policy is often to see that materials arrive on site only moments before they are due to be used. A large stockpile will represent a tempting target for a thief, vandal or arsonist.
Similarly, any outbuildings where high-value goods are stored make excellent targets. They are often less secure than main buildings and contain materials which can be used to commit further crime: ladders and tools might help a thief to gain access to a main building, while petrol might help an arsonist to start a fire. For this reason, it’s important to devote special consideration to securing outbuildings.
Thieves can find other targets spread throughout the site in the form of exposed cabling and metal. These are more difficult to secure, as, by their nature, they are spread over a large area. Smartwater-equipped cables are now available, which will spray would-be thieves, allowing for prosecution after the fact. Thieves targeting metals installed into roofs can be deterred using barbed wire and anti-climb spikes and paint; each offers a suitable impediment against would-be thieves. Note that, in either instance, the deterrent is more effective when it is advertised. This means putting up signs informing potential attackers of it.
Install External lighting
Darkness is a criminal’s best friend, for the rather obvious reason that it allows them to avoid detection. For this reason, a darkly-lit site will represent a more attractive target than a well-lit one.
Simply installing some external lighting can therefore be an effective means of deterring would-be attackers. External lighting can be made to come on at a certain time of day, or it can be triggered by motion in order to reveal intruders.
This lighting should be installed as high up as possible, in order that it cover the widest possible area and that it be guarded against damage. After all, an external light which can be easily yanked from the wall will be less effective than a more robust one. Similarly, armoured cable can be used in order to make the lighting all the more robust.
CCTV is perhaps one of the most obvious security measure. It comes in the form of a camera which can be used to observe and anticipate attacks as they unfold and to retrospectively examine incidents in order to establish exactly what has happened.
CCTV can offer a deterrent against attack and evidence for later prosecutions. Depending on the purpose, a camera can either be concealed or highly visible. While hidden cameras are unlikely to offer much of a deterrent, they are likely to avoid vandalism. However in today’s world there are technological advances that have provided us with ‘vandal resistant cctv’ which means they can be utilised as a visual deterrent as well as providing us with that important evidence if an attack does occur.