Safe Sites are Profitable Sites:

Graham Construction builds on their security solution with mobile surveillance and mass notification

Written by Gavin Daly at Axis Communications Inc. 

Equipment theft on construction sites is an all-too-frequent problem.  Approximately $46 million in equipment is stolen annually in Canada, with $15 to $20 million of those losses in Ontario alone.  An independent survey of 100 construction companies found they experienced an average of two thefts per year, with losses averaging $25,900 for licensed vehicles and $1,600 for tools.

Work-site theft and vandalism can define the success and profitability of a construction site project.  Not only does it impact time and costs to replace stolen items, it can also impact productivity, deadlines and it could mean unsafe situations for employees.  While addressing the issue of safety and employee welfare, it’s more pertinent than ever to protect our workers during the current COVID-19 pandemic.  The work atmosphere of construction sites is constantly changing and unique challenges of monitoring many sites and hundreds of workers is no easy task.  That’s why Calgary based Graham Construction, one of the largest construction companies in Canada, is a security conscious company culture worth talking about.

Testing leads to standard practice

Real world surveillance testing gives construction companies a chance to figure out what works as it relates to their goals as well as iron out any potential issues early.  It’s a good idea to sort out these issues in the testing phase before an end-to-end surveillance solution is set up.

When Graham Construction received a commission to build a new food processing plant 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 intention 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.

Modular and adaptable to any site

Flexible and easily deployable from any site, while allowing for high-quality remote supervision – that’s what Graham Construction needed – a security and safety solution modular enough to be moved.  The resulting full-scale solution is a system that consists of 12 portable platforms installed so that all critical areas of the job site can be surveilled.  This includes assisting in health and safety monitoring and incident investigation, as well as protecting the site from unauthorized access, vandalism, and the theft of materials, tools, and machinery.  Each of the portable platforms is a 6 x 6 inches wide by 16 feet high post, cemented in-ground in strategic locations throughout the 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. 

Outdoor loudspeakers keep workers safe and informed 

Graham Construction’s core values of health, safety, and environment are part of every workday and every worksite.  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 concluded that installing Axis network horn speakers, which are outdoor loudspeakers that provide clear and long-range speech, was the ideal solution.  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,” Candow explains. 

Remote eyes on the site

For Graham Construction the most beneficial part of their surveillance solution was is being able to review the actual footage from across a site. With the 24 network cameras and AXIS radar detectors constantly transmitting to the AXIS Camera Station Video Management System (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.” 

“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.”

The system has proven to be a big time-saver, because you can check on any area of the site remotely and understand what is happening.  This allows the Graham Construction team to react quickly.

Investigational video footage 

Graham Construction believes that all safety-related incidents are foreseeable, predictable, and preventable.  Recorded video is essential for substantiating any safety-related occurrences.  Recorded video is stored on the AXIS Camera Station server, located in the construction office, for 30 days or longer in the event of an incident.

“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.” 

Theft can be a major problem on construction sites because there is a lot of valuable and portable, equipment.  “We had two generators stolen.” Candow recalls. “I had the 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,” says Candow.  “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.”

A positive addition to the work environment

Not a single piece of equipment has been taken from the plant site since the surveillance system was put in.  Candow also believes the solution is a testament to the flexibility and scalability of the manufacturer and product line.

“We had everything up and running within a week,” Candow says.  When this project is done, he 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.” 

“One-hundred percent, this just brings a heightened level of security, a heightened level of safety to an already complex work environment,” Candow summarizes. 

Such a surveillance solution can also be used for COVID-19 preventative measures.  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.  The beauty in choosing open architecture surveillance, the company is investing in an end-to-end surveillance solution that is an open and scalable system that can be used in various construction sites and in new ways that are beneficial to the bottom line. 

Gavin Daly

About the Author 

Gavin Daly manages the Professional Service Group (PSG) at Axis Communications, Inc., providing technical expertise and personalized advice for both internal and external customers.  Gavin’s industry insight and experience provides value and practical expertise to ensure customers achieve full realization of their surveillance needs.