Thousands of pounds worth of tradesmen’s tools are reported stolen to police each year, and behind those statistics are hundreds of SMEs struggling to absorb the crippling losses involved when they become targets. Unfortunately, many construction SMEs and tradesmen and women are ultimately forced out of business because they have lost their tools to thieves.
It is clear that the construction trade is being targeted by increasingly inventive thieves, who are cutting their way into vans, or indulging in keyfob trickery and driving off with vehicles and their contents. Moreover, construction SMEs too often explore measures to secure tools only after they have been a victim of theft.
At a time when the health of SMEs is more crucial than ever for the wider British economy – more than 99 percent of UK firms are SMEs – tool theft is a blight that needs to be tackled. There have even been a number of UK-wide campaigns over recent years to call upon the government to tackle van and tool thefts. But if you want to take quick and easy steps yourself, there are a number of measures construction SMEs can put in place to safeguard their tools from thieves:
1. Hundreds of plumbers, builders, electricians and carpenters whose livelihoods depend upon their tools are now turning to permanent lock-up units at centres like Storage Giant. Your valuables will be under lock and key, activity at the lock-up will be monitored by CCTV, you can come and go as you please via a secure keypad entry system. You can access your equipment seven days a week, you can upscale or downsize your unit as you need to, and you won’t be tied into lengthy contracts.
2. Secure windows and lock your van at all times, even if unattended for just a few moments, and invest in second locks, upgraded deadlocks or slam locks. Lots of drivers have become victims of opportunist thieves operating on garage forecourts – so lock up every time you go to pay for your petrol.
3. Wherever you choose to store tools, use forensic marking. It is simple, low cost, and sensible.
4. Be vigilant when you park in places that could be natural targets for thieves, such trade counters or builders’ merchants. Sadly, thieves see these spots as a source of rich pickings.
5. Never leave tools in the van overnight. This is becoming rarer, since so many tradesmen have been ‘once bitten twice shy’, but it is easy to become complacent.
6. Make sure any secure tool storage within the van is properly fitted. There is a lot of high quality secure storage on the market, but it is important to fit it carefully, so your insurance isn’t negated in the event of a theft.
7. Electronic GPS trackers can greatly improve the chances of recovering your van if it is stolen and it may lower your insurance premiums too.
8. Don’t let your insurance lapse. This is a surprisingly common scenario and the average insurance claim for stolen tools adds up to around £1,200 – so it is worth scheduling in an annual reminder to prevent this.
9. Keeping an inventory of your tools and serial numbers is also useful for insurance purposes.
Bear in mind that even if you are insured it can take time for a payout to come through and, if you have customers waiting for you to complete a job, you can lose valuable business. This is something no SME wants to absorb. Also, it isn't just the case that your tools might go missing. Often, in the process, the van can be cut open like a tin can - if you run a man-with-a-van operation this kind of damage can easily put your business out of action.
Construction work can be uncertain - it is, for many, part of the gig economy and it involves frequent working away from home. These are all known pressures within the industry, and it is vital that other, controllable pressures and risks to trades people and their livelihoods, such as theft, are carefully managed.
About the Author
Simon Williams is the Managing Director of Storage Giant, the second largest private self-storage company in the UK and the fifth largest overall. Simon established the company with a single site in Newport and now has a portfolio of nine operational across Wales, the Midlands, and Oxfordshire.