InSite | How to safeguard construction equipment

How to safeguard construction equipment

Published date: May 30 2023


The following knowledge article was provided and written by HSB.

Premier Guarantee is part of HSB, a specialist insurer in the UK and Ireland which is part of the HSB Group.



Each year, insurance companies pay out millions in claims following significant damage and theft of construction plant and equipment (CPE); either owned, leased or hired. Damage can also occur as a result of accidents due to fire, flood and overturning events, or deliberately through vandalism or arson.

These incidents can also result in personal injury, property damage and business interruption as well as potential delays and increased costs. Many loss events are preventable and occurrences can be reduced through appropriate risk management procedures and activities.

It is important to properly risk assess the work activities and to ensure the selected plant is suitable for its operating environment.

With such a diverse range of CPE available, the specific operating and maintenance instructions for any particular piece of CPE should be referred to. However, many of the loss prevention principles are common to all types of CPE and working locations.

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How to prevent loss or damage in CPE

Management and planning

Many occurrences of loss or damage can be traced back to poor management and planning, together with operator competence and insufficient maintenance.

The following elements are key to ensuring CPE is operated safely and without incident.


Safe system of work

A safe system of work must be in place prior to deploying any CPE. This should consist of a suitable and sufficient risk assessment, describing minimum control measures to be applied when working with or near CPE. Any deviations from the safe system of work should be further risk-assessed before being actioned.

For the more complex tasks (i.e deep excavations, demolitions, complex lifting operations, etc) a comprehensive method statement may be required in addition to a risk assessment.

This process should involve planning of the specific task/activities, selection of suitable CPE, checking adequate maintenance has been carried out, preparation of the working area (working platform, etc), provision of properly-trained and competent supervisory and operating personnel; ensuring all test certificates and inspection reports are available and provision for the safety of all those involved or affected by the operating CPE.


Operator competence

All CPE operators must be adequately trained and competent to operate the selected equipment. Competence should be demonstrated through achieving suitable qualifications recognised by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) and/or the Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS) or equivalent. Checks should be made to ensure qualifications are genuine and up-to-date.

All operators should be able to undertake basic pre-start checks and shutdown procedures. It is recommended that the use of checklists are employed to ensure no aspect is left unaddressed.



All CPE needs to be part of a planned maintenance programme that strictly corresponds to the manufacturers’ requirements.

Proper maintenance will prevent problems arising and ensure the equipment operates efficiently. Inadequate maintenance can cause equipment failure, leading to breakdown and/or fire.

All CPE should be checked over by the operator every day to ensure oil and water levels are correct, and to check for signs of wear or damage.

It is important to keep detailed records of the maintenance and repair history of each piece of CPE, either in electronic or paper form. Copies of job sheets and receipts for all work undertaken should be retained in a dedicated file for each piece of CPE.


What kinds of hazards can lead to CPE damage?


Being aware of the typical hazards that can lead to CPE damage is key to ensuring losses are controlled and prevented.




All working environments must be subject to a fire risk assessment, which must be undertaken by a ‘Responsible Person’. The fire risk assessment must be kept up-to-date and the control measures reviewed regularly to minimise the risk to life and property.

Individuals need to be appointed as Fire Marshals or Fire Wardens, and their roles and responsibilities clearly defined. Adequate training in firefighting must be provided.


The following aspects are important in preventing and tackling fires involving CPE:


Fire prevention:

  • Ensure daily inspections and regular maintenance regimes review the condition of oil and fuel hoses to check for leaks and signs of wear
  • Repair any electrical faults at the earliest opportunity. − Use fire resistant hydraulic oils were technically feasible
  • Carry out refuelling in a safe manner and in an area remote from the main operations
  • Hot work should not be carried out to fuel tanks or in the vicinity of fuel or oil lines. All hot work on CPE should be subject to a specific risk assessment and controlled with the use of a hot work permit. There should also be dedicated portable fire extinguisher and fire watch period. All hot work to CPE should be carried out in the open, away from any buildings or other CPE
  • Smoking should only be permitted in designated areas away from CPE
  • Burning of waste should not be allowed in the proximity of CPE
  • Provide overhead cable protection on vehicle routes


Planning for the consequences of fire:

  • Consider installing automatic fire suppression systems to CPE
  • Ensure all ride-on mobile CPE is provided with a portable fire extinguisher and ensure operators are adequately trained to use them
  • Ensure there is sufficient firefighting facilities in the vicinity of operating CPE e.g. fire points, fire hoses, fire hydrants or mobile water bowsers
  • Provide an adequate means of raising the alarm and procedures to call the fire and rescue service
  • Consider notifying the fire and rescue service of the location and type of CPE in operation




Flood is a significant hazard to CPE and can lead to major overhauls and replacement of parts. CPE operating adjacent to rivers, in coastal locations or in deep excavations and tunnels is vulnerable to fluvial, seawater and stormwater flooding; potentially totally submerging the CPE.

Recovery costs can be expensive and can, in some cases, render the CPE a write-off.


All CPE operating in flood-susceptible locations should be subjected to a flood risk assessment. Depending on the nature and exposure of the working environment to flooding, consideration should be given to drawing up a formal Flood Preparedness Plan for all vulnerable working areas.


The plan should capture all flood mitigation measures and emergency procedures and include:

  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Lines of communication
  • Flood hazards, including water sources, topography and any vulnerable work undertaken during the winter
  • Flood risk assessments and flood risk registers
  • Design principles including return periods for temporary protection measures
  • Daily weather watches and forecasts −Practical mitigation measures and arrangements (e.g. pumps and sumps, bunding, cut-off trenches, sandbags, use of elevated platforms to store materials and equipment, and cleaning of existing drainage systems, etc.).


A key mitigation measure is to move all CPE working in potentially vulnerable flood zones, to higher ground prior to the onset of any major storm.




Overturning is a further risk to CPE, particularly where machinery is operating on temporary working surfaces, at dock sides, lakes and reservoirs, at the head of steep slopes or near the ‘danger area’ at the edge of open trenches and excavations.

These areas are more likely to collapse without warning. Overturning CPE can be significantly damaging and cause injury to operators, site personnel and the general public. Any CPE operating in dangerous or constricted working environments should be assisted by competent banksmen and signallers.

Wheel stops should be provided at the edge of shear faces. The mechanism of overturning is often as a result of a failure of the ground or supporting structure beneath the operating CPE.


This is particularly important in connection with tall or load-carrying CPE such as mobile cranes, piling rigs, mobile elevated working platforms, etc.


The following aspects are key to ensuring an adequate working surface is provided:


Site categories and underground hazards

Sites can be split into a number of categories to highlight the most likely hazards that need to be considered and risk-assessed. More attention is required to establish the strength of the ground where ground conditions are poor or where there is a lack of data on the nature of the subsoil.


Typical categories include:

  • Greenfield sites: particular problem areas are adjacent to rivers, estuaries and floodplains where soft alluvial deposits and high groundwater tables can be expected
  • Beaches: low sand density and a variable groundwater level can create difficult conditions
  • Brownfield sites: unknown previous use including basements, storage tanks, poorly-filled open pits and badly compacted fill, etc.
  • Paved areas: tarmacked or paved areas can appear deceptively strong but lead to CPE punching through weak surfacing. Lightly trafficked car parks, estate roads and footpaths should be scrutinised. The edge of paved areas are usually weak.
  • Town centre sites: expect underground hazards beneath paved areas, including services, drainage pipes, buried cables, basements and tunnels, etc. This can lead to CPE punching through to the void below.


Ground investigation

Before CPE arrives on site, existing information on the nature of the soils should have been studied.


Reference should be made to any existing site investigation reports and particular attention paid to the character of the ground at shallow depths, where CPE will be operating.


Ground-bearing capacity


An assessment of the ground bearing capacity may be required to determine the size and type of support required for CPE.


This can be calculated with reference to the ground investigation reports and should be carried out by a competent geotechnical engineer.


It should be noted that the presence of water tends to reduce the strength of soils and can lead to a reduced capacity since the initial bearing capacity assessment.



Settlement must be kept to a minimum to avoid eccentricities and additional loading. Level indicators and inclinometers should be employed where feasible. If settlement occurs, then the foundation needs to be reassessed.

Working platforms and design

A working platform may be required, for example, to provide a designated area over which CPE can travel during its delivery, operation and movement around the construction site.

The design, installation, maintenance and repair of the working platform should be the responsibility of the main contractor, and a temporary works engineer should be consulted on the detailed requirements.

The platform should be free-draining to prevent the build-up of water and, in certain cases, separation/filter membranes may be required underneath.

Appropriate safety factors should be employed in the design and regular checks undertaken to ensure the platform is not disturbed by other construction activity. Excavations, trenches, or other holes dug to facilitate other construction activities must be properly backfilled and repaired to avoid creating soft spots.

The edge of the platform needs to be clearly defined and ground preparation should extend beyond the working area required for the CPE.


Working Platform Certificate

Consideration should be given to using a ‘Working Platform Certificate’ to ensure that the correct procedures have been followed, the ground is adequate to support CPE activity and that there are no irregularities that could result in local subsidence and toppling.


Further detailed guidance on working platforms for tracked plant and a sample ‘Working Platform Certificate’ is available from the Federation of Piling Specialists.


Outrigger foundations

Where CPE is provided with outriggers, these should always be fully extended and all the tyres lifted clear of the ground.

The area of the pad attached to the outrigger is small and, therefore, generates high pressures on the ground. The pressure can be reduced by the provision of suitable spreader mats which, depending on the allowable bearing pressure of the subsoil, could consist of timber mats, timber and ply plates, proprietary mats, steel grillages, concrete pads or piles (for high loads in week soil conditions).

Calculations will be required and the temporary works design engineer should be consulted.

Outriggers should always be positioned central to the spreader mats, which should be in contact with the ground over its entire surface area.




Millions of pounds worth of CPE is stolen in the UK every month and less than 10% of it is ever recovered. In many cases, it will be taken overseas in a shipping container within 24 hours. Even with many advanced security systems available, it is still common to find expensive CPE left unprotected on construction sites overnight.

Theft of CPE from any working environment should be the subject of a risk assessment. This should identify the CPE exposed, history of theft in the area, roles and responsibilities and mitigation measures, including physical and electronic security systems.

There should be a particular focus on weekends, night time and holiday periods when sites are most vulnerable.

There should be a clear company security policy and plant security strategy implemented by all supervisors and CPE operators. The security strategy should include both prevention and recovery measures. Key CPE hazard and control measures to consider are as follows.


Prevention measures

  • Provide security guards or gate personnel at all access points wherever feasible
  • During out of hours periods, return CPE to secure, well-lit compounds or out of sight within buildings
  • Provide remotely monitored PIR/PA CCTV coverage to CPE storage areas and/or SIA-approved security guards
  • Ensure storage areas are protected by minimum 2.5m high metal fencing with gates secured with high-quality chains and closed shackle padlocks
  • Use larger items of CPE to block in other smaller equipment, for example, by extending hydraulic arms
  • Use physical security devices such as breaker locks, leg locks, ram locks, track locks, wheel clamps and tow hitch locks to trailers
  • Provide retractable anti-ram bollards behind gates
  • Remove ignition keys from site if possible or store in a concealed key safe
  • Activate ignition immobilisers (Thatcham-approved)
  • Secure smaller items of CPE and tools in steel containers and steel tool chests


Recovery measures

Types of measures that can be employed include:

  • Maintaining accurate records and a photographic database of all CPE
  • Register CPE with the CESAR scheme, which provides a unique registration, hidden transponder, DNA solution and security datadots identifying key elements of the CPE
  • Marking CPE with a unique VIN
  • Marking all CPE with ‘smart water’
  • Painting all CPE in corporate colours with distinctive livery markings
  • Installing Thatcham-approved GPS tracking devices
  • Providing security etching to all cab glass


Arson and vandalism


All CPE is a potential target for deliberate fire-raising or malicious damage. Fires can spread to other CPE, property or business assets.

Businesses that suffer a major fire may never recover. It is therefore crucial that an effective arson prevention strategy is in place. Arson and vandalism can be caused by external parties but also by disgruntled employees.

Key elements of an arson prevention strategy are as follows:

  • Undertake an arson/vandalism risk assessment taking into account the location, history of problems in the area and nature of the business, particularly the type of work carried out (i.e. if it is of a sensitive or emotive nature)
  • Designate a person responsible for arson risk assessment and management −Ensure combustible materials are not stored adjacent to CPE
  • Minimise the amount of fuel and LPG stored on the site/premises −Lock all fuel caps to CPE and fuel tanks
  • Provide suitable firefighting facilities (see ‘Fire’ section above)
  • Where possible, store CPE inside buildings with fire protection systems providing buildings/any stored materials are of a non-combustible nature
  • Ensure robust, physical security measures are in place to prevent access to CPE (see ‘Theft’ section above)
  • Provide window shutters and screens to glass cabs




All mobile CPE has the potential to be involved in collisions with other CPE, property or pedestrians. As well as the impact damage caused, this can also result in injury, overturning, fires, etc.

All mobile CPE should be subjected to a Traffic Management Plan to control the movement of CPE both on and off construction sites and working premises.


Key aspects to consider to avoid collisions include:


  • Establishment of a one-way system wherever feasible
  • Clear segregation of traffic and pedestrian routes
  • Deployment of adequate signage to give warning of hazards
  • Enforcement of appropriate speed limits
  • Positioning of solid, impact protection barriers around static CPE and property
  • Provision of grills and protective barriers to CPE cabs to deflect falling rocks (in quarries or tunnels) or masonry (on demolition sites)
  • Properly planned and managed lifting operations, where these involve lifting and moving CPE (e.g. lowering mini excavators into excavations or tunnel boring machines into shafts, etc)
  • Provision of banksmen and signallers to assist with the movement of CPE 
  • Established procedures for poor conditions, e.g. fog, heavy rain and ice.




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Every care was taken to ensure the information in this article was correct at the time of publication (May 2023). Guidance provided does not replace the reader’s professional judgement and any construction project should comply with the relevant Building Regulations or applicable technical standards. For the most up to date Premier Guarantee technical guidance please refer to your Risk Management Surveyor and the latest version of the Premier Guarantee Technical Manual.
Ref: MK-3558