Who Supplies the Tools?

Practices vary, but in most shops the employer supplies all power tools — and often, small incidentals as well. March 22, 2013

I worked for the same small cabinet shop for many years where the company provided all necessary tools. I was just recently employed by another small (five man) shop. What I found very odd was that the company only provides the larger woodworking equipment. The employees provide all their hand tools. This would include equipment such as drills and screw guns, pneumatic nailers and hoses, clamps, extension cords, and basically all those hundreds of small hand tools that a woodworker requires to build custom cabinetry. None of this was mentioned at my initial interview by the way. I'm curious if this is considered the norm in the industry?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor R:
Where I work at most of what you mention is provided. I do have all these tools and more at home and I only use a few because I am used to them. I hope they are compensating you for wear and tear on your tools. It is an employer’s market however, they can get away with more these days.

From contributor G:
Small tools should include a pencil, ruler, hammer, a few screwdrivers, and a scribe or compass. The other tools you are referring to are power tools and usually supplied by the company for your use while working for them. Odd that they expect you to use your own power tools, who repairs them? What if you get hurt using them? Are you are expected to supply screws and nails, that's crazy.

From contributor C:
I provide everything and that includes pencils and tape measures. It's ridiculous to expect employees to take care of all the small items like that.

From contributor L:
We provide everything. It is discouraging though how some employees will treat the tools and how many "disappear."

From contributor K:
Supply the tools for all employees. I have them sign for them and take responsibility for them. I will fix them if they are broken from normal wear and tear. This method just makes them take care of what is already being supplied. I’ve never charged anyone for replacing even when they've dropped and broke something. It works like a charm, and I’ve had the least amount of stolen router bits since implementing this too. Giving them the responsibility seems to keep them honest and even report the thieves so they can be dealt with properly. I would be very leery of paycheck issues.

From contributor H:
I only have myself and a couple of guys but I supply everything also - down to pencils, Gatorade, snacks, and items to make lunch, etc.

From contributor J:
That is odd - it sounds like some sort of a contract labor arrangement. Does he have established work hours or does he give a certain amount of time to do each job? I too provide all work tools and break room appliances.

From contributor Z:
When I lived in Texas I had to furnish my own power and hand tools. The company I worked for paid better than I was used to but I am not sure it was because I furnished those tools or because the state I moved from had a lower cost of living. The Texas company I worked at paid for my tool repair and also helped me acquire tools that I needed through payroll deduction, and if necessary they were willing to spread out my paybacks over a few paychecks.

From the original questioner:
To contributor Z: As we all know these tools can add up to many thousands. Was there any formal agreement with that company in the case of loss of tools by fire, theft, etc.? Were your tools ever used by another shop employee, and if so was there a liability risk to you should that employee be injured? What if OSHA was to conduct an inspection of the shop and a fine was incurred because of one of the employee’s tools. Who would pay that fine?

From contributor Z:
There was not a formal agreement between the company and me regarding liability or loss issues. I agree with you that there might be a liability issue for me if another worker was injured while using a tool I owned. I am not certain that I would be liable if I was instructed to furnish from a tool list that my employer prescribed and was a condition of my employment. In my case there was not a prescribed list of branded power tools but I observed that everyone had the same brand and model of power tools so I just purchased the same.

There was not much, if any, borrowing of tools since everyone had what they needed. I didn't particularly like having to furnish my own power tools though but one does what one has to do. Every shop I'd worked in before I moved to Texas furnished power tools. We were only expected to provide personal hand tools.