Equipment theft on construction sites is an all too frequent problem in the industry. In addition to addressing this issue it’s also more pertinent to protect our workers during the current COVID-19 pandemic, the recent rioting vandalism that made headlines, plus the unique challenges of monitoring hundreds of workers in a work atmosphere that is constantly changing. That’s why Graham Construction is a “surveillance success story” worth hearing about.
From pilot project to standard practice
When Graham Construction received a commission to build a new food processing plant in London, Ontario, they knew they wanted to further develop a security solution that they had been piloting with their partners Accara IT Services and Axis Communications. The goal was to make it a standard at all their construction sites to detect and deter theft, while keeping both workers and the property safe. Specifically, it had to provide hard evidence to support investigations in the event of a breach.
When modular is mandatory
Graham Construction needed a security and safety solution modular enough to be moved as needed. The resulting total solution is contained on 12 posts — each 6 x 6 inches wide by 16 feet high — cemented in-ground in strategic locations throughout the work site.
Each of these innovative “security posts” have an outdoor-rated red emergency button which activates mass notification/evacuation, two Axis network cameras – one with PTZ (pan/tilt/zoom) functionality and one with 360-degree coverage, plus two Axis network horn speakers mounted for optimum audibility. The video management software (VMS) that connects all of the equipment and allows control of the entire system is Axis Camera Station. It’s all connected by a secure wireless network, and the cameras can be managed and monitored on and off-site by authorized users from their desktop or smart devices.
“It’s very modular,” explains Mike Candow, project manager at Graham. “When we dug the posts in, we made sure that we could pick the whole post up. The complete system can be moved anywhere throughout the site at any given time, all depending where the construction is ongoing.”
The equipment is powered via movable LED light towers situated near each post. By way of diesel engines, the towers provide light to the job site during low-light conditions or for added safety, and act as generators to provide power for the security equipment.
Keeping workers safe and informed
Audibility can be a problem on a job site with up to 700 workers, given the acoustical properties of construction materials and activities such as welding and sawing. On previous projects, Graham Construction had used air horns for mass notifications, but the volume was not adequate.
So, the team brainstormed, and the result was installing Axis network horn speakers, which are outdoor loudspeakers that provide clear, long-range speech. The workers can now hear alarms and pre-recorded (or live) announcements easily, even while wearing their personal protective equipment.
“If something on-site happens — you have a gas leak or you have a major incident, a first-aid scenario — any of the workers on-site can hit this button, which basically engages all of our cameras, all of the horns, and evacuates the entire site. We’re able to evacuate everybody quickly and safely in the most efficient manner possible,” explains Candow.
Eyes on everything
With 24 network cameras and radar detectors constantly transmitting to the Camera Station VMS, if something is “off,” they will surely see it. The PTZ network cameras are programmed for guard-tour operation, while the 360-degree network cameras each have four sensors on a ring, which can be rotated to get desired coverage. Brian Fleming, president of Accara, configured the system so that both cameras on each post operate as one module.
“Everything is set up for recording on video triggers, so if there is activity in a particular zone, then it’s going to be recorded in that area,” explains Fleming. “[Cameras] also will be tracking motion when it’s in their visibility.”
The system has also proven to be a big time-saver, because you can check on any area of the site remotely.
“This is a 640,000-square-foot facility,” says Candow. “It takes about an hour to get all the way around the site, so to have the ability to just check on something from your office without having to do that walk is highly beneficial to folks.”
Valuable video footage
Theft can be a major problem on construction sites because there is a lot of valuable, and portable, equipment. “We had two generators stolen,” recalls Candow. “I had the Ontario Provincial Police come out and they said, ‘We can open a file for you, but we can’t open an investigation unless you have either an individual by name or video proof’ … so you can identify the face.’”
With network cameras installed between 12 and 15 feet high, “that’s a perfect height to be able to zoom-in for facial recognition. Then we can send that to the police department and open a proper investigation. All of our subcontractors feel far more secure leaving their equipment on-site if they know that we have this system in place,” adds Candow.
Additionally, recorded video is essential for substantiating any safety-related occurrences. “As project management teams, we are bound by the court of law for anything that occurs on a job site,” says Candow. “Having video proof of exactly what happened is a safety net for project management staff.”
Recorded video is stored on the camera station server, located in the construction office, for 30 days or longer in the event of an incident.
An excellent return on investment
Not a single piece of equipment has been taken from the site since the system was put in.
“One-hundred percent, this just brings a heightened level of security, a heightened level of safety to an already complex work environment,” summarizes Candow.
When considering preventative measures, and taking in account for COVID-19, investing in an end-to-end surveillance solution that can be reapplied in new ways makes even more sense. For example, monitoring workers via network cameras can help to ensure that they are social distancing, while audio announcements can remind them not to attend work if they have any COVID-19 symptoms and to wash their hands regularly.
When this project is done, Candow plans to uninstall the security poles and re-install them at the next construction site. “Overall, from upper management to the workers on site, everybody is more than pleased with the efficiency and the quality of the product and what it brings to the table, [now and in the future],” he says.
Gavin Daly manages the Professional Service Group (PSG) at Axis Communications, Inc., providing technical expertise and personalized advice for both internal and external customers.
Photos courtesy of Axis Communications