5 Steps to Protect Against Lost or Stolen Tools

Investing in tools and equipment is a necessary part of being a business owner. What's not necessary is paying for those same tools a second time if they get lost or stolen.

According to National Crime Information Bureau (NCIB), as much as $1 billion a year is lost nationwide due to theft of construction equipment and tools -- and the recovery rate is less than 20 percent.

Discover 5 steps to protect your tools from being lost or stolen.

1. Track Your Tools

Tracking your inventory helps you keep track of tools and equipment and is an easy way to quickly identify when a tool has gone missing. How you track is up to you. You can use anything from a simple spreadsheet to tool management software to help you keep tabs on your equipment.

What to Track
Spreadsheet or software, be sure you're tracking the following:

  • Tool type
  • Tool brand
  • Purchase price
  • Purchase date
  • Item barcodes or RFID chips
  • Who is using tool
  • Where is the tool located
  • Repairs or maintenance

Simply keeping a close eye on who has your tools, where they're being used, or if they're being repaired can eliminate a lot of confusion about whether a tool is lost or stolen. And if they do go missing, you're going to be glad you have the information for your next step: making an insurance claim.

2. Insure Your Tools

Yes, you CAN insure against stolen tools. Stolen tool insurance can be tailored for your exact contractor business size and needs.

Here are a few of the insurance policies that can protect your tools:

Stolen Tool Insurance
The most common form of stolen tool insurance is known as Tools and Equipment coverage. This is a type of inland marine insurance designed to protect against theft and loss of equipment when it's on the move.

Best for: tools and equipment that move from one project location to another.

Builders Risk Insurance
Builders risk insurance provides coverage for a project during the course of construction. It's designed to protect active construction projects, and coverage can extend to tools and equipment left on job sites. Covered events typically include natural disasters, vandalism, and theft.

Best for: tools and equipment that stay on-site during the course of construction.

Commercial Property Insurance
Commercial property insurance is designed to protect the physical building structure as well as the equipment and inventory inside it. If you have commercial property insurance, your tools and equipment are likely covered when they're at that location. Coverage could end, however, once those tools leave the location.

Best for: tools and equipment that stay at your warehouse or other covered property location.

Talk to your insurance professional to find out which coverage option is best for your business and budget.

3. Secure Your Tools

Don't make it easy for criminals to take what's yours. Make sure you're securing your tools, no matter where they're kept.

In Your Truck
A few aftermarket upgrades can make stealing your tools a much more difficult task. If you keep tools in your vehicle, consider one or all of the following:

  • Interior deadbolts
  • Exterior puck locks
  • Truck bed toolbox
  • Alarm systems

On-site
If you're leaving tools and equipment onsite during the course of construction, take steps to protect them against theft.

  • Use heavy-duty job box
  • Utilize heavy-duty security chains and padlocks
  • Secure trailers with wheel locks
  • Setup video security surveillance and exterior fencing

At Your Warehouse or Commercial Property
If a thief broke into your warehouse or commercial property, don't make it easy for them to grab your tools and go.

  • Put tools away at the end of the day
  • Secure tools in lockable cabinets
  • Remove batteries and chargers from cordless tools

4. Upgrade to Tools with GPS Tracking and Security Apps

The newest tools on the market are designed to be smarter than thieves. When it's time to upgrade or replace a tool, look for one equipped with GPS tracking and connected apps that let you track or disable tools from your smartphone.

5. Age and Uglify Your Tools

NCIB states, "Newer pieces of equipment are more likely to be stolen than older ones, and age, condition, and brand determine a machine's perceived value." While it may sting a bit to do it, removing the perceived value of a brand new piece of equipment could be a deterrent to criminals.

  • Engrave your name and phone number on tools
  • Disguise recognizable brand colors (hello, DeWalt yellow or Makita blue) with hot pink spray paint
  • Rough up new tools so they look old and used
  • Use heavy-duty tape, permanent markers, paint, or engravers to add identifying marks

Take pictures of your tools after they've received their "make-unders" in case you need to show them to police.

You can't stop every determined thief from coming after your tools and equipment. But you can make sure their jobs are much, much more difficult. With the right amount of deterrents and security measures in place and the right insurance coverage as a safety net, you won't have to worry about losing money due to lost or stolen tools.

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40169 Truckee Airport Rd. Ste #203
Truckee, California 96161
Phone (800) 579-6369
Fax (530) 582-6007
License #0M14555