Plant, Machinery, Tools and Equipment Security

3 June 2019

Security of plant, equipment, machinery or tools on a building sites or a medium to large construction site is a concern. Loss of tools is inconvenient and whilst a good insurance policy will replace tools, the down time affects your ability to keep a project on target for completion. Regardless of the type of equipment that is stolen these are not faceless crimes.

In this article we discuss the problem of theft of machinery, plant, tools and equipment. What are the pitfalls, the consequences of such issues and discover ways to combat risk of theft. More importantly how to combat theft by taking a blended approach with practical solutions.

Read on to discover how you can avoid theft and limit risk of loss of earnings, or not hitting deadlines due to theft of tools or plant.

A faceless crime – or is it?

A good insurance policy with hired in plant coverage will alleviate some of the issue of downtime on larger plant and equipment. It is a common misconception that theft from building sites or construction workers vehicles is a faceless crime and the corporate insurance policy, hire company and other business entity will cover the costs. But there is always a face to this sort of theft. Especially if the tools or equipment that are stolen results in the ability of a tradesman to do their job. This is often people’s livelihoods which are never considered. Then there is the fact that every theft regardless of the complainant, has a cost. For example, if the plant is on hire and is stolen then a claim will need to be made against the hirers insurance and that could have repercussions for future hire of equipment.

This could be higher premiums, or in fact that part of a policy removed from cover by the insurance company. The other aspect is if you are not very good at looking after a hire companies’ plant or equipment whilst you have it on hire – you stand the risk of the hire company not wanting to do business with you. Also, you may find that if you have equipment on hire and it is stolen. You will still be liable for the hire charges for the period of hire. Good insurance policies factor this into account but you will be surprised what you are actually not covered for when you are hiring equipment on your policy.

Tools and Equipment Theft from Vehicles or site cabins

Tools being taken from a van or small plant taken from a site all result in damage to a person’s livelihood. The thing is there is a marketplace for stolen equipment. The black market, underground economy where people buy and sell goods because they do not have enough money to buy or hire an item at full price – is a key driver for such thefts. There will always be people looking to make the most of someone who is looking for a branded item at a cut down cost.

What drives people to steal tools, plant and equipment?

Humans are complex there is no mistaking it. What motivates one person may to do something may not motivate another. Yes we all want the standard things in life, shelter, food, warmth, the ability to have families and to live our lives in relative peace. In some regards we are so lucky in the UK to have access to services and despite some opinions we have a relatively stable economy. With all walks of life there are people who for one reason or another want to cut corners, not pay the same as others, or are forced to live their lives in certain ways. This is often compounded by changes in the economy or advances in criminal technique and understanding on how to make money from trading in stolen goods one way or another. Regardless of their modus operandi, there are ways to protect your investment. Be it a toolbox, plant which is on hire or other valuables on a building site. There are steps you can take to protect your equipment and stave off unwanted challenges to your schedule caused by stolen equipment. Is there ever an excuse for theft of tools, machinery, plant or equipment?

Check Your Equipment

Online marketplaces make it easy to fence stolen tools, spend a short amount of time on these sites and you will see listing after listing of what appear to be second-hand trade tools. Therefore, when considering a tool purchase part of your process should be to ask the question why are they selling?

As with any other process in your professional life, if something appears to good to be true, it often is. There is also another warning to be had about purchasing second-hand tools. Tracking technology is getting even more advanced and easier to conceal. There are complex and capable tracking solutions that are smaller than a drill battery and able to provide months of tracking. Making it easy to pinpoint where stolen tools and equipment are.

Tracking equipment is a great active way of tracking equipment. As battery technology has evolved, tracking systems have shrunk and can be concealed virtually undetectable on plant and machinery. Using combined communication solutions asset trackers are providing a necessary tool for asset recovery. Deployed with a blended deterrent asset trackers are at the bleeding edge of recovery – with companies such as AMI Group (https://amigroup.co.uk/) and Pinpointers (https://www.pinpointers.com/) are great starting places for your asset tracking needs.

Understanding where your equipment originates could save you a problem down the line. If you purchase equipment in good faith and it is proven to be stolen, then it can be seized and returned to the original owner or insurance company. Leaving you out of pocket and equipment to complete the job. The adage of buying cheap you buy twice is spot on here.

If you are buying second hand plant or machinery, get as much information about the history of the machine. There are databases online which enable you to check to see if plant or agricultural equipment is stolen.

  • Check out the owner
  • look for registration documents
  • can they provide you with service history
  • Why are they selling it
  • Does everything stack up?
  • What are the machine hours?
  • Does the machine look as if it fits the description?

Once you have your equipment in your inventory, make a note of everything to do with the equipment. Keep documentation safe, take photographs and store them so that the equipment can be identified later.

Register your equipment with a service such as The Equipment Register. Where you can register 5 items for free. This takes a few minutes and will prove vital to you should your equipment be stolen. You could find your equipment returned as soon as it is identified at an auction or if the machinery is subject to police involvement.

Secure Your Equipment, Machinery and Plant

To sum keeping your equipment safe and secure is a no-brainier. The standard advice of l not leaving equipment in vehicles is advisable as vans are targeted for their equipment and tools. Add to that parking the vehicle in a spot which is covered by CCTV and is overlooked all the time.

If we are talking about plant or machinery on site, then the use of Heras Fencing or other temporary security fencing items is not the most secure way of keeping kit safe. Unless it is used in conjunction with CCTV and the right lighting. Even then you are going to want to make sure you use the right concrete feet and chain the fences together. You must bear in mind that there is a recent spate of highly motivated criminals using plant to remove cash point machines from walls. These individuals are not going to be deterred by some temporary fencing.

  • Use of steel shutters and control inhibitors will delay access to parked plant
  • Combining physical security deterrents with immobilisation technology is going to be the best blended protection against theft of plant, machinery and equipment.
  • A virtual ring fence solution where the equipment is disabled when it breaches a prescribed area – this will require some remote asset management

For absolute peace of mind, locking equipment and small machinery up in well lit compounds (with Heras or similar security fencing), overlooked with monitored CCTV is the best way of reducing the risk of theft. We suggest long or short term hire of storage containers which can house small machinery, generators, tools etc and then can be secured in compounds. Rates for secure storage when hired from PAL Hire start at about £10 per week (subject to delivery and collection haulage) but this is a step in the right direction for a good level of security.

Educate your team

Making sure your team, builders, trades are aware of the risks of theft of plant, machinery, equipment and tools is a good start. This will help them to be more aware of risks and work towards a secure construction site.

What are figures for Plant, Machinery and Equipment Theft?

Taking all these steps with your equipment should reduce the chances of plant, machinery or equipment theft. Here are some figures about plant, machinery, equipment and tool theft in the UK

  • According to NAPIT Insurance a van is broken into every 23 minutes in the UK, in 2016 theft claims reached £2.8 Billion in claims. By 2017 there was a 30% increase in this number. (http://www.napitinsurance.co.uk/news/2019/02/the-rise-of-van-and-tool-theft/)
  • Every week there are £1m worth of plant, machinery and agricultural equipment stolen from all over the UK
  • It is estimated that only about 5-10% of stolen plant is recovered

Useful Resources:

https://www.equipmentregister.co.uk

https://www.ter-europe.org/

https://www.cesarscheme.org/