Keeping tools on the jobsite

Oct. 1, 2011
Powered equipment that sprouts legs and walks away... Hand tools that vanish into thin air… These are the phenomena that plague jobsites.

Powered equipment that sprouts legs and walks away... Hand tools that vanish into thin air… These are the phenomena that plague jobsites.

Thieves hit jobsites looking for tools left unguarded and unsecured. Tool theft is a big problem in the industry and almost every contractor has experienced it. Replacing stolen tools can be expensive, but it can also delay a job.

While embedded RFID tags and GPS locators can make it easier to locate stolen tools, technology is also making it easier for thieves. They can steal equipment and sell it over the Internet to buyers who don't know (or don't care) that the tool is stolen.

Don't think all thieves are cutting fences at night to get onto the jobsite … Some of them may be closer than you think, especially on big jobs that require hiring subcontractors or local laborers you don't know.

So what can you do to secure your tools? Here are five steps to take:

1. ID your tools: Take a picture, record the serial number and etch it onto a visible part of the tool, along with your name or the company's name. You can also etch the company's federal tax ID number onto the tool, a step that will deter thieves and make it easier for police to recover it if it’s stolen. Tool serial numbers should be logged into a master database for the job and registered with the tool manufacturer.

2. Keep your tools out of harm's way: Take them home or lock them in a secure building. Tools that can't be put inside should be locked with cables to something on site. Some contractors have even hoisted valuable pieces of equipment into the air before leaving for the night. Don't bring expensive pieces of equipment onto the site until necessary and remove them once they’re no longer needed. If you must leave your tools out overnight, line them up in such a way that anything missing will be easily spotted.

3. Mark your tools: Ugly them up with paint or distinguishing marks, as well as a few scuffs, to discourage thieves. Tools can also be color-coded for quick and easy identification on a crowded jobsite. Ugly or color-coded tools may be less attractive to thieves, and more easily identified in case of theft.

4. Secure your tools: Jobsites should be fenced with as few gates as possible and those gates should be guarded while contractors come and go. Sites should be well lit and guarded at night. It doesn’t hurt to ask local law enforcement to keep an eye out as well.

5. Control access to your tools: Sign tools in and out and let workers know they are responsible for certain pieces of equipment. Assigning tools means they'll have an extra pair of eyes on them. And don't lend tools to someone you don't know.

These steps won’t guarantee that your tools will never hop the fence and disappear, but they'll go a long way toward ensuring that your tools remain yours.

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