Crime Epidemic Resulting from the COVID Pandemic

Abraham Ramzan
Abraham Ramzan

If the past 18 months have taught construction and property owners anything, it’s that they’re constantly developing and evolving work sites need security solutions that grow and can be modified as the landscape and conditions change. As structures are built or coming down, or situations completely out of the project manager’s control arise, new vulnerabilities and blind spots will surely emerge. We have seen this exact scenario playing out for a year and a half now.

Theft from construction projects had already been on the rise for years prior to early 2020. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many states did not classify the sites as providing “essential services”. The mandated restrictions and shutdowns, as well as projects being delayed or cancelled in progress due to financial considerations and uncertainty, meant work on fully-stocked and equipped construction sites was halted. These circumstances left the essentially abandoned properties – aside from very short and infrequent visits from project managers – full of expensive equipment and supplies vulnerable to trespassers, vandalism, and burglary, and more susceptible to legal problems arising from injuries (even if the injured person was an unauthorized intruder).

In fact, during that time, builders from Maine to southern California filed numerous reports per day of damage to partially-built structures, as well as brazen thievery. An Oregon home builder stated, “We do have a fair amount of damage to the buildings that we have to repair on almost a daily basis right now… I’ve been hearing stories of full appliance packages, water heaters, [and] piping being stolen.” Others in various states shared similar information with authorities, and some examples of what they reported in the course of a single week include:

  • 8 water heaters with a total value of almost $16,000 were stolen
  • Already installed toilets were found in a garage ready for crooks to load up when they returned
  • A trailer sustained $400 in damages so thieves could steal just shy of $10,000 in equipment
  • Tools worth $4,500 were nicked
  • A GPS valued at $15,000 was lifted

Remember, those were just a very few selected examples from a single week! There were countless reports of theft and other crimes occurring on unattended construction sites across the country happening each and every week, and so far, an estimate of the total dollar amount in losses is unavailable. We can’t even imagine the total loss incurred, since in the United States in a non-pandemic year, $1 billion in just heavy equipment losses is reported; and if statistics on supplies, materials, towables, hand tools, and unreported pilfered items could be added, the amount would be remarkably higher.

The Delta variant, now in every state in America, is bringing a cross-country surge of new infections, and as much as we hope it doesn’t happen, it’s entirely possible that another round of at least some closures or restrictions may be in our future. Guardian Integrated Security develops a customized plan for each client, such as hybrid guard service, which combines one of our remote guard service units (like our G3 or RoboGuard) with a traditional security guard or vehicle patrol services. With other companies, you may be stuck in a contract offering just one element of what our service provides, but based on our years of experience working with construction sites, only CCTV cameras or a standing security guard isn’t going to keep your properties protected.

We want to help you prepare now for whatever may come, and we do so by using the combination of security devices, tools, and strategies best suited for you, and as your site evolves, so will your security solution from us – we’ll make sure of it. Around the clock, our integrated security solutions protect your construction site and everything in it from intruders with bad intentions, whether the properties are left vacant due to public health closures or building is moving forward every day

Call us at 800-400-3167 or contact us through our website for a free threat assessment

Todd McCormick

Global Director of Operations

The Biggest News in Construction Safety

Earlier this year, Construction Junkie reported on the 7 biggest construction safety stories of 2020. Read below to learn what they were, why they’re important to your sites and projects, and how Guardian Integrated Security can help you meet the challenges they raised (which are still relevant today).

The Biggest News in Construction Safety

Coronavirus Pandemic Probably no surprise to anyone, COVID-19 and its impact on the construction industry was the top story last year. Still ongoing, there’s no denying what we mentioned earlier in this newsletter – cancelled and delayed projects – had many effects on the industry, including a stark increase in both vandalism and thefts. Additional safety precautions were also instituted, in an effort to keep workers safer and slow the virus infection rate.
Over 2,000 construction companies were surveyed in August 2020, and the AGC shared the results of what the firms were experiencing due to the pandemic and how they responded. Over 50% of participants were involved in building construction (as opposed to federal projects or infrastructure like transportation, roadways, and utilities).

  • 66% of respondents shared projects were either stopped, delayed, or outright cancelled. We help protect our clients from falling victim to those looking to take advantage of vacant construction sites.
  • 44% experienced projects already in progress when COVID-19 hit taking longer to complete than planned. Our customized security solutions make sure your properties are protected for as long as needed
  • 32% incurred higher expenses than what was budgeted. We helped keep our construction clients’ equipment, tools, materials, and supplies safeguarded, so replacement costs for stolen items weren’t an issue to drive up costs even more.

Trench collapses and cave-ins were a major concern, and early in the year (the end of February), already at least 8 construction workers, ranging in age from 24 to 57, perished due to them. An unprotected trench is a major safety hazard, regardless of how small the job needing to be done in one is, or how quickly it can be done.

Toward the end of 2016, OSHA revealed that trench collapse deaths had doubled since 2015, and in 2018, the agency announced a priority goal of reducing trenching and excavation hazards. Unfortunately, even with their increased training, outreach, and compliance work, injuries and deaths from cave-ins still continued.

These types of dangers are actually not difficult to eradicate from the job site, and supporting a trench or excavation area can eliminate the serious injuries and needless losses of life these hazards can bring. Guardian Integrated Security can help you keep your workers safer by observing, monitoring, and reporting whether or not these zones on your construction properties are sloped, shored up, benched, or have a trench box.

New Developments in Contractor Exoskeletons

You’ve seen them on characters in cult classics like Aliens, the Iron Man movies, Avatar, Elysium, Edge of Tomorrow, and several Marvel Comics films. But did you know that IRL (in real life), the emerging technology of exoskeletons can help workers on your construction sites stay happier, healthier, and more productive for longer (both during their workday and years of employment)?

Working on a structure under construction is physically demanding, due to the often repetitive tasks and the amount of stooping, bending, crouching, kneeling, twisting, and lifting. Musculoskeletal and joint injuries are extremely common, and can cause chronic pain, especially in the back, shoulders, and knees. Some creatures (like spiders, scorpions, and shellfish) are born with an exoskeleton, or rigid protection that protects and supports their bodies, but since humans are not, companies like Ekso Bionics, Hilti, Fraco, and RB3D have developed ones with construction site workers and tradespeople in mind.

Pictured here, EVO, from Ekso Bionics, is a lightweight, comfortable, breathable, flexible yet rugged exoskeleton that reduces fatigue, provides upper body lift support to the user, and uses a spring-loaded system instead of a power source. This device provides an impressive 5-15 pounds of assistance in each arm for activities that require lifting, and should decrease upper body pain from repetitive tasks, overhead work, and overexertion.

These exoskeletons are expensive though, running several thousands of dollars each. Undoubtedly, that price tag is out of the question for many companies. While security is our primary focus and concern, the data and information some clients have gleaned from having our security systems on their properties has resulted in increased worker safety and more adherence to recommended safety and workers’ well-being protocols. Until exoskeletons become more mainstream and significantly lower in price, you might consider for your construction site one of our security solutions so you can learn more about how your workers get musculoskeletal injuries and what can possibly be done to lessen their frequency

OSHA Regulatory Changes Affecting the Construction Industry

You can find all regulatory changes on the Construction Junkie blog, but the ones that are most relevant in the context of this article include:

Amendments to the Cranes and Derricks in Construction Standard – OSHA proposed modifications to the final standard published back in August 2010, which were meant to increase safety and decrease injuries and fatalities workers had suffered in the past. Some of the amendments concerned power line voltage for DC and AC, exclusions for carrying loads under forklift forks, better illustrating the utilization of demarcation boundaries for work being done near power lines, and several clarifications for other regulations (mostly done through editing out certain words and replacing them (such as “must” with “may” and “minimum approach distance” with “minimum clearance distance”).

Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica in Construction – In March 2016, OSHA issued separate standards for construction and general industry / maritime related to this concern, which was in the proposed rule stage with an expected timeframe for final regulation of March 2021. For construction, crystalline silica exposure control methods were specified as similar to those regarding dust control, since those methods have proven to be effective. OSHA requires the use of respirators for some work around this mineral, and is keen on receiving feedback, especially when it comes to respirable crystalline silica. Common materials found on construction sites (such as sand, stone, concrete, and mortar) all contain this mineral, so OSHA’s concern regarding it is certainly justified.

Welding and Cutting Standard in Construction Confined Spaces – Apparently, “confined space” in OSHA’s May 2015 final rule on this matter was vague, and the agency looked to clarify the meaning in 2020, specifically as it related to the welding standard. While the confined spaces standard stated welding activities were included, the actual standard encompassing welding was not definitive on what the term “confined space” meant. Not wanting any ambiguity on the issue, in 2020, OSHA set out to specifically denote what they had in mind with the phrase.

Personal Protective Equipment in Construction – Quite simply and succinctly, and most definitely timely, OSHA took action on this in August 2020 with a desire to make clear its requirements of how PPE, or personal protective equipment, should fit construction workers. PPE was already in use for a very long time on construction sites, but in 2020, in addition to protecting employees from the usual airborne particles and inhalation dangers while building, now workers’ personal protective equipment had to serve double duty, and guard them against novel coronavirus infection as well.

Towable, Overhead Anchorage Point Can Eliminate Common Excuse and Falls

Most construction site fatality accidents are from falls, but protection from that possibility is difficult when an appropriate place for anchoring is not available. The most common violation of OSHA regulations is protection from falls, so the Malta Dynamics X Series Mobile Grabber, which provides an overhead anchorage point from 22-34 feet high for up to 5 users and each point can hold at least 310 pounds, understandably was one of the top construction news stories of 2020. This road-towable device sets up fast and if needed indoors, can be moved around via forklift.

With other safety-ensuring capabilities to boot, this mobile fall protection solution is on the radar of safety officers and construction companies around the country. Safeguarding your workers from plunging accidents on your construction sites is a necessity, just as much as securing your properties with an experienced security solutions provider is.

False Information Given During OSHA Investigation Leads to Perjury Conviction

If OSHA comes to your jobsite, the best thing to do is cooperate and be truthful, not only for the sake of your workers and business, but also because doing otherwise can result in a fate much worse than fines. Plus, an individual who misleads the investigators will be held personally responsible if the deception is revealed and proven, and that means a perjury charge in connection to a federal investigation, which is a rather serious matter

The owner of a New Jersey residential home construction company found this out for himself. OSHA came to investigate 2 separate occasions in 2018 of employees falling through an unguarded skylight during the course of repairing the structure’s roof. The owner stated to the investigators that the work was not authorized, but this bogus claim was proven a falsehood when text messages proved otherwise. For committing perjury, the company owner was sentenced to a $5,500 fine and 2 years of probation. His company was fined $50,000 in connection with the skylight incidents.

This attempt to mislead or outright be dishonest during an OSHA investigation isn’t the first, nor will it be the last. Circling back to our previous section discussing fall protection, and the fact that it’s the most common OSHA violation, in 2015, a crew supervisor also committed perjury when answering questions about 3 of his workers that all fell from 30 feet and were seriously injured. He claimed they were tied securely to equipment designed to prevent falls, but it was revealed that the fall protection apparatus was really purchased after the 3 employees fell. In addition to the company needing to pay OSHA fines, the crew supervisor received a sentence of 3 years of supervised probation and needed to complete 30 hours of community service.

It can be tempting to think that covering up the truth will result in less of a punishment, but when it comes to OSHA and their federal investigations, it’s best to fess up. They’ll find out the facts anyway, similar to how having our integrated security systems on your construction site will help provide facts and video proof when you need it

Make Sure to check out our Security Solutions for
Constructions Sites

Clarification of OSHA’s Position on Headphones Meant for Music on Job Sites

Just as the first week of 2020 concluded, OSHA released a “Standard Interpretation” letter regarding the use of headphones. Many brands now offer external noise-cancelling options, and while no specific regulation or standard bans their use, OSHA does, of course, have standards when it comes to hearing protection. Employees in all types of jobs and industries like privately listening to music during their workday, as it makes the day go by quicker, and fosters a positive attitude and good mood.

Clarification of OSHA’s Position on Headphones Meant for Music on Job Sites

On a construction site, however, doing so may pose a great danger to not only the listener but his or her fellow workers as well. While OSHA doesn’t prohibit laborers from enjoying some tunes using any kind of earbuds or headphones, the agency warns that using such listening devices could result in a dangerous situation, or make an already precarious circumstance worse. If construction workers can’t hear their surroundings, aren’t alert to what’s going on around them, or can’t communicate with others on-site, a dangerous and potentially life-threatening scenario could easily and quickly occur. Being able to hear and communicate on a property where heavy equipment and materials are being moved around and structures are being built is of paramount importance.

Since no OSHA regulation exists concerning this topic, it’s up to either the construction site foreman to set the standard or the workers’ judgment at any given time. Should you decide music directly into the ears is not allowed on your job site, but an employee dons their Beats anyway and gets injured or causes an injury, our security solution could provide you with the evidence you need to show negligence and deliberate disregard for the ‘no music through headphones’ policy you have set.

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