Most of us work in comfortable 9–5 office jobs where the biggest risk to our health is spilling hot coffee on our lap or getting a papercut. Although all jobs have their own sort of stress, there are some that can risk workers lives.
The International Labour Office (ILO) estimates that there are around 2.3 million workplace fatalities and 340 million injuries every year — that’s 6,300 deaths every day. Here, we take a look at the world’s most dangerous jobs in the UK.
- Commercial fishing
Fishing can be a fun and calming hobby. However commercial fishing, according to Health and Safety Executive (HSE), is one of the UK’s most dangerous jobs. Fishermen are six times more likely to die than workers in other sectors — in 2018, the industry suffered 62 fatalities per 100,000, with workers falling overboard and drowning.
Statistics, reported after a spate of accidents that took the lives of fishermen around the North and North East of England, resulted in calls for a change in culture. According to reports, there weren’t enough health and safety and risk assessment to prevent injury and death, with many deaths being preventable if more workers wore life jackets.
Last year, ILO 88 legislation came into effect to improve safety and wellbeing for those working on fishing vessels — regulations include compulsory personal flotation devices to be worn at all times, high quality cameras on board, and fixed-wing aircraft.
David Fenner, Head of Fishing Safety at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, said: “Fishing is still the most dangerous profession in the UK today and, whilst we are seeing improvements in safety, tragically there were seven lives lost in the industry last year, all of which could have been prevented.”
- Waste and recycling
Surprised to see waste and recycling on this list, particularly second? Around 6,000 workers suffer from ill-health from the workplace, with seven deaths last year.
Main causes were: contact with moving machinery at 30%, being hit by a moving vehicle at 28%, and being struck by a moving or falling object at 16%. As the majority of accidents occur during collecting waste and when vehicles are moving, there is risk management that can be carried out such as eliminating reversing where possible and timing collections to avoid busy periods where pedestrians will be present.
The HSE reports that construction work is the third most dangerous industry in the UK, with 30 workers passing away in 2019. Around 79,000 workers suffered from work-related ill health in 2019, with 62% being musculoskeletal disorders, and 21% stress, depression, or anxiety.
Main causes of fatality were: falling from a height at 49%, being trapped by something collapsing or overturning at 14%, being struck by a moving vehicle at 11%, being struck by a moving or falling object at 10%, and contact with electricity at 5%.
- Oil and gas
The oil and gas industry comes with natural dangers. The scope of work carried out by workers is dangerous in nature, particularly offshore. Upstream oil and gas has one of the highest severe injury rates in the world, with potential for many things to go wrong, including explosions, chemical leaks, machinery malfunctions, fires, and falling equipment.
Main injuries in the oil and gas industry include injury from heavy machinery operation including trauma or crush injuries, dismemberment, fractures, severe burns, explosions, spinal cord injury, paralysis, and chemical exposure. In 2018, there were no fatal injuries, but there were 66 sustained injuries per 100,000. 235 dangerous incidents and 112 hydrocarbon releases were reported, which can result in a variety of health issues and complications.
Of course, health and safety are the most crucial considerations when working in the oil and gas industry. Due to the nature of the work, it’s important that workers receive the best quality training that is realistic and constantly up to date, including comprehensive training with virtual reality technology.
- Deep sea diving
Deep sea diving might sound fun, but there’s a reason why divers are paid so high — it is an isolating and dangerous career that requires divers to be locked up in decompression chambers for 28 days the size of a caravan with several other people. In 2018, 19 scuba divers died in the UK, the highest death toll for 14 years. Not only extremely claustrophobic, you can suffer from a range of medical conditions and painful deaths beyond the obvious drowning and equipment malfunction.
One of the first dangers is barotrauma, which occurs when tissue near pockets of air in your body are damaged, including sinuses, dental roots, lungs, and ears. It can even rupture your ear drums or lungs.
Secondly, decompression sickness is when you ascend too quickly and nitrogen bubbles form in your body, causing damage to your nerves and tissue, which could end in fatality or paralysis.
Thirdly, nitrogen narcosis is a result of nitrogen building up in your brain and causes you to be delirious, as if you were drunk — examples include believing you can breathe underwater and removing your regulator or being unable to read your gauge and instruments. It’s important that saturation divers follow careful regulations like ensuring your diving equipment and piston rings are airtight and ascending at a slow enough pace to avoid injury.
There are some of the UK’s most dangerous jobs — if you work in any of these industries, make sure you follow health and safety rules, they’re there for a reason!