Experienced electricians will be only too aware of the implications of sharing tools. Tools are essentially an electricians bread and butter, and lending them out, even just for a supposed few minutes can have costly consequences for your electrical business.
It might only be a drill, or a hand tool, but if the person borrowing them is without these straightforward tools, then you need to be asking yourself if you should be lending to them in the first place.
Why sparkies don't lend out their tools
Putting aside potential theft, there are some good reasons why you should think twice about lending someone else your tools, no matter how nicely they ask.
They won't look after your tools as you do
No doubt you'll have saved up hard to get the tools you need. However you obtain your tools, they don't come cheap. Because of this, you tend to look after them and avoid careless use. When a tool isn't your own, you perhaps do not worry about over using a bit here and there or using it for something other than it's intended purpose.
Besides, that quick 5 minutes could turn into 5 hours, or more annoyingly could involve a search around to try and locate your tool because you need it yourself.
It's a lesson learnt the hard way. In time you will know who to trust to lend your tools to. Never feel obligated to hand your tools over. It might only be a drill, but it's your drill!
You might not get it back
Once borrowed, the urgency to return it is not the same. Borrowed tools can 'inadvertently' end up in someone else's toolbox. Tools can also be fragile, if the tool gets broken, are you going to get a replacement? You probably won't, and you'll find yourself having to foot the bill for repair or replacement. Once bitten, twice shy and all that! Hands up those who want to go to work to earn money to re-buy borrowed tools!
If you do lend, to the trusted few, make sure it is on the understanding that if it breaks it gets replaced.
Beware of lending to apprentices or trainee electricians
As nice as it is to help someone out of a tight spot, especially if they're training to do what you do, it can have a sting in it's tail.
You'll remember the days when you used to leave tools above ceilings. You don't want those tools to be yours! Apprentice and trainee electricians need to be encouraged to take responsibility for their own tools. Leaving them at home is not an option! Besides, the boss might send them home to get them and dock their pay. They won't forget again....and your tools will be safe for a bit longer!
Your tools can last a lifetime
Consider your tools as a business investment. Quality tools have the potential to last your entire working life (and beyond!) You may think retirement is a long way off, but it'll be even further away if you have to keep replacing expensive tools!
There is an old saying “never mess with another mans tools” In other words, treating your tools well, keeping them clean and well organised in your tool box will ensure they look after you in return! And don't even consider lending them out.....it goes against the grain (or cable!) Oh and never leave them lying around for someone to borrow without even asking!
Fed up with being asked for your tools?
From a fellow plumber to your apprentice, in time constantly being asked for your tools can become a wearing experience. So we asked the opinion of an experienced electrician on how they handle the tool borrowing situation:
“I have a policy that I do not lend any tool, not even for a minute out of my primary kit, not even to my own family\staff, although I will lend them items from my secondary kit."
"When my son's took up Plastering, Motor Mechanics and HVAC\Ducting, I brought all the correct tools to encourage and help them, but I lent them to them on condition they understood they remained mine, therefore they could not sell them, abuse them, fail to clean & look after them, yet they could use them for as long as they needed too."
"To my staff, I provide a standard kit of Tools & PPE, but I expect them to look after them, I have been lucky that I have some fantastic staff and they have not abused my trust. If any staff member want another tool for a particular job, I buy it, and they add it to their kit unless it is very specialist then it usually ends up with us, in effect as a "pool" tool. that others use as and when. Finally, all my engineers get a £200 a year allowance to buy tools they want, for example some like the CK Magma case rather than the Veto Pro Pac or some like to acquire the CK Combicutter.”
Some good food for thought there, with some great tips especially if you hate losing your tools or worry about them being wrecked on return!
Identify your own tools
Lastly, it is worth considering identifying your tools as your own. If you sub contract, you might find that the main contractor won't want your company name visible. However identifying your tools by name and postcode is extremely useful if they ever get stolen. It is much harder to re-sell something with someone elses name on it.
Tools are your most important business asset, don't compromise your livelihood by being the 'nice guy!'