Beyond theft: The human side of jobsite security

by David M. Wolfenden, CPA, CVA, MS, Managing Director


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When the topic of security on a construction site comes up, the discussion usually revolves around one word: theft. How do we keep people from stealing stuff?

But there’s another aspect of jobsite security that tends to get relatively little attention: the human side. All too often, construction company owners don’t recognize these risks until it’s too late and they must face them in real life.

Beware of personal conflicts
Picture a jobsite and you may envision a massive conglomeration of inanimate objects — bricks, lumber, concrete. But every project is really a coming together of many different types of people with varying backgrounds, perspectives and even objectives under the umbrella of the job itself. Inevitably, conflicts will occur. A single argument probably won’t bring any project to a screeching halt. But ongoing, heated disputes can cause communication breakdowns that slow progress. They can turn into “office politics,” whereby certain individuals or teams don’t share information with others — leading to mistakes and poor quality work.

In severe cases, on-site disagreements can turn physical. This is where the problem really becomes dangerous. A fight can result in injuries, medical claims and legal costs — not to mention a substantial loss of productivity. Under the most extreme and horrifying of scenarios, you might even have an active shooter on a jobsite. It may sound unfathomable but, as we’re all painfully aware, these things do happen.

Train and communicate
A good first step toward securing your jobsites from personal conflicts is to provide training to project managers and other team leaders in conflict resolution. When those in charge know how to recognize, manage and de-escalate a dispute, the fallout from a quarrel is usually much more benign.

For example, project managers and team leaders can learn to listen to both sides and use non-accusatory language to ascertain the actual basis of the conflict. Then they can apply various logical, equitable approaches to resolving the discord.

You can also establish a process for how employees should address disagreements. (If you’re a union shop, such a process is no doubt already in place.) Not every worker will follow company policies, of course. But if you outline conflict resolution procedures in your employment manual and post reminders on the jobsite, you’ll at least have an avenue for dealing with a major clash.

Regarding the aforementioned worst-case scenario — an active shooter — many companies are now creating formal procedures to deal with these terrifying situations as best they can. One commonly suggested and fairly self-explanatory approach is “Run. Hide. Fight.”

In addition, consider creating lockable safe zones, both in the office and on jobsites, for employees to seek refuge. (If you’re a subcontractor, it will be up to the general contractor to designate these zones.) And set up communication channels to alert authorities and warn anyone off-site or in as-yet unaffected areas of jobsites.

Keep it in mind
You may find it odd to think of your workforce, as well as subcontractors and others with whom you collaborate, as a security threat. But human behavior can be unpredictable. Keep this in mind as you strive to also secure your jobsites from theft and damage.

We welcome the opportunity to put our construction industry expertise to work for you. To learn more about how our firm can help advance your success, please contact Dave Wolfenden at (302) 254-8240.

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