Construction sites are often natural targets for thieves, as they generally contain high value facilities, materials and equipment. Construction sites can be easily accessible to criminals if proper and effective security measures are not implemented.

Providing site security can be particularly difficult as the structure and installation changes in its natural form as it is developed and constructed. Also, the value changes as different materials and equipment are constantly transported. The people who have to enter and leave the construction site also change on a regular basis as a construction project progresses.

This article examines some of the common risks faced by civil engineers and construction sites, and explores some of the methods and measures that can be taken for optimal safety.

Threats to construction sites

Each construction site will have its own specific security issues depending on the nature, size and location of the project, as well as the time required for implementation, but in general there are three types of threats to construction sites:

Threats to property and assets
Threats to operations
Threats to human life
Theft, vandalism and terrorism are the main causes of these dangers.


This includes theft of fuel, tools and materials from the construction site. It may even involve the theft of personal belongings of workers. Theft at construction sites is extremely common for two main reasons. Firstly, because people are constantly moving in and out of the premises it makes them relatively easy targets for occasional thieves and secondly because of the high value of facilities, materials and equipment can provide them with a quick and easy profit. Stealing fuel from construction sites is especially popular to thieves. The fuel is used in vehicles and generators throughout the project, it is of high value and extremely useful for everyone, but it is also very difficult to locate. Fuel theft can be very costly for construction sites, as machines cannot operate without it and fuel tanks are likely to be damaged when stolen. Both of these will delay the project. Construction sites can be carefully planned thefts, as well as occasional thefts, where the thieves realize that thay can easily steal from the unprotected area.

Vandalism and arson

Vandalism, deliberate destruction or arson of construction sites is also common, and is generally carried out by people who simply want to cause damage and destruction. However, it can also be done by people who oppose the construction project for political or commercial reasons or people who do not want the project to go ahead because of the impact it will have on them or their property.


Although not as common as theft or vandalism, terrorism can still be a threat to some construction sites, especially if the facility is of very high profile, built for a large multinational company, has political connections, is close to a potential target of terrorism, or is being built at a specific time. Terrorists can use attacks to get their message across, delay or stop construction.

Other common issues

In addition to these three major threats, there are a number of other potential site threats. These include:

Protesters gaining access to the construction site either for a campaign against the construction project or simply because they know it will make their cause public.
Attacks on construction workers by people opposed to the construction project.
Using the construction site to access other buildings.
These are all “man-made” hazards, but natural hazards such as floods, storm damage, earthquakes or landslides should also be considered.

Risk analysis

In order for all stakeholders to be aware of the potential hazards at a construction site and therefore to be able to determine the level of protection and safety required, a register is recommended. This should include a list of all potential threats and hazards that could affect the site and details of actions taken to combat these hazards.

The register must consist of two separate parts – an original risk register and a residual risk register. The original risk register describes the risks, the probability of them occurring and what impact they would have before any action. Measures are then taken to mitigate the risk. The residual risk register then examines if the measures taken have reduced the level of risk below an acceptable level. Due to the ever-changing nature of the construction site, it is important that it be reviewed frequently and throughout the construction project.

Risk management

To reduce the risk to the construction site you need to increase the risk to the potential criminal.

Security solutions should be used in combination to do four things: prevent, detect, delay, and respond to criminal activity, and most security solutions will provide more than one of these functions.

Prevention – There are many ways to prevent a criminal. While an open, unprotected space may seem welcoming to a potential criminal, a space with fences, locks, CCTV and security guards will discourage them.
Detection – identification of a threat, both at the actual time to protect people and property, and afterwards to investigate who committed the crime.
Delay – Any method that can slow down the offender, increasing the chance of being caught.
Response – the arrival of security guards or police.

Types of construction site security

There are two main types of construction sites security – physical and functional.

Physical measures means infrastructure and includes technical systems such as intruder detection, lighting, CCTV, access control systems, as well as containment measures and barriers such as fences, gates, dams and columns.

Operational measures are human activities, which include guarding and executing all security operations on site in accordance with the Site’s Safety Policy. This policy must state the security requirements of the installation, the means and the scope of its application. Guarding generally includes patrolling and static guarding, checking people and vehicles on and off site, managing and operating technology systems, responding to incidents and contacting the site manager. Site security guards must be very well trained.