How you can secure your building site and reduce theft

Close up of a padlock on the fence door of a building site.

As a builder you will most likely have experienced theft from one of your building sites, or at least know someone who has.

Theft of tools and plant machinery from construction sites is common, and for some items such as plant machinery it can be big business.

Building site theft isn’t confined to large sites, in many cases the smaller, independent building sites are easier targets as there are often less security measures in place.

If you’re a builder who owns plant machinery or hires the machinery for domestic renovations or extension builds, then you’re one of many construction professionals who’s at risk of opportunists and organised thieves pinching your equipment.

According to PCB Today, site thefts increased during the Covid-19 lockdowns, which added to an already growing problem for the construction sector.

Diggers, cement mixers, and generators are just some of the equipment types on a thief’s shopping list. If plant is taken from your site it can cause disruption to your projects and deadlines as well as potentially costing you thousands of pounds to replace lost equipment.

We look at some ways you can reduce the risk of theft and keep your construction projects on track.

Tips to prevent and mitigate building site theft

1. Remove all assets from the building site if possible or put security measures in place, such as manned guarding, mobile patrol units, and CCTV. These measures may not deter determined thieves, but it will make them think twice and opt for a less secure site.

2. Maintain accurate records of all your equipment and building materials.

3. Make sure equipment is stored in a secured compound, building or container. Securing equipment with chains will also deter thieves by making it difficult to move any machinery.

4. Install site entrance mechanisms such as swipe card access, keypads or a fingerprint recognition system, so only authorised staff are able to enter the site.

5. Installing geolocation devices can inform you via text or email if equipment has left the site or if the engine has been started-up after hours. It can also help you to locate the equipment if it has been moved without authorisation.

6. Ensure your building site is well lit to improve visibility for your site cameras and your security personnel. This probably isn’t an option for a small domestic build, but is good practice for larger sites.

7. Register your assets with CESAR, the approved Construction and agricultural Equipment Security And Registration scheme.

What is the CESAR scheme?

Theft prevention will never be 100% achievable, however, you can increase the likelihood of recovering stolen items if you can present indisputable data about the identification of your stolen assets and their location.

Registering your tools and machinery online can help you retrieve your items and reduce the potential disruption and costs associated with replacing the items.

CESAR is the official Police and Home Office approved construction and agricultural equipment security and registration scheme, and was set up to provide an easy and effective way for police officers to identify all types of equipment, even with limited knowledge of plant machinery.

This enables officers to contact the registered owner at any time of the day about the location of their stolen assets. According to CESAR, the recovery rate for unregistered plant equipment is as low as 5%, however the recovery rate for stolen plant registered with CESAR is as high as 30%.

Find out more about CESAR at

Can I insure against the theft of plant machinery and tools?

You can purchase cover for your tools and trade materials and your plant equipment.

Tools insurance - Tool theft is common practice, so it pays to ensure your tools are insured just in case the worst happens and your tools are stolen, lost or damaged. Extending your tradesman liability insurance to include tools insurance could save you a lot of money, reduce stress and help you get back to work quickly. Tools insurance provides up to £5,000 of cover. If you need to make a claim, the policy will respond to pay you the amount of the loss or to replace your equipment up to the cover limit.

Plant hire insurance - Whether you hire-in plant machinery or own your own, you’ll need to ensure it’s insured and that you follow safety guidelines to prevent theft and malicious damage, so you don’t experience any disruption to your building projects.

Plant insurance will cover your legal liability under the terms of a plant hire agreement to pay costs of repairing, restoring or replacing the machinery (usually minus a deduction for wear and tear) following damage to hired-in plant that you’re responsible for:

  • at your building site.
  • temporarily away from your site if it is…

a) within a securely locked compound or garage.

b) out of sight in a securely locked vehicle (other than between the hours of 18.00 and 08.00, when the vehicle must be locked and in a securely locked building or guarded security park).

Typical exclusions in a plant insurance policy

  • Plant insurance will not pay you more than its proportionate share if the damage is covered by another insurance policy.
  • General wear and tear from everyday usage.
  • Damage caused by light exposure or atmospheric conditions.
  • Damage caused by insects or vermin.
  • Damage from corrosion, dampness, dryness, or dry rot.
  • Damage caused by cleaning processes and ongoing upkeep of the plant machinery including: bleaching, dyeing, restoring, adjusting or repairing.
  • Damage caused by fraud or dishonest acts.
  • Mechanical or electrical breakdown, including from a cyber incident.
  • Some damage caused by theft or attempted theft.
  • Road traffic legislation.
  • Component self-ignition.
  • Clean-up costs from contagious disease.

(Consult your policy document for the list of exclusions or speak to your broker.)

At Markel Direct we offer a range of insurance options to the trades sector.

Click the quote button to get a quick online quote or call 0333 242 9053 to speak to one of our team.

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