6 Common Mistakes that Lead to Tool Theft

8 min

Imagine the frustration of arriving at your job site only to find that your essential tools have vanished.

Let’s face it, tool theft is not only a financial setback but can also significantly disrupt your work, leading to project delays, potential reputational damage, and added stress.

To help you protect your hard-earned investments, this article will explore six common mistakes that often contribute to an increased likelihood of theft.

By understanding and avoiding these pitfalls, you can minimize the risk of falling victim to opportunistic thieves.

Remember, prevention is always better than cure.

Lack of Secure Storage

The harsh reality is that, despite the availability of different security and anti-theft technologies, construction sites remain frequent targets for thieves.

This comes as no surprise, since completely securing a job site isn’t always possible, and valuable equipment is often left unattended overnight or during non-working hours, making it a perfect candidate for theft.

The persistence of this issue in the industry is evident through the multitude of news articles outlining various incidents involving the theft of construction equipment, both big and small.

It’s also supported by statistics.

For example, in 2021 alone, over 11,000 burglaries occurred on construction sites in the US, ranking them as the seventh most common location for such incidents.

Illustration: GoCodes / Data: Statista

To efficiently combat the problem, it’s crucial to recognize that theft is a time-sensitive crime.

Thieves are looking to get in, grab what they came for, and leave as fast as possible.

Therefore, one of the most effective (and easiest) preventive measures you can start implementing today is securing all your tools immediately after use.

Michael Teng, the AVP of Regional Pricing and Products at Sentry Insurance, emphasizes the importance of protecting tools after hours.

Illustration: GoCodes / Data: For Construction Pros

He recommends locking up equipment as it makes it much more difficult for criminals to steal your belongings.

The logic behind this method is straightforward: the more challenging and time-consuming you make it for tool thieves to steal from you, the less likely they’ll actually persist in their undertaking.

If you simply store your tools in an unsecured work truck, on the other hand, you’re practically doing their job for them.

So, definitely ensure that everything is securely locked up.

It’s also wise to invest in a high-quality locking cabinet with heavy-duty hinges and locks, as well as a truck toolbox.

They can be a real game changer.

Overall, while storing and locking everything up may take a few extra minutes each day, the long-term payoff in preventing theft makes it worthwhile.

Ensuring safety is a continuous process that starts with your own conscientious practices.

Not Investing in Anti-Theft Technology

As mentioned, there’s a wide variety of anti-theft solutions available on the market, ranging from cameras equipped with motion sensors to robust alarm systems, smart padlocks, and more.

However, all of these options come with a cost.

Are they really worth the investment?

If you believe that theft is something that’s never going to happen to you, the answer is no.

Still, considering the prevalence of the issue, it would not be wise to hold such a belief.

In any case, your tools are a significant investment, and having them stolen can sometimes lead to devastating financial losses.

Just to illustrate, NER reports that on Labor Day of 2023 alone, there were 179 equipment theft incidents with a total loss value exceeding $4 million.

Illustration: GoCodes / Data: NER

July 4th was even worse, with 283 reported thefts and a total loss value of almost $4.5 million.

Thanksgiving and Memorial Day of 2022 were no better, either.

While NER notes that tool and equipment theft activity is heightened on these specific days, it’s essential to recognize that it can occur any day.

Given the steep price of these incidents, which extends beyond the cost of replacing the stolen tool, and encompasses unplanned downtime, project delays, and reputational damage, it’s crucial to take every possible measure to protect your assets.

Technology can play a vital role in this regard.

For example, consider implementing a video system that provides a clear, interference-free view of the construction site, even during the night.

In the video below, you can see how such a system would look like in action.

YouTube video
Source: MobileVideoGuard.com

The cameras can also be programmed for motion activation and tailored to suit your specific job site needs, making them an efficient and flexible anti-theft solution.

Combine this system with other tools such as smart padlocks, motion-activated lights, or alarms and you’ll not only mitigate the risk of theft but also contribute to the overall safety and efficiency of your operations.

Skipping Tool Tracking

What if a tool goes missing, and you don’t even realize it?

A situation like this is entirely possible, especially if you’re not properly monitoring your assets.

So, what can you do to stay on top of all your assets?

Tool tracking systems, for example, excel at maintaining a comprehensive record of tools and machines, centralizing all vital data such as the GPS location, serial number, the last person to use the tool, and more.

Source: GoCodes

By using such a system, you and your team remain well-informed about the tools at all times, and nothing goes missing without your knowledge.

Our own asset management solution, GoCodes, not only serves as a data-rich, cloud-based system but also encompasses durable and customizable QR code labels and tags that can be affixed to your tools.

With each scan of these labels, the tool’s location is updated, ensuring you always know the whereabouts of your property and have up-to-date data at hand in case of theft.

After all, information such as the last known location of an asset proves extremely valuable when trying to retrieve tools or machinery that have been taken.

However, our QR code tags provide another, additional layer of security.

Customizable to include the company name, email, or other similar information, and made from tamper-proof materials, these tags are not easy to remove, meaning they can act as a deterrent for thieves.

Source: GoCodes

Seeing the tag sends a clear message to the thieves that the tagged items are monitored, potentially dissuading them from attempting theft.

Even if they persist, and steal a tool, these labels aid in the identification and recovery of the stolen asset.

Essentially, when it comes to guarding your valuable property, asset management and tracking systems are a triple threat.

They serve as a visual signal that the assets are being tracked, facilitate retrieval in case of theft, and offer thorough, accurate, and up-to-date data, making sure that no lost or stolen item goes unnoticed.

Leaving Vehicles Unsecured

Leaving your vehicle unsecured poses a risk not only to the vehicle itself but also to everything inside it, including valuable tools and equipment.

Vehicle theft is an ongoing concern, as highlighted by David J. Glawe, President and CEO of the National Insurance Crime Bureau, who notes that approximately one car is stolen every 32 seconds.

Illustration: GoCodes / Data: NICB

To avoid contributing to this alarming statistic, one simple yet efficient preventive measure is to ensure that all your vehicles are securely locked.

Although this seems obvious enough, it’s not uncommon for workers to overlook this crucial step, so it’s essential to make them aware of their role in protecting company assets.

Additionally, where and how you park can make all the difference, too.

For example, choosing well-lit, busy areas equipped with CCTV cameras and parking with sliding or rear doors against a wall or a sturdy fence is much safer than parking in dark, unmonitored spaces.

To enhance vehicle safety even further, however, it’s best to rely on some additional equipment, such as:

  • Interior deadbolts: Factory door lock cylinders can be easily manipulated even by beginner thieves. Interior deadbolts make the job more challenging for them.
  • Truck alarm system: These systems can send alerts to your phone if someone unauthorized attempts to open your vehicle.
  • Exterior puck locks: Another, cost-effective alternative to factory locks.
  • Asset tags or labels: These serve as a visual signal that the vehicle is being tracked.

Using one, or a combination of these, along with staying diligent about locking up and strategic parking can go a very long way in protecting your property.

Remember, your vehicle’s safety is synonymous with the safety of your tools and equipment.

Not Training Employees on Security Practices

One significant error that many business owners or managers make is neglecting to incorporate their team into the safety and theft-prevention strategy.

According to a Pro-Vigil survey involving various industry professionals, with nearly half of them working in construction, 20% of the respondents reported an increase in physical security incidents, including theft, in 2021.

Illustration: GoCodes / Data: Pro-Vigil

Despite this alarming statistic, more than half of them admitted to not updating their safety strategy.

Obviously, a proactive approach is necessary when it comes to preventing theft, but this cannot be achieved single-handedly.

Your workers play a pivotal role in maintaining secure and theft-free job sites, and, as such, they should definitely be held accountable for actions that jeopardize both personnel and company property.

However, before that, it’s crucial to ensure they are fully aware of their responsibilities and that they’ve received adequate training in security practices.

Therefore, make sure to provide clear instructions on how to, for instance, store equipment after use, what to do if they notice unusual activity on-site, or the process for reporting theft.

Failing to educate the team on these procedures leaves the job site vulnerable to security breaches.

Another thing you can do is highlight the importance of remaining consistent in tool check-in and check-out.

Source: GoCodes

This is a vital part of tool theft prevention, as the checkout system fosters transparency that ensures that no suspicious activity—whether on the part of the employees or others—goes unnoticed.

When, where, and by whom a tool was used—it’s all in the checkout log.

All in all, by neglecting proper security education, you’re practically neglecting to protect your valuable assets.

Make sure, therefore, you don’t skip out on this important task.

Neglecting Regular Security Checks

Another vital practice that everyone on the team should adhere to is conducting frequent, regular, and thorough security checks.

Avoiding this task means potentially failing to identify any weak spots or areas that may require some security improvements, consequently increasing the vulnerability of your job site to theft.

Michael Stoller, Director of Product Management at Mural Advisors, emphasizes the importance of establishing an effective process to prevent the loss of tools.

Illustration: GoCodes / Data: Metal Construction News

Security inspections should be an integral part of this process, so take the time to assess your job site thoroughly.

You can start, for instance, by examining the fencing around the perimeter.  

Is it high enough? Are there any signs of tampering?

Don’t forget to check beneath the fence, too.

Moreover, inspect the camera footage, as well as the cameras themselves to see if any of them have been disabled, damaged, or removed.

Nowadays, when criminal tactics are becoming more and more evolved, maintaining a watchful eye over your property is essential.

Implementing these measures, combined with vigilant logbookkeeping of individuals entering and exiting the site, will significantly contribute to theft prevention or aid in identifying the perpetrator if a crime occurs.

In short, detecting a flaw in your security today acts as a proactive shield, fortifying against potential theft in the future.


Protecting your tools from theft is not only about avoiding potential financial setbacks; it’s a strategic move that ensures seamless day-to-day operations.

The construction industry is particularly susceptible to equipment theft, making it crucial to adopt a proactive approach and avoid mistakes that could leave you vulnerable to such incidents.

A successful anti-theft strategy involves employing a range of modern technological solutions, such as CCTV cameras, equipment management systems, or smart locks along with some of the more basic procedures like locking up vehicles and storing tools after use.

It may be easy to underestimate the impact of these fundamental practices, but even the most advanced technologies can only be effective when combined with proper tool care.

Therefore, stay vigilant, stay proactive, and, most importantly, stay theft-free.

About GoCodes

GoCodes is the industry leader in tool tracking. We provide customers with the ultimate single vendor solution that includes cloud-based software, top-rated smartphone scanner apps and rugged QR code tags.

We pride ourselves on delivering a personalized service, cutting-edge technology and software that is easily used by your entire team.

GoCodes ensures our customers achieve success in their tool management projects every time.

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