As we begin to draw close to the end of a rollercoaster of a year, construction companies are only a few weeks away from the annual Christmas shutdown that typically lasts a couple of weeks. This time of year should be a relaxing one, and give our construction workers a well-earned break. However, leaving a construction site unattended and unprotected can introduce unwanted anxiety over the Christmas period – and for good reason.
Opportunist thieves have often seen the planned period of inactivity as prime time to cause disruption. Unfortunately, ’tis the season for attempted break-ins that can be very costly to site managers and developers if security precautions aren’t taken.
The Christmas break for construction companies ordinarily begins as early as the 23th of December and last through to the first week of January. It is typically the longest time a site will be closed during the year – although this year was clearly an exception!
So what should construction site managers do to make the Christmas shutdown a period of peace rather than panic?
Construction Site closedown procedure – the key to a stress-free Christmas
The first step towards an uneventful Christmas break is to produce a closedown procedure that covers everything from implementing security measures to assessing health and safety issues. It may seem as though a number of these checkpoints are just common sense, but they’re so easy to forget, especially if it’s unclear whose responsibility it is to ensure the closedown procedure is carried out correctly. It’s important to communicate exactly who is responsible for each element of the closedown procedure to spare any blushes should a breach occur.
Every site is vulnerable in a different way, as some sites may be roadside; some in residential areas or deep in the countryside. It’s important that your closedown procedure is tailored specifically to the risks the site is exposed to.
Here are common security issues to be addressed during the Christmas shutdown:
- Implement basic site security
Leave access points to your site as secure as possible with locks, concrete barriers, window and door screens and access control systems implemented if necessary. Your site needs to be an impenetrable fortress to warn off interested parties and minimise break-in damage, attempted or otherwise. Of course, you can never prevent break-ins completely, but you can make it significantly more difficult for a successful break-in to occur, and dissuade potential offenders before they make an attempt.
- Install temporary security measures
Site managers often think of site security features such as CCTV as a fixed long term solution. However, there are a number of temporary security solutions to cover short to medium term closures. These include solar-powered CCTV, video verified alarms and vacant property alarms that can be erected or installed quickly, and connected directly to a 24/7 monitoring station (ARC) via the mobile network. Having constant eyes on your vacant building site will not only deter break-ins, but will also give you peace of mind that you know the site is as secure as possible.
- Remove or lock away valuable assets
It can be difficult, and perhaps impractical, to remove everything of value from a site. However, mobile equipment, such as expensive power tools, should be secured in an alarmed and monitored location or stored away out of sight – under lock and key.
- Anticipate rain – or even a white Christmas
Contrary to the popular song, a white Christmas is not something site owners dream of as it can cause complications should your site be unprotected. Plan for adverse weather conditions such as high winds, rainfall and snow by making sure stacked or loose items and hoardings are secure; the ground is gritted; equipment is protected from water, and plant machinery is sheltered if it has to remain on site.
- Allocate an ‘on-call’ point of contact
Despite your best planning, you may still experience security issues and if something unexpected should happen, so there is a need for an allocated point of contact to deal with the issue. Alternatively, you can delegate the responsibility to a security company who will monitor any CCTV or alarm systems you may have, and respond appropriately should there be any security breach.
- Protect machinery
As previously mentioned, plant machinery may be fixed in position or be impractical to move. However, this won’t deter thieves from trying, and probably causing damage in the process that will be expensive to repair. Other than locking them away, a great way to protect these valuable assets is to ensure each is monitored with a trackable device. This way, should there be a breach over the Christmas period, there is a far higher chance your stolen machinery can be recovered. Some tracking systems allow for remote immobilisation too making it much more difficult for thieves to operate the machinery or sell the equipment.
Other Considerations for a peaceful Christmas
Aside from security, there are other very important health and safety considerations such as managing fire risks, covering excavations and ensuring structures such as scaffolding are made safe. It’s important that site managers include checks such as hoardings, lighting, warning signs and power supplies to make sure all safety requirements are met ahead of the break.