How to prevent copper cable / copper tape theft

Metal Theft Prevention - Guardian Security Products

The theft of copper earth tape (a.k.a earth cable) can be costly, disruptive and potentially life threatening. However, there are steps you can take to prevent it.

Why is copper theft a problem?

Despite efforts to make metal resale more difficult, there still remains a risk of theft. It’s also not just substations who are at risk, even heritage sites are being targeted. When vandalism or theft does occur it can cause a number of challenges, such as:

  • Cost – The cost to replace copper tape plus the repair of damages caused by the thieves can run into tens of thousands of pounds.
  • Disruption – Metal theft can result in outages on electrical networks which causes disruption to thousands of homes and businesses.
  • Risk to life – Following an attack on a Scottish Power substation, Frank Mitchell, CEO of SP Energy Networks, was quoted as saying “It beggars belief that anyone would put their own life at risk by tampering with thousands of volts of electricity in order to steal small amounts of copper that have a minimal scrap value. You don’t even need to come into direct contact with the equipment in a substation to receive a potentially fatal shock. The copper helps to ensure the network remains safe and those involved in carrying out this break-in have shown little regard for their own safety, the public and that of our employees.”

Traditional Fixings

Conventional fixing for copper and aluminium earth tape is a metal or plastic fixing cleat. Unfortunately this type of fixing makes the material very easy to steal as the cleat offers no security benefits.

In the past a steel anchor bolt has been used as a deterrent but even this has downsides. Steel fixings are susceptible to excessive corrosion and after a short period of time the fixing starts to break down. A process which is accelerated in bund areas where water is regularly present. This process also requires a barrier between a steel fixing and earth tape to prevent an electrolytic reaction. Using a plastic washer involves more material, is time consuming and makes it easy for thieves to use a bolster chisel to knock the heads off as the fixing head is raised from the earth tape. Tinning is an alternative barrier method but again is time consuming and has potential Health & Safety issues with concrete possibly exploding when excessive heat is applied.

What can be done to prevent copper tape theft?

The good news is there are steps you can take to deter metal theft attacks:

  • Implement additional security measures: Such as installing lights, alarms, CCTV and ensuring any surrounding trees/plants (which could hide criminal activity) are cut back.
  • Take extra care while any building works are in progress: Secure or removing scaffolding, building equipment and ladders which could make life easier for thieves.
  • Security markings: Use a forensic security marking system to mark your metal and display the signs as a visual deterrent.

Whilst these measures can deter thieves from entering the site, you can also prevent the tape being taken in the first instance.

Guardian Security Products

Alcomet’s Guardian Security is a range of products that are tested and approved by specialist engineers to counter the problem of theft and vandalism in substations.

As an endorsement of quality and excellence, HM Queen Elizabeth II honoured Alcomet with a Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Innovation in 2009 for the development and launch of the Guardian range.

Guardian Stainless Steel Security Pins, Nuts and Bolts

Made from corrosion resistant stainless steel, the Guardian Security Pins can withstand aggressive attack.

Once installed the only way for thieves to steal material is to grind off the pin heads or by cutting between each pin. It simply takes too much time, too much effort and makes too much noise!

  • Guardian Security Pin – An solution for quick and easy installation with either a Guardian Impact Driver or a hammer. A longer pin is also available for use on decayed concrete surfaces.
  • Guardian Security Star Bolts – Like the Guardian Security Pin the Star Bolt is easy and quick to install with additional security features.
  • Guardian Pin Hex Bolt and Removable Nuts – The Guardian Pin Hex Bolts keeps your equipment safe from attack. Special tools provide you with flexibility for maintenance or replacement.
Guardian Security Nuts and Bolts

Guardian Cover Guard

To avoid the possibility of theft by sawing off the earthing tape between the Guardian Security Pins, we have designed cover guards to offer complete protection.

The guards can also protect material that cannot be secured to a structure. This is achieved by using two pieces of guard back to back sandwiching the material inside. The metal is secured inside the guards by using Guardian Star Bolts and shear nuts.

  • Easy to install with Guardian Stainless Steel Security Pin. The Guardian Security Pin is used to secure the cover guard. A tinned copper washer is also available to ensure the guard can also be earthed.
  • Increase speed of installation using the Guardian Impact Driver.
  • Low height to avoid being a tripping hazard.
  • Provides a complete cover of copper tape to eliminates theft and deter vandalism.
Guardian Cover Guard >>
Guardian Security Products

Guardian Security Paints

Where it’s not possible to protect your earthing tape with the above products we also provide a number of Security Paints. The range includes:

  • Guardian Camouflage Paint
  • Guardian Anti-handling Paint
  • Guardian Bitumastic Paint
Guardian Security Paints >>

Find out more

If you have any questions or would like to receive a quote please contact our team on 01384 404 488 or simply email your requirements to

Alcomet News

Read the latest news from Alcomet. If you’d like to discuss any of the topics below simply contact the team on 01384 404 488 – our lines are open 24/7 or email your requirements to
Read Alcomet News>