Contractor tool and equipment theft is all too common, costing businesses more than $1 billion annually, not including typical ensuing expenses, like rental equipment, project delay penalties, business interruption and unproductive man-hours.

Deterring criminals from construction equipment theft requires preventative measures, and can often mean the difference between an unexpected loss and on-time project completion. Take the following four steps to deter equipment theft on the job:

Step #1: Properly label equipment

Label everything, and not just with paint. Use a welder to add the company name to large equipment and an etching tool for smaller tools. Consider marking attachments and removable parts as well. Most construction equipment does not have a title or registration so 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 the equipment is labeled.

Step #2: Secure the equipment site

Onsite security guards are the most effective protective measure, but a combination of approaches is generally recommended. 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 another option that is gaining popularity.

Step #3: Develop a protocol for parking equipment 

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

Considerations for drivable equipment should include additional shutoff/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, which are known to be the most commonly stolen because they are easiest to load. Finally, store and lock equipment keys in another location, away from the equipment. Oftentimes equipment is stolen because the key is easily locatable - on the dipstick or under the mat.

Step #4: 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.

Don’t be a statistic – keep your equipment safe

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) Heavy Equipment Theft Report, equipment theft is increasing and recovery rates are less than 1 in 4.

Contact your HUB Risk Services specialist for help in creating an effective construction equipment theft prevention strategy that includes these four steps and can minimize the effect this issue has on your bottom line.