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Reducing theft on construction sites

Millions of dollars in tools, equipment and materials are stolen from construction sites every year. This not only creates an extremely stressful situation for both the builder and the client, but it can also have a significant cost impact for both parties and can results in delays to the building period if supplies, equipment or materials are unable to be replaced.

The success of a range of Government stimulus measures has resulted in increased building activity across the country. 

Unfortunately, this presents an opportunity for would-be thieves.

Millions of dollars in tools, equipment and materials are stolen from construction sites every year. This  not only creates an extremely stressful situation for both the builder and the client, but it can also have a significant cost impact for both parties and can results in delays to the building period if supplies, equipment or materials are unable to be replaced.

Who is responsible if items are stolen from site?

Owner's property

Under most HIA contracts, the builder is not responsible for any loss or damage to the owner’s property or any property for which the owner is responsible for that is left on site. However, the builder must take all reasonable steps to try and reduce or limit any loss or damage to the works caused (or contributed to) by an act or omission of the owner.

Builder's property, including materials and equipment

The builder is responsible for any loss or damage to the building work except to the extent that it is caused or contributed to an act or omission of the owner.

Generally the builder will be responsible for all materials that are un-affixed to the site and all tools and equipment.

The builder must insure against any loss or damage to the building works and any goods and materials on the site relating to the building works against theft and vandalism.

Tips for reducing theft on building sites

While not an exhaustive list, the following tips can be useful to reduce the risk of losing valuable equipment and materials.

1. Neighbours

Neighbours can play a key role in reporting suspicious behaviour, particularly in rural or low-activity areas and may be able to provide information in the event of a theft or break in. Get to know the immediate neighbours around your construction site and make your contact details available to them.

2. Fencing

Temporary fencing around your site can help deter thieves, prevent trespassing and reduce incidents of theft and vandalism. Prominently displaying the builder’s details and contact information on fencing and site signage can help the police to respond to an incident and identify a specific house or construction site.

Many Local Government areas mandate the erection of fencing around a building site – you should check with your local Council or HIA’s Building and Planning team for further information.

3. Delivery and installation of materials

If possible, try to coordinate deliveries of materials and goods to line up with their installation by you or your tradesmen. Thefts often occur when expensive items like windows, timber and white goods are left unattended in plain sight on site.

High risk items such as hot water heaters, copper wiring and major appliances should be secured in a way that makes them difficult to steal. Discarding of packaging for these items can help remove clues for would-be thieves that there are valuable goods on site.

4. On site storage and security

Consider placing an on-site storage container or another means of securing your tools and materials when not in use. Tools can also be marked or engraved with the builder’s details or some other identifying mark. This can be useful when trying to identify stolen goods.

If possible, park trade vehicles within the site or in plain sight. This is particularly important in the case of open tray utes or vehicles with tool boxes especially in areas with high levels of foot traffic.

5. Control of the site

HIA contracts have a site possession and access clause. This means that the builder or principal contractor has exclusive possession of the site until practical completion and handover. It also states that the owner can only have access to the building works at reasonable times and only after giving reasonable notice to the builder.

Both the builder and the owner should ensure that all master keys and means of accessing the site are accounted for. Make sure that all keys provided to tradesman and delivery contractors are returned once they are no longer required.

What to do if a theft occurs on site?

If there is an emergency, life threatening situation or crime in progress, contact 000 immediately.

You can report any crime or suspicious activity anonymously by visiting your local Police Station. You can also contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

If you are a victim or crime, other than a life threatening or time critical situation, you can also contact the Police Assistance Line (PAL) on 131 444.

To find out more, contact HIA's Workplace Services team

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