Plant theft is a major contributing factor to ever-rising insurance premium prices. We look at the steps you can take to ensure that your plant remains safe and the cost of your policy stays low

Site lock

Simon Taylor

Construction plant security remains a problematic area as professional thieves become more sophisticated in both stealing and disposing of high-value plant and equipment. This has led to low recovery rates in the past although this situation has improved as a result of the construction industry taking advantage of security schemes and equipment. Indeed, over £1m worth of plant and equipment is stolen each week in the UK alone and less than 10% is ever recovered. In many cases it is ready to be taken outside the country in a shipping container within 24 hours.

Plant theft is a major cause of insurance premiums continuing to rise. It is vital to have a policy in place that can help combat this problem and ultimately keep your insurance costs down. Without an effective site security strategy your business could face lengthy delays, penalties, adverse publicity and loss of customer confidence.

Creating a strategy for plant security

A key step in any plant security strategy is to ensure that supervisors and operatives use best practice methods, which can reduce the risk of theft. It may be necessary to link plant security to company incentives or incorporate it within general work objectives. The goal is to achieve employee buy-in on plant security so that it is no longer seen as a chore at the start or end of the day.

Implementing a strategy

Plant security can be divided into two areas. Firstly, there are the devices and strategies, designed to prevent theft occurring in the first place. Secondly, there are security devices aimed at improving the chance of recovery should the item be stolen.

When implementing a security strategy there are a number of factors to assess. For example, the replacement cost of the item of plant needs to include reference to the ease and time taken to replace the item. When machinery and plant is stolen that cannot be quickly replaced there may be significant hire charges incurred to prevent delays to the project schedule. Thought should also be given to security at weekends and holidays when sites are most vulnerable.

Is your plant identifiable?

Identifiable in respect of construction plant refers to proof of ownership and whether the police can determine this with certainty. The result of poorly marked equipment is that the police may be powerless to confiscate items of stolen plant. So it is strongly recommended to use of the CESAR (or CESAR Compact Scheme for smaller items of plant). This provides a construction plant with a package of security measures, including unique registration, hidden electronic data device and security dots identifying every key element of the plant.

The use of vehicle identification numbers, “data dots” or Smart Water containing unique identification marks can also be a an effective way of identifying your plant equipment. Maintaining accurate records of company plant and a photographic database are also highly recommended.


Training should play an integral part of any site security strategy. A staff awareness training session on plant security should therefore be incorporated to ensure everyone is aware of what the company policy is. Crucially this will ensure that supervisors and operatives understand best practice methods, which can reduce the risk of theft.

Physical and Electronic Security Devices

Plant which is hired in should also be considered part of site security. This may not always be possible at short notice but dealing with hire companies which supply equipment with the appropriate standard of security will be of long term benefit. Buying new plant with appropriate security already fitted is an important step, but the protection of older plant, which may be especially vulnerable due to its inherent poor security, should also be addressed. It is common to find £60,000 excavators, without any form of reliable security, left vulnerable to theft overnight on open contract sites. Areas to consider include:

  • Physical locking devices such as leg locks, ram locks, track locks
  • Applying tow hitch locks to trailers
  • Immobilisation devices especially those which are Thatcham approved
  • Key security both for day time and when the site is unoccupied
  • For high risk plant the use of Thatcham-approved tracking devices which have been installed by approved companies with signalling systems to include radio-frequency identifcation (RFID)

Simon Taylor is executive director at specialist broker Clear Insurance