Securing Your Jobsite

 OP RESIDENTIAL 01By Joshua Estrin

An unsecured construction site is a playground for vandals, thieves and trespassers. The 2017 "Construction Equipment Guide" reports that construction site theft costs the industry between $300 million and $1 billion annually. As a result, construction equipment on site as well as the dollar investment in the construction project demands that construction site security must be a priority.

The potential costs are staggering, so what is the solution? As with any construction management challenge, analyzing the hazard(s) of a specific job is integral and security is no different. Although jobsite security is multi-faceted, one of the greatest necessities is addressing the reality of trespassing.

Trespassers come in many different sizes and shapes and have just as many different intentions as to why they choose to trespass. Statistics collected by the American Association of Insurance Services (AAIS) and Insurance Service Offices (ISO) indicate that approximately 6.3 percent of builders risk losses are attributed to theft, burglary, robbery, vandalism and malicious mischief.

Impulse Control

Adolescents/teenagers are one of the "groups" of trespassers that is attracted to construction sites in far greater numbers. Hazards found on construction sites pose a high risk to young people, who engage in increased risk-taking behaviors significantly more than adults, experts say.

This awareness of adolescent behavior must also include a broader understanding that involves measurable actions. To that end, when analyzing any incident that involves risky behavior on the part of an adolescent, one must explore the role of impulse control.

Subsequently, it is important to understand that impulsivity among adolescents is a complex social/psychological construct that is not always discernable as a single trait. Instead, it is evident in at least three distinct spheres. These spheres can be interconnected, but can also exist autonomously and include:

* Acting without thinking;

* Impatience when given a choice between immediate small rewards, versus a larger, but delayed reward; and

* The exploration of novel stimuli despite the risks associated with them.

The National Safety Council (NSC) defines safety as the control of recognized hazards to attain an acceptable level of risk, with an acceptable level of risk being that which remains after all technologically and economically feasible means have been applied to control a specific hazard.

Therefore, safety is not an activity; it is a result, an outcome of actions taken by those in responsible charge for the prevention of accidents. Safety is what one achieves if a predetermined course of action is done properly.

As such, when developing a construction safety management plan, one cannot ignore that construction sites after hours by their very nature have an abundance of unsafe conditions and hazards, which are especially attractive to teenagers. These would include:

* Surfaces to climb including walls and piles of dirt;

* Construction equipment to play on and if left operational with the keys available, to "run"; and

* Ladders and scaffolds to climb and interior building spaces to explore.

Jobsite security is part of good and accepted construction management and is essential to ensure not only worker safety, but also that of the general public and especially children and teenagers. It is equally essential in preventing material and equipment theft from the jobsite and stopping vandalism.

A Culture of Safety

Consequently, it is unacceptable for those in charge of jobsite/worker safety, as well as the general public, to fail to operationalize a culture of safety. This includes creating a climate of safety that ensures the preparation of a well thought-out site-specific safety plan. A safety plan is essential to the initiation, implementation and maintenance of the project's site security plan.

When the policies and procedures regarding safety and security are not codified, the system is inherently flawed; leading to an environment where expectations cannot be effectively communicated to those charged with construction management, specifically that of safety/security.

Therefore, it becomes impossible to base a culture of safety on the misguided, yet commonly held safety management philosophy loosely deemed as "management's commitment to safety/security." These common philosophies do not include measurable goals and cannot effectively manage jobsite site safety and security.

Joshua Estrin, PhD, is a partner with Sarasota, Fla.-based construction forensic services firm Stephen A. Estrin & Co. Inc., specializing in construction safety management. He is also an adjunct professor at Columbia University in New York City. He can be reached at joshua@sa-estrin.com.

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