One decision every business owner makes is what materials and supplies to provide for employees and technicians, and what the employee must produce or buy themselves.
In this three part series, we are going to dig in and explore the different ways to make sure your techs have access to everything needed to do their job safely and effectively, from tools, to training, to device management. Sneak preview for these blogs: #1 on my list of things an employer should provide for employees is forever and always going to be a safe working environment.
There are many types of resources that are hard to define as company or individual responsibility. Even something as simple as whether to supply uniforms can be a big company decision, especially if there are personal protection equipment (PPE) requirements that must be met. Companies can absorb all the costs, require technicians to provide everything, or the most common solution, finding a good balance between the two.
While there are hundreds of details to explore, we’re starting with a high level analysis of how to make sure the tools and materials are provided in a way that makes the most sense for your company.
Who Pays for What?
Employer buys Everything
When you provide everything for your company in fully stocked trucks, it’s easy to transition from one tech to another. Your entire fleet will be uniformly equipped and there will be consistency across the board. You can readily take stock of what tools your techs are using and when they need servicing or replacement to meet safe use standards. This can also make it easier to provide for part-time employees who come in for 20 hours a week and share tools and equipment with other part-time employees.
Employee buys Everything
Requiring your employees to come equipped with their own tools can turn attracting, hiring, and training new employees into a more seamless process. You know they are comfortable with their tools, and you can usually trust that they will be more careful with equipment they own themselves. In this situation, one best practice is to present employees with list of approved tools, including specifications, warranties, and even brand names. This may relieve you of some liability if there are any accidents using ‘non-approved’ tools.
This situation requires the consideration that there might be a large start-up cost associated with new employees procuring their own tools that meet company requirements. You don’t want to lose a good candidate because of an internal policy like this. Pre-purchase of tools, followed by wage garnishment, reimbursements, or other vouchers can help ensure that you can bring on the best employees with the safest equipment.
This approach, where the company and the employees are each responsible for supplying some portion of equipment used, tends to be the most common. Tools and work apparel might be the property of individual technicians, while large items, like the vans or high air compressors, are generally company property that can be signed out to technicians. Regardless of who is the proprietary owner of equipment, agreements dictating expectations and care are necessary to establish safe and effective use of tools and resources.
Some Specific Points to Consider
When any part of the job requires safety equipment, from steel-toed boots to a full hazmat suit, you as the employer must make sure each of your employees is safe, and has certified and well-maintained gear. To reiterate: employers are responsible for promoting the safest possible work environments for their employees. If you require your employees to purchase their own safety gear, make sure there is an agreement in place clearly outlining what is an acceptable brand, safety rating, age of product, etc.
The hand tools your employees use everyday can be very personal to them; particularly for seasoned techs who have been using the same tools since their apprenticeship. Even if buying new tools for each of your techs is within your operating budget, employees might not want to have new tools provided for them. Of course you want your workforce to have the best and safest equipment possible, but it’s also in the best interest of your customers that technicians be comfortable and confident while completing jobs. Have you ever tried to cook in someone else’s kitchen or made a call from someone else’s cell phone? You can certainly get the job done, but you’ll probably move slower and you might be less confident in your work.
Big ticket items have big price tags, but can also be big in stature. Requiring technicians to provide their own large equipment will certainly limit who you’re able to hire. Offering pre-purchase and wage garnishment programs might help techs join your ranks while purchasing their own equipment, but this is only a practical within the boundaries of how much compensation is being earned in the first place. Therefore, large or expensive equipment is usually provided by the company, but needs to be accompanied by written agreements detailing required care and what constitutes safe and effective use.
This isn’t necessarily equipment, but home technicians will have to travel to and from sites all day. If you don’t supply company trucks for your technicians, you’ll want to dictate standards for reimbursement for mileage and make clear what is expected from your employees and what transportation resources you plan to provide. Additionally, you’ll need to make sure whatever vehicle being used is safe for your technicians, and the vehicle is equipped to carry larger equipment or installs.
Moral of the Story
No matter how you decide to share equipment responsibilities, you must have agreements for everything that you require from your employees, what you will be providing, and what happens when things need to be inspected, replaced, or repaired. These can all be covered in your employee handbook, or in a separate document. You can use our form building app Scout to keep all agreements on file. Your technicians can sign right in app as they sign out different equipment, and you will have a complete history of use, before/after photos of equipment with notes on any issues or damage upon return.
Do you feel like there’s a lot more to discuss on this topic? So do we… make sure to check back to read our upcoming post about how to decide who pays for other employee resources, like electronic devices and how to manage electronically filed data on these devices.
Do you have specific areas that you would like covered about this topic? Send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org