Reducing the temptation to climb

In recent years, I’ve been involved with the provision of security to several large construction sites across the South Wales area. I’ve provided security advice and staffing solutions to some high-profile sites which have attracted parkour runners, crane climbers, and more recently even base-jumpers. Thanks to the weakness in the UK’s trespass laws combined with the reluctance of the CPS to pursue a charge for a “victimless crime”, there is very little in the way of the law that deters folks that are intent on climbing to the highest point; be it for social media notoriety or the adrenaline buzz that they’re never going to get playing Call of Duty. Lets be clear: Trespassing on a crane is not a victimless crime. Every second a crane is unusable while safety checks are carried out has a cost associated with it, either in the man-hours that are being billed or the potential to delay a project.

At K9 Protection, we provide security services ranging from guards and dogs to a combination of digital technology including CCTV that can be used alongside our (very quick) alarm response service. When looking at a client’s problem, we’ll look at what the client has and will suggest steps that a construction site manager can take to reduce the opportunity. It’s a well-known phenomenon that if your security makes you a harder target than your neighbour, then there’s a good chance it will push you lower down the list of sites at risk of intrusion. Today, I’m going to share a list of things that can be done at little or no cost that may help to prevent intruders gaining access to your site, and could prevent a crane being climbed.

Everything contained within this blog post is real-world and based on situations I’ve personally encountered through clients; none of it has been dressed up, and it’s intended as a list of things you can follow to reduce the chance of this happening to you. Of course, you’ll never stop a determined intruder, but you can go some way to forcing their hand to commit a criminal act to gain access, which gives the police a reason for arrest and a chance of prosecution.

Secure your fence line

It sounds like I’m stating the obvious, but you’d be surprised how many construction sites I visit where the fence is falling apart, barely clipped, or highly climbable. If you’re using Heras fencing, make sure all the panels are suitably welded and not falling apart. Double clip the fence with the fastener facing in to the site. Preferably use fencing clips that require a security tool to remove them. Make sure your fence is appropriately weighted down and braced – nothing worse than attending a response call where 30 panels of Heras have been pulled over using nothing more than the weight of its feet.

For those clients who use hoardings or steel-wall fencing, they are only as good as their surroundings; street furniture often makes an excellent substitute for an open gym. A 3-metre hoarding is great, but not so much when it’s placed next to street furniture that makes getting on your construction site child’s play. A BT Infinity cabinet is a frustratingly great substitute for a pommel horse and with a lamp post or street sign 2 feet away, who needs a climbing frame!

Don’t underestimate the power of signage as a deterrent – As a security company we are always happy to provide and install fence-line signage at an early stage to warn that dogs and cameras may be present. By starting early as soon as the fence goes up, anyone watching the site will likely make a mental note and whereas it will never stop the hell-bent trespasser it may deter those who are not nearly as seasoned.

In short, when planning your site perimeter, a couple of extra turns and fencing sheets at the start of a project can massively reduce the opportunity to gain entry. A weekly integrity check of your fence-line means you’ll be able to fix proactively rather than reacting after an intrusion.

Secure your gates

Another one that sounds like I’m teaching granny to suck eggs, but something that is so often overlooked is the access through your gates. Firstly, change the code on your padlocks – not just when you buy them, but on a regular basis! You wouldn’t believe how many sites use the combinations they had on the first day the lock was supplied, and you’d be equally surprised if I told you that the codes 0000, 1234, 8888, 1812, 1945, 1969 and 1984 have all been given to my alarm response team by clients more than every other 4 digit number combined. Another common issue – make sure your padlocks are actually large enough to prevent a lock being opened.

For sites with turnstile access control systems, bare in mind that the 6 foot high turnstiles make a great climbing frame if there’s nothing above them, and make sure you lock the consumer unit in the turnstile & distro that feeds it – more than one occasion I’ve arrived to carry out a penetration test and managed to flip the power with a stick I’ve found lying around on site that’s allowed me to walk on.

Clean up & stow tools!

We all know the real world is very different to ideals, but tidying away at the end of a day can massively reduce the chances of your own equipment being used to circumvent every security measure you’ve put in to place. Over the years I’ve seen a contractor’s ladder used to get up a crane, scaffold planks propped on a pallet of bricks used to get back over the wall, and a cordless circular saw being used to cut a hole in the hoarding positioned around the base of a crane. On more than one occasion I’ve seen an Armorguard tool safe left next to a tower crane that was recently climbed – sadly I’ve seen this on the same site multiple times where no lessons were learned.

When it comes to stowing tools, whilst I understand the practicality of tradesmen having their tools to hand as soon as their shift starts, the reduction in risk of climbing by ensuring tools are stashed and ladders and tool vaults are securely chained to prevent their use has to be worth taking in to account where a site has a prolific issue.

Secure your cranes, mast climbers, and hoists

It sounds simple, doesn’t it, for someone that doesn’t have your working pressures to come along and tell you “just secure them”, but sorry folks, it’s my job. When you’ve got mast climbers and hoists on site, three simple things I’ve found over the years that prevent them from being used to gain access:

  1. Take the keys out
  2. Isolate the power
  3. Park them above ground level

For extended shut down periods, covering the tracks to prevent the trussing being used to climb can also further reduce the climability of the framework.

The holy grail for many trespassers is that photo from your tower crane; either from the platform, or worse still from the end of the jib and many climbers or free runners will go to extreme measures to get there. We can use the same strategies already discussed to reduce the chances of being able to climb the crane. By placing effective hoarding around the base with securely locked doors we can slow down the access to the crane, especially if you create a sterile area with no guerrilla gymnastics equipment readily available. With this in place, it is possible to dramatically reduce the potential of the view from the top of your site being the next YouTube sensation. Further steps can be taken by using a non-drying anti-vandal paint on the top of the hoardings as a further deterrent, and where possible, making sure the top of the hoarding is a suitable distance from the mast to prevent jumping on. As the construction is built and the mast becomes accessible from additional levels it is essential that the same security is applied on each level to stop an intruder simply going up a flight of stairs and trying from the first floor.

In Summary

As long as there’s a passion to climb and a readily available online audience with people addicted to that rush, combined with a lack of real-world legal deterrent, the risk of adrenaline fuelled trespassing to the construction industry is very real. Whether it’s the delays caused by safety checks following an incident, the damage to property in the pursuit of their sport, or the HSE investigation resulting from a fall, each and every site manager needs to be constantly reviewing and managing the threat to their project. K9 Protection Ltd are able to help reduce the opportunities for trespass with a range of services starting from full penetration tests and ranging up to a fully scalable guarding presence on site with a mix of guards and general-purpose security dogs. Along with providing our own remotely monitored CCTV towers, K9 Protection work with partner companies specialising in providing technical solutions to detect the presence of intruders on cranes. Contact us to see how we can help your specific project.