Essential UK industries that keep the country moving can sometimes mean life or death for their workers. So, you would hope the salaries adequately compensate for the risk involved, but new research reveals that is not the case.
StaySafeapp, the company that conducted the research, analysed the most recent data on workplace fatalities, average salaries for those industries and how many workers there are per industry to compile a list of the UK’s most dangerous jobs.
The most common reasons for fatal workplace accidents in the past year are falls from height (40), being struck by a moving object (29) and being struck by a moving vehicle (20), which explains why farming takes the top spot for most dangerous. But more surprising is how dangerous roles such as commercial divers and miners can be, even in 2023.
The lowest paid, most dangerous jobs – Ranked from highest to lowest fatality rate
Agriculture and farming
Working with large vehicles, unpredictable livestock, and exposure to hazardous chemicals makes working in agriculture the most dangerous occupation in the UK. But with an average salary of £23,867.17, it is well below the national UK average of £30,982.
Farm workers will often be responsible for heavy machinery and work in remote areas of the countryside, making it difficult to get help quickly if an accident happens. There are also the long hours they work and in darkness through winter.
Workers in agriculture and farming should take steps to protect themselves from these hazards, such as wearing safety gear, following safety procedures, and being aware of their surroundings.
Construction and demolition
Coming second on the list is the construction and demolition industry. Although workers are paid over £14,000 more annually than farm workers, the risk of death or injury is considerably high.
Construction workers are most likely to fall from height on building sites, possibly from incorrectly sited structures such as scaffolding. Moving vehicles are also likely to strike them if the driver hasn’t seen them on a busy construction site. Another major hazard is machinery or equipment accidents, potentially from a lack of correct safety training or taking risks to save time on a tight schedule.
Transport and storage
The most common fatal accidents in the transport industry come from workers spending so much time on the roads and therefore are at risk from accidents involving other vehicles.
With long hours and a relatively lonely occupation, working in transport can be challenging, especially when workers deal with things out of their control, like other drivers and the weather conditions. Unloading and loading goods is also a hazard, with many accidents recorded, including manual handling injuries and falls from height in warehouses.
Admin and support services
Even though they face fewer hazards due to their mainly office-based roles, admin and support services workers still face a higher fatality rate than many industries.
The dangers come from slips, trips, and injuries from handling goods, such as dropping heavy loads or not using the right equipment. There are even instances of violence from customers or colleagues to deal with.
Wholesale, retail, motor repair, accommodation and food
With the lowest average compensation package in the list at £22,813 a year, those working in these industries face considerable risk, with 15 fatal injuries occurring in the UK in 2023. In 2023, there were 15 fatal injuries in these industries, often due to the risks involved with working in confined spaces, with dangerous goods and working long hours.
In these sectors, trips and slips are very common, but also the risks involved when dealing with members of the public make these jobs dangerous. For example, anyone behind a cash register is at risk from those attempting burglaries.
The highest paid, most dangerous jobs – ranked from highest to lowest fatality rate
Oil platform worker
Explosions, fires, falls, and extreme weather conditions are all in a day’s work for an oil rig worker. But their average salary often doesn’t reflect the risk involved in their job.
Workers are responsible for maintaining and operating oil rigs in the middle of the ocean. These oil rigs are often equipped with flammable materials, which can explode if not handled properly. This can be very dangerous to work in, as explosions can cause widespread damage and injury. Oil rigs can also catch fire, which can be just as deadly.
Offshore oil platforms are often high up in the air, so that that falls can be very serious. The weather in the middle of the ocean can be very extreme, involving high winds, heavy rain, and even hurricanes.
Mining construction worker
Mining construction workers play an important role in society. They help extract the resources we need to build our homes, roads, and other infrastructure.
But unfortunately, they face several hazards on the job, including cave-ins, explosions, exposure to toxic chemicals, long hours and hard physical labour. Cave-ins are a major hazard in mining, as the ground can collapse without warning. This situation can be very dangerous, as miners can be buried alive.
Mines often contain flammable gases, which can explode if not handled properly. Miners may also be exposed to toxic chemicals on the job. These chemicals can cause various health problems, including respiratory problems, cancer, and skin diseases.
A civil engineer is one of the most important jobs in the UK. Responsible for the design and construction of roads, bridges, and buildings. With such big building projects taking place in potentially lethal situations such as busy roads and at great heights, workers face risks from accidents, injuries, and exposure to hazardous materials.
Civil engineers benefit from effective measures to keep them safe such as traffic re-direction, but this still doesn’t make their job risk-free. Working with heavy machinery and human error can contribute to their dangerous working environment.
A commercial diver here in the UK will face very different conditions from one who works in a more tropical climate. Our seas are dark and murky, and our rivers and lakes dip below freezing. But these divers are responsible for essential underwater construction and repair work.
They face many hazards on the job, including decompression sickness, drowning and injuries from underwater machinery such as drills and saws. The water divers’ work can be very cold, leading to hypothermia. This is where the body’s temperature drops dangerously low, and it can be fatal if not treated quickly.
Divers must also be cautious of decompression sickness, which can occur when divers ascend too quickly from deep water. This can cause various symptoms, including pain, numbness, and paralysis. In severe cases, decompression sickness can be fatal.
When you think of vets, you probably think of rabbits, puppies, and fluffy kittens, but some vets specialise in larger animals. These vets deal with much larger and heavier animals and, therefore, more of a danger when it comes to causing injury.
The average cow weighs in at around 680kg; they might look harmless, but with such weight behind them, they can potentially cause serious injury. Vets with several years of experience, who specialise in large animals, can expect to earn around £44,000 per year, and there are 29,000 vets in the UK.
The regions in the UK that suffer the most workplace fatalities are:
- South West (fatal injury rate per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers: 0.63)
- Scotland (fatal injury rate per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers: 0.56)
- East Midlands (fatal injury rate per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers: 0.53)
- North East (fatal injury rate per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers: 0.52)
- Yorkshire and The Humber (fatal injury rate per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers: 0.50)
These regions have higher fatality rates than the national average of 0.45. The reasons for this are not fully understood. Still, it is likely due to a combination of factors, such as the type of industries in these regions, the weather conditions, and the age and experience of the workforce.
Don Cameron, CEO of StaySafeApp, said: “One accident at work is one too many, so it’s shocking to see these high figures for injuries and fatalities in these essential job roles. What’s worse is that average salaries are nowhere near what most of us would feel is adequate compensation for the level of risk involved.
“The industries that this data highlights could, and should, be doing more to protect their workers by ensuring proper safety equipment is issued and adequate training is provided. It is also important that these at-risk workers have a way to alert their employers if they’re in danger quickly. Lives quite literally will be saved with these actions.”