11 Tips For Businesses To Prevent Theft of Tools, Materials And Equipment

The Value of Tools, Materials and Equipment

No matter who you are or what you do, there is some value to your tools, materials and equipment. Whether you're a gardener who needs a few select tools that can be bought at a local store to help grow some beautiful and fruitful plants, a tradesperson with a large variety of specialized gizmos and gadgets you're specifically trained to use, or you run a whole construction site with a seemingly endless inventory of machines needed to get a job done, there are some contraptions you need to use to get the job done. It can be tough for a plumber to get the job done without a pipe wrench or a welder to do their job without a blowtorch, so making sure your expensive items don't get stolen is essential. Everyone from multi-million dollar construction companies to independent tradespeople can make their job site more secure to prevent theft of tools, materials and equipment.

Anything Can Get Stolen

Workplaces are vulnerable to theft in ways they might not expect. For example, stealing from something like a construction site seems laughable. The first thing many people think of when they think of a construction site is heavy machinery designed for massive construction projects. A bulldozer wasn't intended to be a getaway vehicle and is also not very concealable, so someone stealing one might seem ridiculous. However, that's not usually what gets stolen.

Although heavy equipment can get stolen and would be a devastating loss, tools are a much more frequent target. 

Power tools, specialty hammers, electrical tools, building materials, and other valuable equipment that require specific training can be stolen by someone pretending to be an employee just walking by and scooping it up. Theft like this can also happen at night when the thief can use darkness as a cover, and nobody is around to stop them except maybe a security guard. While losing a tool that costs a couple hundred dollars might not seem like a big deal to a large construction company's owner, it can often cancel out the profit made on a job for many contractors. In addition, even for a larger business, the cost of replacing dozens of tools, along with the occasional piece of equipment, can add up faster than one would think. For business insurance purposes, tools are treated as having a value below $1,500, and anything with a value above that amount being seen as equipment. 

Everyone Is Vulnerable To Theft

Everyone thinks they're immune to equipment theft, but this is wrong. A construction site has a lot going on, as the employees are often focused on doing their jobs and might not be paying attention to certain parts of their peripherals. Adding to this, people who see it might not think twice if someone looks like they belong, even if they are spotted picking up something that isn't theirs.

Construction site theft isn't the only type of theft that occurs, so other professions must also be careful. For example, theft is one of the most common handyman business risk exposures.  Other tradespeople are also at risk due to the large variety of tools they use. Even office workers can have their stuff stolen if they aren't careful. Equipment like laptops can be put in a bag, and paper with login information being stolen can cause multi-thousand dollar losses, so every workplace can take steps to prevent theft of tools, materials, and equipment. 

Understand The Reasons For Theft

You might think that theft usually happens because they need the tools, materials and equipment they're stealing. Common suspects include competitors who want to grab the upper hand and are willing to stoop low, local people who think they can save some money on purchasing tools, and employees who want to use their employer's equipment for personal stuff. While these types of things certainly do happen, most of the time, the thief is a stranger looking to fence (sell) whatever they're trying to steal.

For this reason, you need to remember that most thieves are simply looking for whatever easy target they can grab and quickly sell for a high price. There is no honour among thieves. When trying to prevent theft of tools, materials and equipment, you must keep that in mind.

Tips To Prevent Theft at your Business

While there's never anything you can do to prevent theft entirely, there are plenty of steps a business can take to lower their risk significantly. The following security measures can be taken to help prevent theft of tools, materials and equipment from common tools to raw materials to large construction equipment.

1. Close Doors And Keep Valuables Hidden

A thief can't steal something if they don't know it exists. Putting everything where it belongs is a significant first step to prevent theft of tools, materials, or equipment. Whether it's putting a tool in its proper box, into a shed, or putting something larger into a garage, placing something out of sight is an excellent way to stop a thief from being able to access it. If you’re in an office environment, things like usernames and passwords, or client information shouldn’t be left out in the open, even during off hours. Having valuable information so visible to anyone who walks by lets a thief take something of value without even raising a red flag.

2. Use Locks And Restraints

Even if you've put  valuables out of sight, a thief who knows where to look and is willing to risk it might barge into a shed, garage, or other closed area. You can make this much more difficult for them by locking the doors. Stopping potential thieves from accessing what they see as a motherlode might prevent theft by turning them off altogether and getting them to leave entirely before they even take anything. All indoor business should have multiple locked doors near entrances and exits if possible, and any tradesman who stores their stuff in their vehicle should also lock said vehicle and, if possible, lock the vehicle in a garage or similar place. This will allow you to protect your equipment, but also is a good tip to protect your car from theft.

Even if you can't lock something behind a closed door, restraining it might be enough. The phrase 'everything that's not nailed down' exists for a reason, as someone who's stealing will often grab a tool that's just lying around and can easily be scooped up by someone with poor intentions. Even if the thieves see a potential target, making it so they have to do some extra work to take it might prevent theft.

3. Build A Fence Around The Perimeter

A fence can help prevent theft by creating an additional barrier between potential thieves and your tools, materials and equipment. It's also a way of showing passersby who could act as witnesses what your property is. While a thin layer of steel with a bunch of holes that’s only a handful of feet tall isn't exactly an impenetrable line of defence, it does provide an extra layer of protection. This isn't just referring to the inconvenience of the thief climbing and hopping the fence. It also provides a red flag that potential witnesses, including any possibly present employees, would be able to see. Why would someone who's supposed to be here have to hop the fence?

4. Separate Tools From Their Power Source

This is excellent advice to help prevent theft of tools. Many of these require a battery pack or other external power source to function at all. A power drill without any power is pretty useless to a thief. The usual plan for them to sell a product to a stranger on the street is already something that can be difficult if their potential customer is smart enough to be skeptical of them. When a potential customer sees that a product won't work, that would kill any chance of a sale. The only way for a thief to avoid this is to find both the tool and the power source (which will likely take more time than they're willing to spend at the crime scene) or to avoid stealing the device in the first place.

5. Increase Surveillance With Cameras

Thieves try to be subtle because they don't want to get caught. If a thief sees security cameras are in place, it's a good bet that alone will act as enough of a deterrent to prevent theft of tools, materials, or equipment. Even if cameras don't stop the thief, they'll make them much easier to catch after the fact. Placing a security camera to get footage from areas where a thief would most likely go, as well as any potential entrances and exits, is excellent for prevention and post-theft investigations.

6. Use Lighting To Your Advantage

As anyone who's ever been in the film industry knows, lights and camera are a duo that often precedes action. However, in this case, they're great at preventing action. Having an area lit up at night will make the thief more visible, both to witnesses and to any cameras you've set up. Remember, thieves want to avoid the spotlight, not revel in it. Having your most visible areas, including the spots your camera would be able to catch all lit up can prevent theft by scaring potential crooks away.

7. Use Signs To Scare Away Thieves

Warning signs are a vital part of workplace safety. While signs warning people of heavy things potentially falling on them, possible slips, and extremely high voltage have a chance of getting a thief to think twice, something even more likely to prevent theft of your workplace valuables is to post signs that the area is being recorded. As was mentioned above, thieves are scared of being caught, and signs warning them that they are under video surveillance are often enough to scare crooks away.

8. Use Alarms To Catch Thieves In The Act

If somehow a thief has managed to climb a fence, avoid being seen by cameras, dodge dangers, stay out of well-lit areas, and find and unlock the place you've hidden your valuables in, they might think they're home-free. However, you have one last way to prevent theft up your sleeve. A loud alarm blares off, alerting all potential witnesses and any guards to their presence, as well as giving all recordings a critical point anyone watching afterwards can use to hone in on. The thief may bolt out of there, maybe before they even steal anything, or they might drop whatever they're trying to steal. This extra measure is why you need an alarm system for your business.

9. Leave Identifiers On Your Stuff

There are two reasons to do this. The first is to make it so that if your stolen item is found, it can be returned to you. The second is that it might prevent theft by ensuring that the thief, anyone buying their stolen goods, you, and any authorities are aware that you’re the item's owner. If something is marked as yours, a thief will have a much harder time passing it off to authorities or buyers as theirs and thus are less likely to see it as a target to begin with.

10. Remove Or Cover Up Brand Markings

Some brands sell tools, materials and equipment that are more valuable than others. If you use one of these brands, it might make your stuff a higher priority target. Covering these up might prevent theft, as a thief would see it as not worth their time.

11. Use GPS Surveillance For Your Most Valuable Items

So, the stars have aligned against you. A thief was undeterred by every security measure you put up, found where some of your goodies were stored, and was able to swipe some valuables away. While this is certainly cause for concern, if you have GPS surveillance tracking devices on these items, you're still better off than most people in this situation. The position of your possessions will be tracked, making it easier for the authorities to find and return them to you once they have been informed.

What To Do If Your Tools, Materials or Equipment Gets Stolen

Although each of these steps lowers the odds of your tools, materials and equipment being stolen, there's no way to reduce the chances to zero percent. If, on the off chance, some of your stuff does get stolen despite your preventative attempts , there's a small handful of things you can do to increase the odds of having your stolen property returned to you in working order.

Don't Panic

This is generally a good idea in most circumstances. Panicking will simply raise your blood pressure, waste your time, and cause you to make poor decisions. It's completely understandable to be worried, scared, mad and upset after something of yours is taken from you. If you need a few minutes to vent, talk about it, ask yourself why things didn't work, or otherwise process these emotions, that's okay. However, it's important that you calm yourself within a reasonable timeframe and try to recover your possessions.

Report The Theft

After you've calmed down and are ready to take action, contacting the authorities is essential. Local law enforcement is best equipped to get your stuff back, but they won't be able to help you if they don't know you were robbed. Calmly alert the cops of the theft of your stuff. Give them a list and description of all tools, material and equipment lost in the theft, as well as show them any footage that your cameras could grab, and let them know of any witnesses who can testify on your behalf.

Learn From The Experience

Although you've probably done a lot to prevent theft of tools, materials, and equipment, the fact that someone could make off with something shows that there are still some gaps. Is the fence too low to provide an extra barrier? You might want to fix that. Does your arrangement of cameras have a critical blind spot that the thief was able to exploit? Get it covered. Can your locks be cut? You might want to get thicker locks next time. Most of these changes are easy, meaning you can get even better at preventing theft without footing too heavy of a bill.

This content is written by our Morison Insurance team. All information posted is merely for educational and informational purposes. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Should you decide to act upon any information in this article, you do so at your own risk. While the information on this website has been verified to the best of our abilities, we cannot guarantee that there are no mistakes or errors.

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