tips to reduce building site theft feature image

Top tips to reduce construction site theft

Posted on 15th July 2022 by

As a trades professional, especially if you work as a builder, you will likely have experienced theft or at least know someone who has been a victim of theft.

Theft of tools and plant machinery from construction sites is big business, but isn’t confined to large sites. If you’re a builder who owns plant machinery or hires the machinery for domestic renovations or extension builds, then you too are at risk of falling foul of opportunists and groups of organised thieves.

According to PCB Today, site thefts increased during the Covid-19 lockdown periods, which exacerbated and already growing problem for the construction industry, with site theft estimated to cost £800m each year (1).

A lot of construction theft is intentional, with some crooks making a career out of it by pinching the machinery and then reselling it to overseas buyers either in a complete operational state or split up and sold as component parts.

Excavators, cement mixers, generators, these are some of the pieces of equipment to help you with your job, and if they are taken it can cause disruption to your building plans and deadlines as well as potentially costing you to replace the items lost.

We look at some ways you can combat the risk of site theft and keep your building projects on track.

tips to reduce construction site theft

Tips to prevent, and minimise the impact of, site theft

  1. Remove all assets from site whenever possible or protect them with adequate security measures such as manned guarding, mobile patrol units, and CCTV.
  2. Maintain accurate records of all your equipment, essential tools and building materials.
  3. Make sure your essential equipment is stored in a secured compound, building or container. You can also secure your equipment with chains to make it difficult to move.
  4. Install secure site entrance mechanisms, such as swipe card access or a fingerprint recognition system.
  5. Install geolocation devices to your plant equipment. This can inform you via text or email if a piece of equipment has left the site, or if the engine is started-up after hours. It can also help you to locate the equipment if it has been moved.
  6. Ensure your construction site is well lit. Additional lighting will improve visibility for both your site cameras and for your security personnel. This probably isn’t an option for a small domestic build, but is good practice for larger construction sites.
  7. Install additional cameras on the site. Although this will not deter a determined thief, it will make them think twice and opt for a less secure site.
  8. Register your construction assets with CESAR, the approved Construction and agricultural Equipment Security And Registration scheme.
cctv construction site to prevent theft 600px

security CCTV camera or surveillance system with construction site can help to prevent theft

What is CESAR and how can it help?

Theft prevention will probably never be 100% achievable, but you can increase the likelihood of recovering stolen items if you can present indisputable data as to the stolen asset’s identification and its location. Registering your tools and machinery online can help you retrieve your items and minimise disruption and the extra costs of replacing the items.

CESAR is the only official Police (National Police Chiefs’ Council – NPCC) and Home Office approved construction and agricultural equipment security and registration scheme.

The scheme was set up to provide an easy and effective way for police officers to identify all types of equipment and machinery, even if they have limited knowledge of plant machinery. This enables the officers to contact the registered owner at any time of the day as to the whereabouts of their stolen goods.

According to the CESAR website, the recovery rate for unregistered plant machinery is as low as 5%, but the recovery rate for a stolen machine that is registered with CESAR is as high as 30% (2).

Find out more at


Can I insure against plant machinery theft and tools theft?

Yes, you can! Insurance is available for your tools and trade materials and for plant machinery, which can be your own plant or hired-in plant.

Tools and trade materials insurance – Tool theft is common, so it pays to have your tools insured. Extending your tradesman insurance policy to include tools insurance could save you thousands of pounds, eliminate stress and help you get back ‘on the tools’ quicker. Tools insurance can also cover you if your tools are lost or damaged.

Tools insurance provides cover up to £5,000. In the event of a claim being made, the policy will respond to pay you the amount of the loss or to replace your equipment.

Plant insurance – Whether you own your own plant machinery or use hired-in plant that is specific to the needs of each project, you’ll need to ensure you’re insured and that you follow safety guidance to you prevent theft and malicious damage, so you don’t experience any major disruption to your building projects and your business operations.

Plant hire can be expensive. If you’ve leased an item of plant machinery, you’re responsible for paying ongoing hire charges, even if the equipment has been damaged or stolen, rendering it unusable. Plant insurance is designed to pay the costs of continuing hiring charges incurred while the plant is replaced or repaired.

The policy will cover your legal liability under the terms of a written plant hire agreement to pay the cost of repairing, restoring or replacing the equipment following damage to hired-in plant for which you are responsible:

  • at your contract site
  • temporarily away from your contract site if it is
  1. within a securely locked compound, premises or garage
  2. out of sight within a securely locked vehicle (other than within the hours of 18.00 and 08.00 when the vehicle must be locked and within a securely locked building or guarded security park)

Minus  a deduction for wear and tear, within the UK during the insurance period.


What is not covered in a plant insurance policy (exclusions)

Typical exclusions include:

  • The policy will not pay you more than its proportionate share if the damage is covered by another insurance policy.
  • Wear and tear.
  • Damage caused by light or atmosphere.
  • Damage caused by insects or vermin.
  • Corrosion, dampness, dryness, or dry rot.
  • Damage caused by cleaning processes such as bleaching, dyeing, restoring, adjusting or repairing.
  • Normal upkeep of the plant equipment.
  • Damage caused by fraud or dishonest acts.
  • Mechanical or electrical breakdown.
  • Certain aspects of damage caused by theft or attempted theft.
  • Road traffic legislation.
  • Component self-ignition.
  • Clean-up costs from damage caused by contagious disease.
  • Loss or destruction caused by a cyber incident.

(See the policy document for the in-depth list of exclusions)


At Caunce O’Hara we offer a range of business insurances to the trades sector.


Click the quote button to get a quick online quotation or call 0333 321 1403 to speak to one of our team.