Craig advises nationally on contentious and non-contentious environmental, health and safety and regulatory…View Profile View all
After several weeks of staying at home, isn’t it surprising how adaptable we are? Within two weeks of being confined to our homes, we were using video calls to stay in touch and have settled into our new normal, without seeing our workmates, no visits to the pub, no posh coffees and no daily commute.
Although we are all in this together, “we” don’t always think the same and one of the challenges we face is the increased risk to unattended commercial properties and open land.
Fly tipping is an issue that affects landowners across the country. As waste sites and civic amenity sites remain closed, there has been a surge in fly-tipping and waste abandonment. Figures reported by West Oxfordshire District Council suggest a 300% rise in illegal waste dumping in their district. Green waste collections have been suspended in some parts of the UK, and some councils are considering a further reduction in waste collection services.
There is also an elevated risk of break-ins and burglaries. While emergency services are distracted with Covid-19 issues and depleted due to staff who are ill or self-isolating, the usual suspects may see this as an opportune time to strike.
I urge owners of unattended buildings to consider how to protect themselves against the risk of fly-tipping and burglary. Each building will be different, but here are my six steps to help reduce the risks.
1. Notify your insurance company
Many insurance policies require you to notify your insurer when your building is unattended for a period of time. Most insurance companies will be affected by the current lockdown but may not relax reporting restrictions. Check your policy and make sure you comply with your obligations. Follow the steps set out by your insurer, and make sure you have sufficient insurance cover to meet the risks.
2. Limit access to your premises
If you have barriers or gates at your entrance, you should be using them already. Consider other ways of restricting access, such as temporary fencing or additional bolts and padlocks. These are a relatively low-cost deterrent to would be fly-tippers and burglars. Some businesses have parked vehicles to obstruct access to reduce risk of opportunists.
I recently saw a pub with a row of beer barrels across their carpark entrance and immediately wondered if they were full or empty, so choose your means of obstruction carefully and make sure you don’t use anything that will itself become a target. If you have valuable plant or equipment on site, take whatever steps are necessary to protect this.
One of the leading cases on liability for pollution involved intruders opening an oil storage tank and draining the contents to land, so consider these risks also, and take steps to limit the impacts of vandals.
If the lockdown continues, consider whether valuables should be removed, and windows and doors boarded up. Some businesses have taken these steps already.
3. Re-position your CCTV
If you have CCTV, look at whether you can move your cameras so they provide better coverage of higher risk areas. Some may not be needed for staff or customer areas and could be turned to face another direction. You would be surprised by the number of break ins and fly tips which are caught on CCTV, but the camera angle or resolution is not quite good enough to get the full number plate of the vehicle or the face of the intruder.
4. Make regular checks
Can you check your premises regularly during this lockdown period? You may be able to get staff to walk past on their daily exercise regime if they live close by. Security patrols are another means of keeping an eye on unoccupied premises. They won’t be on site 24 hours a day, and they will be an extra cost, but they are a deterrent against opportunists. It is not uncommon for several loads of waste to be fly tipped over the course of several days, and if this happens early detection will reduce the quantity of waste and remediation costs.
5. Appropriate signage
Tell would-be criminals about your security systems, because deterrence is the best form of attack. Signage about security, alarms and CCTV should be clear and unambiguous. If you don’t have any of these measures, consider using signage as a deterrent instead. We’ve all seen “beware of the dog” signs at houses which don’t have a dog.
6. Sufficient keyholders
Do you have sufficient keyholders in case something happens and you need to access the building at short notice? Security firms can be issued with keys but make sure the firm is BS 7984-1: 2016 compliant. If you rely on staff to access the building, you will need to be sure that all health and safety considerations and risks have been addressed.
Over recent times we have seen examples of selfless behaviour and outstanding community spirit, but do take steps to protect yourself against those in the community who seek to profit from the unprecedented times we find ourselves in. The team and I are here to advise and guide you through this uncertain period. Call us today on 0113 849 4072 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how.