Q: “My boss has all kinds of tools and equipment, and he won’t let any of the employees borrow them. Using power tools is part of my job. I’ve run the skid-steer before, and the backhoe just sits around most of the time.  We work hard around here; shouldn’t we be able to borrow this stuff once in awhile?”

A: On the surface, it seems like a simple request to be able to use the operation’s equipment occasionally. You use it at work, you’ve proven that you can be responsible, and it would save you a lot of money if you could just borrow a tool or piece of equipment once in awhile. Of course, there is another side to the issue.

In fairness, if your boss lets you use something, he will need to present that same offer to other employees, and they may not have the same skills or responsibility level that you offer. Certainly liability is an issue. Even if you are running the equipment on your own property on your own time, it is still his equipment and he could be held liable if an accident occurred.

There also is a significant cost involved. Fuel, minor repairs and so forth can be expensive for just a few hours of work using some of this equipment, even if everything goes well. Who will pay for the repairs if you hit a piece of junk with a rear tire on a backhoe? It will cost several hundred dollars to replace it. Even blowing a hydraulic line can be pricey.

Concerning power tools, many of my clients complain that when they let employees use them, the tools come back late (or not at all). Sometimes, the tools return with mysterious problems that require repairs. That, of course, prevents the tool from being available for its intended purpose during work hours.

Some employers have a clear policy on loaning tools and equipment. Only certain individuals can borrow them, there is a sign-out sheet, a rule that if “you break it, you fix it” and mandatory fuel replacement. This approach allows the use of the tools for capable employees and limits misuse.

If you have questions for Dear Boss, send them to:

Don Tyler, P.O. Box 67, Stockwell, IN47983or e-mail to don@dontyler.com.

Your letter will remain confidential, and may or may not get an individual reply.