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36 · Feature

D & D Autumn 08


There has been a worrying spate of attachment thefts across the UK demolition industry in recent months, sparking fears that these high value items are being stolen to order, and prompting calls for manufacturers to be more security-conscious. Mark Anthony reports.

Plant theft is an age-old problem and one that reportedly costs the UK economy more than £100 million each year in lost production, higher insurance premiums and replacement equipment. But while the loss of a site dumper can often be labelled opportunist or dismissed as the work of a teenage joy-rider, a recent spate of high-value attachment thefts have raised concerns that the demolition sector is being targeted by highly organised criminal gangs stealing grabs, pulverisers and hydraulic hammers to order. Furthermore, some of the attachments stolen in recent months, whilst not unique in the UK, are highly unusual and would be readily spotted by other demolition professionals in what remains a close-knit, almost incestuous business. This suggests that not only are these attachments being stolen

to order but they are destined for a ready market overseas where they would not be recognised. “One of the key problems with attachments is that they’re notoriously difficult to secure,” says NFDC chief executive Howard Button. “On a long- term construction site, it might be possible to put them in secure storage but the transient nature of the demolition business means that we generally don’t have such luxuries available to us. And while we can use track locks and other anti-theft devices to secure the carrier machines, attachments are all too easy to steal.” Ironically, the demolition industry’s almost universal adoption of attachments to enhance safety and productivity has, in fact, resulted in regular bouts of lost production caused by attachment theft. “With attachments readily switched using modern quick hitches, it is not uncommon for the modern demolition contractor to have specialist buckets, pulverisers, shears, grabs and hammers on site, waiting to be used,” Button says. “To the specialist thief, this can make a demolition site look like a potentially lucrative shop window. And because we are now so reliant upon these attachments, a single theft can

“Demolition sites look like a potentially lucrative shop window to the thief”

bring a demolition contract to a standstill.” Button says that the NFDC actively encourages its members to use a variety of systems to aid in the recovery of stolen attachments including Tracker, Datatag and Thiefbeaters, and further advises caution in how the equipment is stored and secured. He remains frustrated, however, that attachment manufacturers have yet to devise a security device to prevent the theft occurring in

the first place. “The innovations made by the attachments manufacturers in recent years have effectively shaped the demolition industry of today, allowing us to work with larger, more powerful attachments at ever greater heights,” Button concludes. “I am sure that they could and should apply their design and manufacturing expertise to create attachments that are still easy to change but are difficult to steal.”

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