Fear of theft strains tradespeople's mental health

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  • More than nine in 10 tradespeople say they or someone they know have been victims of theft
  • Research shows 88% of those surveyed are concerned about the ongoing issue
  • Almost a third of tradespeople admit the fear of theft contributes to negative mental health
  • 60% in the industry do not believe mental health is spoken about openly
  • NFU Mutual is a proud supporter of Samaritans, whose volunteers offer emotional support to anyone who is struggling

The fear of theft and violence is putting a strain on the mental health of tradespeople as crime continues to sweep through the industry.

New research* from commercial insurer NFU Mutual found that more than nine in 10 tradespeople (92%) say they or someone they know have been a victim of theft.

In the last 12 months alone, 53% of those surveyed said they had experienced tool or equipment theft, just shy of half had materials pinched, almost three in 10 had a vehicle stolen and 23% were victims of organised crime.

And those figures clearly weigh heavily on those in the industry, with almost a third of tradespeople (29%) admitting that the fear of theft and violence on their business contributes towards difficulties with mental health.

The rising cost of living (42%), financial worries (41%), stress of the job (39%), long hours (35%) and a lack of regular work (33%) were the other factors.

With almost nine in 10 tradespeople concerned about the threat of their equipment being stolen, NFU Mutual is urging workers to remain vigilant and seek help if it is affecting their mental health.

Zoe Knight, Commercial Specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “Theft of tradespeople’s tools or equipment continues to blight the industry and the fact 92% of people surveyed say they – or someone they know – have been a victim speaks volumes.

“Tradespeople rely on this equipment for their income and livelihood, with crime hitting not just their pocket but, as our research shows, also having a huge and negative impact on their mental health.

“To see a third of tradespeople fearing theft or violence in their day-to-day job is worrying and we would urge tradespeople to do all they can to offput the threat of that happening – via security measures and recording serial numbers of equipment.

“We want tradespeople to feel supported and protected should the worst happen and know there is also help available for those struggling.”

A report by Builders Merchants News* revealed in December that texts to a construction charity helpline had seen an increase of 105% after the launch of an initiative to take the mental health message across the UK.

That could pave the way for more open conversations, with NFU Mutual’s survey showing that more than half of respondents believe that mental health isn’t spoken about openly in the trades industry.

While more than three-quarters of tradespeople did say they were confident or fairly confident they would know where to go for support if they were struggling, worryingly,  almost four in 10 (36%) said it is unlikely they would seek help if they had mental health problems.

Commercial insurer NFU Mutual is a proud supporter of Samaritans, a charity which offers round the clock emotional support to anyone struggling to cope.

Jason Jaspal, Assistant Director of Business Development at Samaritans, added: “Samaritans offers a listening ear and a safe space to share how you’re feeling 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

“It’s vital that tradespeople reach out for support when they are finding life tough, rather than letting things build up and potentially reaching a crisis point. It doesn’t matter what they’re finding challenging, Samaritans is here so they don’t have to face things alone.”

NFU Mutual Risk Management Services is sharing the following advice to tradespeople:

  • Minimise storage of tools and equipment in vans: a robust, lockable building is preferable. Consider intruder alarms for high value equipment.
  • If you have to leave tools and equipment in a van, make sure it’s alarmed and, as a minimum, park against a wall so that doors cannot be opened easily.  
  • Don’t make it easy for thieves to guess that equipment is kept inside (a van or a building) e.g. by leaving items on display and leaving tools around which may assist an intruder.
  • Store portable items within a robust, lockable store that is fixed in place.
  • Restrict and control vehicular access to the work site.
  • Consider video security system (temporary systems and temporary intruder alarm systems are available for site use).  
  • Security mark your tools and equipment (e.g. forensic, engraving or permanent marking) to deter thieves and aid recovery.
  • Don’t stockpile high value materials such as lead and copper or leave them around for longer than necessary.
  • For construction vehicles use CESAR marking, tracking and immobilisation to prevent and trace thieves.
  • Check all locks and security measures before leaving any site e.g. alarms switched on, cameras facing the right direction and security lights working.

For quality trades insurance to suit all sizes, search NFU Mutual Builders and Trades Insurance at www.nfumutual.co.uk/trades-insurance/.

For more information about Samaritans and the work the charity does, visit https://www.samaritans.org/


Notes to editors

1.      Survey of 500 UK tradespeople conducted by OnePoll on behalf of NFU Mutual between 12-19 December 2023

2.      Builders Merchant News figures https://www.buildersmerchantsnews.co.uk/Texts-to-construction-industry-mental-health-helpline-double-in-three-months/57151

3.      Spokespeople available for interview


For further information please contact:

Jonny Bonell
Senior Press Officer
07977 796800


Find more of our press releases at the NFU Mutual Media Centre: www.nfumutual.co.uk/media-centre


About NFU Mutual: NFU Mutual offers a wide range of products, including general insurance, life, pensions, and investments. These products and services are delivered through our network of NFU Mutual Agent offices, as well as through our direct sales and service centres. With more than 280 local businesses located in rural towns and villages throughout the UK, NFU Mutual has become part of the fabric of rural life and remains committed to serving the needs of our members nationwide.

NFU Mutual is proud to deliver more than simply insurance. Making farming safer, supporting rural initiatives across the UK and helping to look after the environment are just some of the ways we do that. To find out more about everything we do to support our communities, visit https://www.nfumutual.co.uk/about-us/responsible-business


About Samaritans

  • Anyone can contact Samaritans FREE any time from any phone on 116 123, even a mobile without credit. This number won’t show up on your phone bill. Or you can visit www.samaritans.org 
  • Every 10 seconds, Samaritans responds to a call for help.
  • Samaritans is a charity and it’s the public’s kind donations and 23,000 volunteers that mean we are always there for anyone struggling to cope. Find out how you can support us or volunteer with us.
  • You can follow Samaritans on social media on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. 


NFU Mutual’s support for Samaritans:

Samaritans was one of the organisations to receive donations from the NFU Mutual Charitable Trust in 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023 receiving a total donation of £265,000. This has supported Samaritans’ response to the impact of the pandemic, including reaching those most at risk and those in rural communities. For further information, please visit NFU Mutual’s website: Recent Initiatives | Charitable Trust | NFU Mutual