Personal Use of Equipment Creates Liability

Personal Use of Equipment Creates Liability

Do you allow your employees personal use of your company’s equipment? If you do, consider your liability. Many employers, as a benefit, allow their employees personal use of company vehicles, equipment, and other property.

For example, Ted, who owned a car dealership, let employees work on their own vehicles during their off-time. Look what happened to him. Bob came in on a Saturday to work on his personal car. While he was working on it, he severely burned his hand with a blowtorch. However, Bob told Ted that he was finishing up the work on a customer’s car for the company that needed to be done first thing Monday morning. Bob then filed a Workers’ Compensation claim, and Ted’s company paid.

The Problem for Ted?

He couldn’t prove Bob was really working on his own vehicle. There were no witnesses. This put Ted’s word against Bob’s word. In this case, Bob won.

Why expose yourself and your company to the liability? Don’t allow employees to use company equipment for personal purposes, whether on their own time or company time. But if you do offer this benefit to your employees, try to protect your business in your employee handbook.

Here are examples of possible language in your handbook:

  • Personal use of company vehicles: “…the employee must have a valid driver’s license. XYZ Company’s safety director or service department manager must inspect the vehicle for safety before you will be allowed to take the vehicle from company premises…”
  • Personal use of company tools: “…employees must obtain prior permission before using any company tools for personal reasons. All power tools must be safety-inspected by the safety director before you are allowed to use them. If you borrow a power tool which requires the use of safety equipment, you must also borrow the safety equipment. Example: If you borrow the power saw, you must also borrow the safety goggles…”

The important idea to include is to require all equipment and vehicles to be safety-inspected before employees can take them for personal use. This could keep you from lending a piece of faulty equipment… and keep the employee from getting injured as a result.

Legal Disclaimer: Payroll Partners and/or the HR Support Center are not engaged in the practice of law. The content in this email should not be construed as legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions concerning your situation or the information you have obtained, you should consult with a licensed attorney. Payroll Partners and/or the HR Support Center cannot be held legally accountable for actions related to this article.