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Contractor tool and equipment theft is commonplace. According to the most recently published National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) Heavy Equipment Theft Report, thefts are increasing and recovery rates are less than one in four.

Deterring criminals from theft requires preventative measures that can mean the difference between an unexpected loss and an on-time completion.

Step one: Properly label equipment

Label everything, and not just with paint. Use a welder to add the company name on large equipment and an etching tool for smaller equipment. Consider marking attachments and removable parts as well. Most construction equipment does not have a title or registration so the markings installed by the contractor may be the only way to identify and reclaim stolen equipment. Maintain a record of what was marked and where it is labeled on the equipment.

Step two: Secure the equipment site

Locked gates, light pods and an onsite security presence are ways to deter thieves. Newer security technologies allow for multiple battery-powered cameras, alarms and lights to be remotely setup on motion sensors with smart device notifications. Signage stating that site surveillance is in use can further deter criminals. Climb-resistant fencing is gaining popularity. Onsite security guards are the most effective security measure, but a combination of approaches is generally recommended.

Step three: Develop a protocol for parking equipment

Keep generators, welders, light pods and smaller equipment out of sight and encompassed by larger equipment or structures so that it cannot be easily wheeled away.

Considerations for drivable equipment should include additional shutoff and lockout points to keep equipment from starting or from operating controls. Ask an equipment dealer for hydraulic locks, electrical lockouts and other options for hidden disconnects. Take additional measures on smaller heavy equipment, including loaders and tractors. These are the most commonly stolen because they are the easiest to load.

Finally, store and lock equipment keys in another location, away from the equipment. Often equipment was stolen because it had the key on the dipstick, under the mat or in an area where a thief could easily locate.

Step four: Develop a protocol for storing handheld equipment

Ensure each piece of equipment goes into secured storage after use. When gang boxes are used, be certain they are built with enclosed and recessed locking points along with non-drillable locks. After the gang box has been set onsite, remove the wheels and lock it down. Ensure vehicles are locked and an alarm system engaged when tools are left in the vehicle or brought home from the worksite.

Estimates indicate that construction equipment theft costs businesses up to $1 billion annually. These estimates do not include rental equipment, project delay penalties, business interruption, or unproductive man-hours. An effective theft prevention strategy can minimize the effect equipment and tool theft has on a contractor’s bottom line.

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