Why is CCTV essential to a construction site?

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There are numerous reasons why construction sites need to be thoroughly and continuously monitored. Most of them, however, ultimately hinge on safety and/or security.

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Using CCTV appropriately can do a lot to help achieve both goals. Here, Nick Booth, Director at ISET Solutions, shares his insight into what you need to know.

CCTV and the law

As CCTV captures personal likenesses, its use is governed by GDPR. In practical terms, using CCTV on construction sites is absolutely fine as long as the monitoring is proportionate to the risk. This generally boils down to keeping monitoring in public areas and out of private ones (e.g. toilets). 

The restrictions of GDPR can actually be useful as they encourage companies to think carefully about where CCTV cameras would be most beneficial. This helps to ensure that companies deploy their resources cohesively and effectively. 

There are, however, a few GDPR-related points that are worth noting. Firstly, you will probably be restricted to filming within your own perimeter. Secondly, you will probably need to register with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) as a CCTV operator. 

Thirdly, you will need to ensure that images are processed in line with GDPR. In particular, you’ll need to ensure that they’re stored securely, only kept for as long as necessary and only made available to authorized personnel. You’ll also need to be able to respond to subject access and deletion requests. 

The practicalities of CCTV

Making CCTV work effectively for you starts with identifying your goals. In terms of construction sites, common goals include: 

  • Promoting safety
  • Preventing crime
  • Monitoring overall progress 

You would then have to define what achieving those goals looks like, both literally and figuratively. 

For example, promoting safety might look like seeing workers adhering to safety protocols. Preventing crime might look like having only authorized workers and visitors on-site and having all equipment where it should be. Monitoring overall progress should look like your project plan. 

You can then move on to defining what role your CCTV will play in preventing these hazards. This will lead you to defining what other equipment, infrastructure and/or processes need to be in place for your CCTV to run at peak efficiency. Here are some pointers to consider. 

CCTV is a recording system, not a monitoring system 

By itself, CCTV will not alert you either to incidents in progress or to incidents that have already happened. For that, you need monitoring systems. You also need these monitoring systems to work in real-time if possible (e.g. security guards). If that is not possible, you need to minimize the gaps between checks (e.g. audits of tools and materials). 

As always, the quicker you can identify an issue, the quicker you can act to address it. For completeness, it’s worth noting that GDPR requires you to delete CCTV footage in a timely manner. This is context-dependent but a maximum of 6 months is a good rule of thumb. Keep in mind, however, that the longer you keep video, the more your storage will cost. 

Another advantage of having robust and up-to-date monitoring systems is that they help to narrow down the time frame in which an incident could have occurred. This reduces the amount of CCTV footage you need to check. Not only does this save time, but it can also reduce the opportunity for human error to creep in. 

Security starts at your perimeter 

You’re highly unlikely to be able to run CCTV outside your own perimeter. You can, however, almost always put up signage to advise that it’s being used within the perimeter. This in itself can act as a deterrent. 

On its own, however, it may not be a sufficient deterrent. After all, if an intruder does get in unnoticed, you have to work out who they are before you have any chance of taking action against them. This means that CCTV needs to be coupled with effective barriers. Access points should be kept to a minimum and well secured. 

A robust perimeter not only helps maintain security but also helps to improve health and safety. In particular, it reduces the likelihood of people or animals accidentally wandering into your site. Even if legally, you are not responsible, this can result in a reputational headache, it’s better to avoid. 

Traffic control is vital 

In the context of CCTV, effective traffic control maximizes the likelihood that CCTV cameras will capture clear, useful images. When people are in crowds, it becomes harder to identify individuals. 

Even if your records show you who was (or should have been there), it can be impossible to confirm whether or not your records are accurate. It can also be impossible to determine which individual(s) took which actions. 

More generally, traffic control is vital for both security and health and safety. From a security perspective, limiting people’s access to areas where they need to be also limits their ability to do mischief. From a health and safety perspective, limiting people’s access to where they need to be also limits their ability to come to harm. 

Both of these points have particular relevance for construction sites. These tend to involve a lot of moving people, vehicles and machinery. These all need to be kept well separated from each other for both security and safety. This generally means keeping all three groups in one place as much as possible and keeping them under strict control when they do move. 

CCTV needs light to work 

It’s vital to ensure that there is adequate lighting in any area monitored by CCTV. Firstly, it’s essential for the camera to function effectively. Secondly, the lighting itself can serve as a deterrent (especially when coupled with CCTV). Thirdly, lighting is often crucial to health and safety. 

If you want to minimize your energy costs (and help the environment), you might want to opt for motion-sensitive lights. You could also look at solar-powered lights. Realistically, solar power might not be enough on its own to power lights used on a construction site. You may, however, get lights that can use both solar power and regular batteries/electricity. 

Cameras need protection

The three main hazards facing CCTV cameras are the Great British weather, the local wildlife and humans. Dealing with all three hazards typically involves a combination of a protective casing and strategic placement. 

You will also need to protect the infrastructure the cameras need to operate. For example, if your cameras are linked to your main electricity supply, then you should have a backup generator. If they’re internet-linked then you need a secondary internet connection. At a pinch, mobile data might do, especially on smaller construction sites.

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About the Author: Nick Booth

Nick Booth is the Director of ISET UK Fire & Security Distribution, who specialise in home security and automation technology for trade and businesses within the bio tech, corporate sector and beyond.