How you can prevent theft of your tools, materials, and equipment
Contractors need the proper tools, materials, and equipment in order to do their job. Unfortunately, these types of tools and heavy equipment can be easy to steal, easy to sell, and have a low recovery rate. They are often shipped out of the province or country within hours of being stolen.
The cost of replacing stolen equipment isn’t the only consequence of theft. Delays in completion of a project due to the loss of specific or unique equipment can increase project costs and trigger late penalties. Additionally, the contractor may be held liable under the terms of the rental agreement if the stolen equipment is inappropriately used by the person who stole the equipment and causes damage or injury.
Unfortunately, not all thefts are preventable, but contractors can make it more difficult for thieves to steal their tools and equipment by doing things like using identifying marks on tools (numbers or a company logo) and tracking vehicles or equipment with a GPS device, transponder, or RFID (radio frequency identification technology).
Contractors should ensure their yard is well lit and that tools, materials, and equipment are locked up. If leaving tools on a jobsite, use lock boxes with harden locks (hidden shackles) or secure tools in an enclosed building with alarms. At the end of a workday, disconnect batteries and ignition fuses and keep them in a secured location.
The four layers of theft prevention
To help prevent theft, an effective equipment theft prevention plan includes multi-layered measures. Contractors with low-hazard equipment can incorporate multiple measures from layer one, which are effective and low-cost. On the other hand, a contractor with high-hazard equipment may require multiple measures from all four layers. These layers include:
Layer One: Removing keys, locking doors, parking in well-lit visible areas, storing in controlled site access, corralling and securing equipment together.
Layer Two: Visible or audible warning devices that deter theft such as alarms, steering column collars, steering wheel and brake pedal locks, locks (track, cylinder, fuel caps, wheel, hitch, pin), wheel boots, hydraulic lock-out systems, cab shields, and tire deflators, etching VIN or ID numbers onto windows/parts (which imposes re-sale issues).
Layer Three: Immobilizer devices, smart keys or key transponder systems (for example, Caterpillar MSS), cab control access code systems, fuse cut-offs and kill switches, starter and fuel disabler switches that prevent hot-wiring and bypassing the ignition systems.
Layer Four: Tracking systems, geo-fencing systems, motion-sensing security lights, surveillance cameras covering the storage yard.
Record-keeping for a contractor means having a current inventory and detailed record of all tools and equipment used on project sites. It’s a way to manage and track inventory, which is particularly helpful when working on multiple job sites using shared resources (and helps determine if you need to purchase or replace anything). If any tools or equipment are stolen, you can refer to your records to help assist in their recovery.
There are third-party services that can make this process easier, such as the Tool Inventory and Appraisal System (TIAS), which provides an up-to-date inventory of all the tools in your shop, estimates the value and condition of the tools, and helps determine whether you’re over- or under-insured.
Whether you keep a binder or use software to do your record-keeping, having a current inventory and detailed records of all tools and equipment used on project sites is an instrumental element to management and recovery. Here’s a list of what you may want to include in your records:
- Serial numbers and product identification
- Make and model
- Year built
- Invoice details, such as date purchased and value/cost
- Markings, logos, and location of any details that help with identification
- Service dates
Record-keeping does more than help contractors manage inventory — it can help to avoid the cost of replacement and costly project delays. While it won’t stop equipment theft, it will help keep track of your inventory and make reporting thefts easier.
Recovering stolen equipment
Property marking systems, such as MicroDOT, allow you to mark your tools and equipment for identification and authentication. MicroDOT chemically etches a tiny serial number the size of a pinhead, invisible to the naked eye, on a tool or piece of equipment. While it doesn’t prevent these items from being stolen, you can prove that they’re yours if recovered.
Contractors may want to consider registering their equipment and reporting any theft to Crime Stoppers, the manufacturer of the equipment, as well as the police. When you report equipment theft to the police, they keep a record of it in their system. If another contractor decides to purchase your equipment and does a background check, they’ll see that it’s been reported stolen. If stolen equipment is brought into a dealer for repairs or parts, and the manufacturer has your equipment in their stolen equipment database, your equipment may be recovered.
Ensure that you’re protected
Despite your best efforts, sometimes a theft cannot be prevented. That’s why having the right insurance policy can be helpful. To learn more about how a tailored policy can help protect you, your employees, and your bottom line, visit our Contractor’s Insurance page.
This blog is provided for information only and is not a substitute for professional advice. We make no representations or warranties regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information and will not be responsible for any loss arising out of reliance on the information. Terms, conditions and exclusions apply to coverage. See policy for details.