Doubtless many of our readers will have come across a workman or company who have had their scaffolding or tools stolen over the past few months. Perhaps some of you have even suffered this yourselves. From vans, sheds, construction sites, lockups, and even houses are being swiped all over the UK.

Barely a day goes by without regional newspapers reporting on audacious and often quite devastating thefts of tools – with power tools particularly at risk (presumably due to their high resale value). The pattern is the same right across the country, from Cornwall to Cowdenbeath.

And here’s the kicker for scaffolders – despite being unwieldy and tough to transport, scaffolding is by no means immune to the epidemic. Indeed, some people think that it’s actually playing a pretty big part in the thefts themselves. What on earth is going on? And what can you do to protect your precious tools?

Livelihood Theft

For those of us who work in construction, the tools of our trade are extremely important. Tools are not only often surprisingly expensive – they can also mean the difference between a good job (and thus more work) and a poor one. In the case of scaffolding, the theft of tools and equipment renders the job effectively impossible. Frequently, to steal someone’s tools is to steal their livelihood – a particularly upsetting thing to do. What is more, a great many workers become really quite attached to their favourite tools – treating them with enormous care and feeling surprisingly handicapped when forced to use someone else’s tools. One becomes accustomed to the ways and the shapes of one’s own tools – they seem, after a while, to mold themselves to one’s hand.

No matter how well covered you are for the value of a lost set of tools, building up that kind of ‘relationship’ with a new set of tools can be a long process. For these reasons – as well as the obvious feelings of violation, and loss of monetary value – the theft of tools seems particularly reprehensible.

Rise In Theft

It is undoubtedly concerning, therefore, that the UK appears to be experiencing something of a construction site-theft crimewave, with professional construction tools being stolen as a matter of course all over the country. Many of these thefts are opportunist in nature, involving desperate criminals breaking into outbuildings, lockups, and construction sites to simply nab whatever they can lay their hands on before making a run for it. However, tool and equipment theft is growing ever more organised as the market for construction equipment grows. Those of us who are paid to lug the stuff around all day know just how tricky scaffolding can be to transport. However, a perplexing number of thieves are getting away with dismantling and driving off with huge amounts of scaffolding.

Scaffolding And Construction Site Theft

As many of us are all too aware, scaffolding comes in for a lot of flack when theft raises its ugly head. Sadly, it has been known for thieves to use scaffolding to gain access to the scene of their crimes, which has caused some ugly aftermaths for everyone (with the exception of the thieves themselves) concerned. However, recently scaffolding has increasingly become the victim rather than the innocent assistant of thieves, with scaffolding being removed and shipped away wholesale – sometimes right under the noses of oblivious communities. In many cases, those who steal scaffolding manage to do so by brazenly going in in broad daylight and taking the scaffolding down as though they’re authorised to do so. Nobody questions it, and they’re long gone before anyone actually involved with the site turns up. It takes an awful lot of nerve, but it’s devastatingly effective if it can be pulled off. However, even if you don’t believe that your scaffolding itself could ever be purloined in such a manner, it’s still worth protecting your smaller scaffolding tools.

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Protecting Your Stuff

Sadly, there is no surefire way of keeping your scaffolding tools safe from thieves. Secure storage facilities and unimpeachable locks may help to deter thieves, but you may be safer keeping your tools close by to you, so that you will be quickly aware of any dodgy business.

Guard dogs can be a great deterrent, but are not always practical, and an alarm system will only work if you can be certain that someone is going to react to it. What is more, security systems can often be prohibitively expensive. Some people are clubbing together, and renting out tool storage facilities in security a patrolled premises, or with more sophisticated security systems than one could afford alone. This can help. CCTV is also of enormous aid to the police in catching the perpetrators if your things do get stolen. If CCTV seems like a bug ask, installing a webcam or camera trap us often cheaper and more space-efficient. However, being able to identify and catch the people who stole your tools does not necessarily mean that your tools will be recovered – often these things change hands with startling speed! Perhaps the best thing to do is to be extra and demonstrably vigilant.

Often, thieves will ‘scope’ a potential theft site beforehand. If it looks like you’re paying careful attention to your tools, many thieves will try their luck somewhere with less apparent risk of being caught. Short of electrifying the stuff, there’s not an awful lot you can do to keep your scaffolding safe, (if you can afford to set someone to guard it 24/7 then this may help – but that’s out of the question for most of us!). However, making the faces of those who are authorised to work with it known to the wider community may help a little.

To the wider public, many construction workers are somewhat anonymous – in their hi-viz an hard hats, they could be anyone. This is what makes it so easy for robbery teams (also in hi-viz and hard hats) to remove scaffolding in broad daylight. While it may seem like a bit of a long-shot, making your scaffolding teams known the the locals where you’re working could prevent thieves from trading on this anonymity.

Guest Article By: Gemma Bryant

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