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Farming is Britain’s deadliest job

Paul Lewis, Adzuna

Farming, Manufacturing, and specialised construction roles like Scaffolding and Roofing are vying for the unpopular title of Britain’s most dangerous job, according to new research*.

The study, conducted in April 2022, analysed fatality data from the Health and Safety Executive and Adzuna’s own data on advertised salaries to reveal the deadliest jobs in Great Britain, and to find out whether the pay on offer makes them worth the danger.

Farming is the deadliest profession, seeing 133 fatalities since 2016 according to the data, equal to 27 deaths every year.

Manufacturing and Specialised Construction tie for the second most-dangerous professions in Britain, both seeing 92 deaths in the last five years. Specialised construction includes trades like scaffolding, roofing and painting which bring with them the risk of falling from height, as well as skilled areas like joining. Building Construction (71 fatalities), Lorry Driving (47), and Non-Hazardous Waste Collection (40) round out the six deadliest professions in Britain.

Building Service and Landscape Activities is the seventh deadliest profession, incorporating window cleaning, extermination and pest control, furnace and chimney cleaning, and industrial cleaning.

Looking at the lethal dangers posed to workers in these industries, falling from height is the most common cause of fatality, responsible for 171 deaths since 2016. This is a common risk across many of the deadliest professions, with farm workers, construction professionals, tree surgeons and even civil engineers frequently required to work at height.

The second biggest danger to workers is being struck by a moving vehicle, the cause of 133 deaths since 2016, and a particular risk for warehouse workers and drivers. Being struck by a flying object (93) is the third greatest risk, posing a particular threat to those within the building & construction trade, particularly during demolition stages. Being trapped by something collapsing (67), coming into contact with machinery (60), and being injured by an animal (27) were the other most common causes of death. 

Is danger money up for grabs?
Working in a hazardous environment doesn’t always translate to danger money, according to the analysis, despite high demand for workers to fill openings in some dangerous jobs.

Advertised salaries for industrial cleaners average just £21,747 per year, the lowest pay of all the risky positions analysed, while refuse collectors can expect just £22,848 per year. Workers in this profession must operate extremely heavy vehicles and dangerous machinery, seeing 40 deaths in this area since 2016.

Other high-risk, low paying positions include labourers and farm workers, both facing hazardous work sites, seeing average salaries of just £24,393 and £26,298 respectively.

Those with a head for heights should weigh up the rewards for risking vertical working. Scaffolder jobs typically offer £36,714 and roofing roles have an average of just £35,834, but window cleaners average just £23,130 per year and tree surgeons average just £25,125 – both significantly lower.

The highest paid profession on the deadliest jobs list is civil engineer, with average advertised salaries of £43,602. The deadliest jobs analysed are paid £32,964 on average, falling below the UK average advertised salary of £34,913, begging the question of whether the risk is worth the reward in Britain’s most life-endangering jobs.

Overall, more than 76,000 positions are waiting to be filled across Britain’s most dangerous jobs, including over 12,000 open electrician jobs, more than 9,000 vacancies for mechanics, over 6,000 labourer vacancies and more than 24,000 jobs open for HGV drivers.

Paul Lewis, chief customer officer at Adzuna, comments: “Workers within the most hazardous jobs in Britain are facing the double whammy of dangerous conditions and low salaries. Jobs like farming are low paid, long hours, and come with the real risks of operating heavy machinery and working with cattle. Other roles like labourers, tree surgeons and roofers involve working at height, with falling from height the most common cause of workplace fatality in the last five years.

“With over 76,000 job vacancies lying open across Britain’s most dangerous jobs, the question is whether the reward is worth the risk. More labourers are needed to meet the needs of the construction boom, while the shortage of HGV drivers has been holding up supply chains across the UK. Adjusting pay rates to reflect the risks and working conditions within these jobs is needed to solve this talent puzzle. Meanwhile, workers in demand areas can and should be asking for strong starting salaries when securing new jobs, particularly in dangerous professions.

“Finally, we need a renewed focus on safety and improving workplace conditions across these industries. That may take the form of better safety equipment and training, more safeguards, or ensuring workers get enough time off between shifts, reducing the risk of workplace injury.”

Table 1: The deadliest professions in Great Britain

Profession Total Fatalities (2016 – 2021)
Farming 133
Specialised construction activities 92
Manufacturing 92
Building construction 71
Lorry driving 47
Non-hazardous waste collection  40
Building services and landscape activities 30
Vehicle maintenance & repair 20
Civil engineering 17
Warehousing 15

Table 2: Average salaries in dangerous jobs

Job Average advertised salary Advertised vacancies, 

April ‘22

Industrial cleaner £21,747 212
Refuse collector £22,848 505
Window cleaner £23,130 310
Labourer £24,393 6,381
Tree surgeon £25,125 274
Pest controller £26,082 205
Farm worker £26,298 308
HGV driver £28,719 24,401
Painter £29,755 2,197
Tractor driver £31,275 82
Quarry operative £31,314 96
Plumber £33,594 10,302
Joiner £34,738 4,411
Roofer £35,834 39
Scaffolder £36,714 1,924
Electrician £39,186 12,786
Mechanic £39,251 9,822
Civil engineer £43,602 1,772

Table 3: Total fatalities since 2016

Year Fatalities
2016/17 135
2017/18 141
2018/19 149
2019/20 113
2020/21 142

*Research by smarter job search engine Adzuna.

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