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Written by
on 12 June 2017


Digger rampage underscores importance of Construction site Security

Construction machineryTwo teenagers have pleaded guilty to a destructive rampage that caused £40,000 worth of damage. The unnamed duo ignored a series of warning signs, scaled a fence, and broke into a digger on a local construction site in Elgin.

The pair then gouged a series of trenches in the ground as they struggled to master the controls. Once confident of their abilities, they used the digger’s bucket to claw the cab off another digger, causing a huge amount of damage.

Speaking to the media, Billy Miller, owner of the construction firm involved said: “It’s terrible what they have done. It’s ridiculous. You will get windows smashed and other damage but it’s something else to actually rip the cab off.”

The pair will appear in court June to be sentenced.

An important lesson for site operators

As Billy Miller points out, general vandalism – like smashed windows – is (unfortunately) a fairly regular occurrence. Trespassing on a site is also quite common – but that does not mean site operators can ignore such behaviour.

Indeed, your business has a legal duty to protect the public from an accident on your site – including those who break in. In the case of Billy Miller, his site was properly fenced, and warning signs were clearly displayed according to best practice principles.

The fact that the two youths were able to access and start a digger is concerning though. It is unlikely the crew left the ignition keys on site – certainly not in the digger itself – but could more have been done to secure the unit?

Security is an important part of health and safety

As the vandals ably demonstrated, the basic locks provided with the diggers were easily defeated. And once inside the cab, so too was the ignition system.

Part of the risk assessment carried out when deploying heavy machinery site must also consider the risk of vandalism. As Billy Miller pointed out, equipment had been vandalised in the past. Taken to its logical conclusion, it is possible that although fencing provisions were adequate, more could have been done to keep the vandals out.

It may cost extra to fit heavy equipment with steel shutters for instance, but it would also make it much harder for unauthorised people to gain access. This would in turn dramatically reduce the risk of trespassers doing harm to themselves or others. And heavy cladding is much cheaper than a £40,000 repair bill too.

Considering the unexpected

Sometimes health and safety risk assessments miss key details like this simply because the person assessing is too “close” to the activity. Or they lack a sufficient depth of industry experience to think beyond more obvious dangers.

It makes good sense then to have a third party conduct risk assessments occasionally or to undergo additional training to improve your own skillset. Either way, it is unlikely that Billy Miller will find himself in a similar situation again.

To learn more about third party health and safety risk assessments, or to have your existing provisions audited, please get in touch

About the author

David Cant is a Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME’s favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick. You can find him across social media on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.