Most Dangerous Jobs In The UK

Construction By Matthew Coombes

Health and safety exists to reduce risks and allow people to work in a way that doesn’t negatively impact their health. This includes trying to make dangerous jobs less dangerous, and attempting to control risks so far as is reasonably practicable.

But what are the most dangerous jobs in the UK?

When you think of dangerous work, it’s probably people working with flasks of volatile chemicals, contagious diseases and viruses, foundries pouring hot steel, or massive construction sites with vehicles the size of houses. But that’s not really the case.

The UK has invested heavily in improving working conditions and ranks 5th in Europe for the least number of incidences of fatal injuries (Eurostat, ESAW, 2018).

Improvements in health and safety and technology available mean that it’s very difficult to pin down a specific job that’s “the most dangerous job in the UK”, because most inherently dangerous or harmful jobs are well managed or avoided.

Statistics

Fatalities from each year are recorded by the HSE and a report is created at the end of each year. This report collects all of the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) statistics and provides information on the industry and type of work that the fatality occurred in.

The 2020/21 RIDDOR statistics of work-related fatal injuries in Great Britain indicate that there were 142 workers killed in this period.

Of this 142, the largest number of fatalities comes from the construction sector, with 39 workers fatally injured. However, this is a sector that employs around 2,127,000 employees, making this 0.0018% of the workforce being fatally injured.

Comparatively, the UK has a population of over 67 million people, of which an estimated 35.9 million held a driving license in 2020. The reported fatalities for incidents involving road traffic were 1542, comparing this rate of fatalities to the entire population of the UK, the fatality rate was 0.0023%, meaning that you’re more likely to die as a result of a road traffic collision, than working in the entire construction sector.

Statistics aren’t always easy to understand, and are normally best used to view trends rather than draw conclusions on which job or industry is most dangerous.

Types of dangerous work

It is often more useful to look at the types of injuries or situations that resulted in fatalities to identify which are the most dangerous jobs. Ultimately, health and safety is concerned with anything above 0 when it comes to fatalities and injuries, but looking at the table below, you can begin to understand the types of situations that may lead to a fatality.

 

Fatal Accident Number of fatalities
Falls from height 35
Struck by moving vehicle 25
Struck by moving object 17
Trapped by something collapsing/overturning 14
Contact with moving machinery 14

 

Falls from height


A fall from any height can result in a fatal head injury, but anything over 6ft and you’re more likely to land on your head. Around 63% of your body weight is in your head and chest, meaning that if you fall from over 6ft, you’re likely to fall headfirst.

There are many instances in which working from height may be necessary, such a roofers, for maintenance and repair work, to install equipment or cables, cleaning, surveying, construction work, and much more.

When it comes to working from height the advice is:

  • Don’t – Find another way to complete the work
  • Work from underneath or on a safe platform

Any work from height should be properly planned and organised and carried out by competent professionals.

Struck by moving vehicle

Fatalities from being struck by a moving vehicle are often in the agriculture and construction sectors. There are many factors involved in this such as the size of the plant (vehicles), visibility from the cab, lack of supervision during moving operations, and in many examples from agriculture, a failure to create a segregation between pedestrians and traffic.

To improve safety around vehicles

  • Is there a good field of view from the cab?
  • Make sure that the vehicle keeps these fields of view during normal operations, for example is vision from the tractor cab blocked by a hay bale?
  • Is vision from the excavator cab blocked by the bucket when the vehicle is moving position?
  • Can the operation be safely supervised?
  • Can a banksman or vehicle supervisor be employed to direct the vehicle safely through higher risk areas or between working areas?
  • Can the need for reversing be eliminated?

Reversing vehicles is often the most dangerous operation that can be conducted, there is normally a limited field of view and pedestrians may not expect the vehicle to reverse. Many construction sites use a roundabout road layout at the entrance to the site during construction phases to reduce or remove the need to reverse.

Agricultural vehicles may be able to do the same/similar turning manoeuvre depending on the holding.

Are pedestrians securely segregated from vehicles?

Many construction sites will lay out dedicated pedestrian walkways which are separated from the path that vehicles take. Additional traffic lights and vehicle supervisors may be used to control the flow of vehicles and traffic and reduce the likelihood of a person being struck by a moving vehicle, by preventing pedestrians from coming close to vehicles.

Many agricultural holdings are also homes, and because of this there may be the added risk of children and visitors near to or in the working area. All work with vehicles should be effectively segregated to prevent a vehicle striking a pedestrian.

Struck by moving object


According to the HSE, over 10% of major injuries reported to the HSE in the food and drink industry come from being injured by a moving object, such as being struck by something falling or a cut from a knife. Struck by a moving object means exactly what it says, and includes any object from a knife to a brick to a steel beam.

Addressing issues with moving objects is very dependent on the object in question. For example, scaffolding must have toe boards and where suitable tools can be clipped onto the individual using them to prevent falling tools from striking those working or walking below.

Trapped by something collapsing/overturning


The majority of the fatalities from this category in the 2020/21 period were a result of agricultural vehicles overturning while moving and construction plants overturning. Additionally, there is a high risk of fatality and serious injury with entrapment injuries, as they are often internal injuries or sustained over a long period of time, e.g. trapped underneath something that is too heavy to be moved.

To prevent these types of injuries, ensure that all work is properly planned and risk assessed prior to it commencing. Consider vehicle routes, suitability of terrain, suitability of vehicles, condition of work areas and segregation of pedestrians from vehicles.

Any equipment that is at risk of falling and entrapping someone should be properly secured down if possible and appropriate.

Contact with moving machinery


Contact with moving machinery often takes place during maintenance, so effective lock-off and isolation procedures are essential to prevent contact with moving parts.

Where possible and suitable, guarding should be used to create a barrier between moving machinery so that when it is in use, the risk of contact with it is reduced.

The type of controls that you will need to put in place to prevent contact with moving machinery is very dependant on the machinery itself.


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