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Do-it-yourself repairs are all the rage — and for good reason. Taking on minor repairs and home or car maintenance chores saves money. It also gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Unfortunately, most of us conducting home repairs don’t have the hand tools and equipment needed to perform all but the most rudimentary tasks. Small businesses or startups may not have the budget for all of the tools they need.

Rather than spending a lot of money buying new tools that you’ll only need for one or two projects, borrowing tools allow you to get the right tool for the job without investing in – or storing – unnecessary equipment.

However, there’s a right and a wrong way to go about this.

When to Buy and When to Borrow

Whether you own a home or a small business, budgetary considerations and cash flow determine when you invest and when it’s more cost-effective to lease or borrow tools.

The general rule of thumb is: if you will use a tool or piece of equipment often, and you have room to store it properly, it’s best to buy it rather than use the wrong tool for the job.

Specialty equipment that you only need occasionally can be leased. If you need an unusual tool for a specific job, such as a bending tool, home improvement stores like Lowes and some auto parts stores, will lend you the tool if you pay a deposit.

You’ll be billed for the replacement cost, plus a little extra if you don’t return it or it’s returned in bad condition.

There are fewer guardrails when you’re loaning from your own company, giving a table saw to a neighbor or letting a coworker borrow your hammer.

Safety Concerns and Minimizing Risk

Safety is a consideration whenever you’re using tools.

Companies are responsible for worker safety to the extent that they should make sure that any employees are trained to use tools and equipment, and that they have proper gear, like safety goggles and gloves, when they use them. Company-owned tools should also be kept in good repair and inventoried.

When loaning out personal tools, the person borrowing them is responsible for making sure that they use them properly and safely. There are courses and guidelines available online for beginners.

If you loan a tool that is damaged in some way, you should inform the borrow of this and let them know whether the damage will affect safe usage.

Communication and Clarity are Key

Whenever tools are borrowed or loaned out, there should be clear communications about the guidelines. For example, who is responsible if a tool is lost, stolen, or damaged, or if there is an injury?

Verbal agreements are enough in most cases, but you could also create a simple contract stating that such and such a tool was loaned out on a certain day, when it should be returned, and who is responsible for any injuries, damages, or losses.

Wearable parts, such as batteries or replaceable blades, should be the responsibility of the person using the tool. Exceptions are when the tool is owned by a company that keeps replacement parts on hand for such a purpose.

Protecting Tools: Who’s Responsible When Something is Lost or Damaged

Generally, the person borrowing the tool is responsible for replacing or repairing it. If the tools are loaned out on the job site, the site supervisor should be responsible for making sure that any tools are returned to them before the crew leaves the job.

When you borrow a tool from a friend, you should replace a tool if you break it or lose it. When you work for a company that supplies necessary hand tools, such as maintenance workers at a hotel, the company usually absorbs the cost of replacements.

There may be exceptions for situations where the damage or loss was due to negligence on the employee’s part.

Occupations where the workers are required to have their own tools usually place the responsibility for replacement on the worker, whether it is their own tools or one they borrowed from a co-worker.

Any guidelines regarding such matters should be formalized in writing, whether by contract or posted signs, and communicated clearly to employees during the onboarding/training process and when any new policies are implemented.

Since lost or stolen equipment and tools are a common expense, companies should have set policies about protecting tools and equipment.

Items that are dispensed each day from a warehouse, main office, or on-site storage should be accounted for at the end of each day and kept in a locked storage area when not in use.

Small tools and equipment should be removed from the job site at the end of the day, and the job site should be secured to protect any tools that must be left behind.

The Perils of Lending Among Professionals

One of the more common issues, when your company performs fieldwork, is missing tools. Often, small hand tools are easy to overlook and leave at the job site.

Other times, crew members borrow tools from one another or the company, and those items never make it back to the rightful owner.

The bigger your company, the bigger the problem.

Since professional tools and equipment cost a lot of money, it’s important to keep track of what you borrow or lend. The solution can be as simple as creating a sign-out sheet for tools that will be leaving the company headquarters or being used by another department. That way, you can narrow down the possibilities when a tool goes missing.

This can be done with the tools you have at home and loan out to a neighbor or friend. An inventory of your hand tools and equipment is also helpful for insurance purposes in cases of theft or damage.

It’s important to mark tools with your name or a symbol so that you can identify those that belong to you, your company, or department within a company.

Final Thoughts

The above guidelines apply whether you’re borrowing/lending tools from a friend, a co-worker, or a supply store. Make sure that whatever you lend or borrow can be used as required without jeopardizing anyone’s safety, and that it’s returned to the rightful owner on time and in the same condition it was given.

Bio:  Heather Redding is a part-time assistant manager, solopreneur and writer based in Aurora, Illinois. She is also an avid reader and a tech enthusiast. When Heather is not working or writing, she enjoys her Kindle library and a hot coffee. Reach out to her on Twitter.

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