Tool theft: three victims speak out

Tool theft: three victims speak out

Professional Builder tells the story of three FMB members who are amongst the legions who have fallen victim to tool theft.

Tool theft is an everyday worry for builders. Research by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) found that one in two tradespeople have had tools stolen. At a time when construction firms are facing a number of challenges, including material price rises and skills shortages, tool theft is an extra headache that most people could do without. We spoke to three of the victims.

Brendan Healy, MD, B H G M Ltd, Kent:

“My neighbours and I were hit by van tool theft one night in May last year. I lost over £600 worth of power tools, and had a garage repair bill of over £400 to contend with, not to mention the time off work to sort everything out. Both my neighbours’ vehicles were damaged, too. It was so frustrating. Those thieves had taken away our livelihood in moments. All we could do was get a crime number, claim the damage and tools on our insurance and pick up where we left off. For all we know, the thieves and our tools are still out there.”

Matt Bridge, MD, Colonial Construction, Northampton:

“We were working on an extension for a motorway restaurant, when a £20,000 digger was stolen overnight. Someone must have driven a van on site, loaded it up and made off with it. The plant hire company hadn’t installed a tracking device, so we filed a police report, and claimed on the insurance. Ultimately, the premiums came out of our pockets. ”

“Taking precautions against theft has become part of everyday life on site. We lock tools away, have bright lights everywhere and install dummy CCTV cameras. People come and offer us goods– the cheek of it! There’s a stolen goods market out there, we as tradespeople mustn’t fuel it.”

Matt Bridge
Matt Bridge

Candido Channell, MD, Channell Construction, Cambridge:

“I’ve had so many tools stolen over the years, I’ve lost count. The worst occasion was four years ago when I woke up one morning to find all my tools gone from the van: drills worth hundreds of pounds, a chop saw worth thousands. The damage totalled more than £7,000. What’s worse was a number of tools of sentimental value were stolen. Tools given to me by my grandfather, or chisels I would sharpen myself – all taken. Aside from receiving a crime number, there was no follow-up. Now, I advise my team to just avoid buying expensive tools because they will inevitably be stolen, it’s just part and parcel of the trade. Having said that, I do install Van Vaults to protect my things and the company PPE. I usually then leave the doors open to avoid it being damaged. Tool theft is awful – stealing a tradesperson’s tools is like cutting off their hands.”

Taking steps to protect your tools like these builders can help to prevent theft, but always report any incidents or suspicious activity to the police on 101.

Professional Builder is looking for practical ways that tradespeople can protect themselves against thieves. One reader, Len Middleton, has given his fellow builders the benefit of his experience:

“Having had many tools, large and small, stolen in the past this is what I do. Every tool I buy has a serial number and I copy this onto the user hand booklet, which then is kept in my filing cabinet. If the tool is recovered, it can be easily identified. I also use a ‘smart’ pen to invisibly mark the tool and, when the warranty expires, I paint my own colour on part of the machine/. Not only that, but I never leave valuable tools in the van. It’s a hassle, but I lock them in a steel cabinet in my garage. It doesn’t stop them being stolen but it makes me feel better.”

If you want to share your experiences with us, or you have a practical solution that other readers could also adopt, let us know at

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