The National Association of Home Builders estimates that contractors lose about $1 billion per year due to tool theft. The crimes can take place at the jobsite when a contractor turns his back for a moment or when someone breaks into a storage facility. Everything from large earth movers to rakes and shovels are fair game.
If you have ever been a victim of tool theft, you know that it usually means a hit to your budget you were not counting on, as well downtime to replace the items that are missing. Here are some tips that can help a small contractor keep their tools out of the hands of thieves.
On the jobsite
Stay alert and keep tabs on your tools and equipment at all times. A minute's carelessness often leads to a theft, such as a passerby spotting unattended mowers, hand tools or bags of fertilizer. Make sure equipment and supplies not being used are locked up or secured in some way. This is especially true if you routinely transport tools and equipment on an open trailer that you leave parked on the street while you work in your customer's backyard.
Label your tools by engraving or etching your company name on the tools in several locations. If possible, place some of the engravings in spots the theft may not notice, because the markings can help identify the tool later. At the very least, the thief will have difficulty reselling your tools if they have your company’s name on them.
Get a truck tool box that can be bolted to the truck frame. These are great for storing tools while on the job. They lock to keep your tools safe and organized, and come in a variety of sizes so you can choose the one that best fit your needs.
Paint stripes or some other design in bright colors on the equipment to make them more recognizable. Tools that stand out may deter a would-be thief. Plus, if the thief attempts to sell the tools, bright markings may make potential buyers question the transaction.
Make a written inventory of all your tools and equipment. Take photographs of all your tools and equipment and be sure to list the make, model and serial number for each tool. If you have multiple crews, make sure you know which crew has what tool. Make someone on each crew responsible for keeping track of all the tools the crew uses.
Securing your storage area
Install bright security lights around the storage area, eliminating dark spots where a thief can hide. Use lighting fixtures that are equipped with motion sensors.
Place security cameras around storage areas. There are hardwired and wireless systems that can be connected to a smartphone, tablet or computer that let you monitor the area. Some models even offer night vision.
Contractors who mow lawns or do other landscape work usually take their tools home at night rather than keep them onsite. When you get home or to your storage area, make sure everything is locked up. Use cable locks or chains to secure large items.
What should you do if your tools are stolen?
Your inventory sheet will come in handy when you file an insurance or police report —and you should file a police report. Local authorities may be able to connect your crime with others in the area, helping the police make an arrest. If you need a missing tool to finish an immediate project, considering renting a duplicate for the time being. It may be a cheaper and more feasible option than buying a brand-new model only to have your tools recovered a few days later.
Tool theft is a serious problem that interrupts the livelihood of many small business people. Take these steps to avoid becoming a victim.
Fran Donegan writes home- and garden-related content for numerous digital and print publications. He is the author of the books Pools and Spas and Paint Your Home. To learn more about tools available for rent like those referenced by Fran, visit the Home Depot website.