Government statistics have revealed the most dangerous jobs in the country, with workers in these areas more likely to suffer an industrial accident or develop an industrial disease than in other sectors.
These higher levels of risk are to be expected in certain jobs, but that simply makes it all the more important for employers to know their responsibilities to provide a working environment that is as safe as possible.
High risk jobs in the UK
There are three key areas which are responsible for the majority of serious injuries, fatalities and industrial diseases in the UK:
The construction industry accounts for just 5% of the UK workforce, and yet 22% of all fatalities and 10% of major reported injuries occur in this sector.
During the 2011/12 period, the country saw 49 deaths as a result of injuries sustained in construction work, and even this was down from a 5-year average of 59. In total, 0.6 million working days a year are lost as a result of injuries to construction employees, mostly due to slips, trips and falls or contact with electricity.
A further 1.7 million days are missed due to staff contracting a work-related illness. It is thought that around 5,000 new cases of cancer are discovered each year as a result of exposure to harmful environments during construction work.
Twenty years ago, the manufacturing industry was extremely high risk, with hundreds of fatalities each year. While these risks still exist, in 2011/12 there were a comparatively fewer 31 deaths.
Similar to construction, despite making up only 10% of UK workers, manufacturing saw 25% of fatal injuries and 16% of reported injuries over a 12-month period. There were nearly 17,500 reported non-fatal injuries and a further 27,000 self-reported accidents, and a large number of these involved coming into contact with moving machinery.
Additionally, it is estimated that 2,000 cancer-related deaths during the year were linked to exposure to harmful chemicals in manufacturing.
This presents many of the same risks we have already seen, with farm workers regularly using machinery and working in high-risk environments.
The sector was responsible for 33 deaths in 2011/12, which is lower than in previous years. Major injuries were also lower, but accidents resulting in the employee requiring three or more days off work increased.
It is thought that many accidents within the agricultural industry often go unreported, making it difficult to draw conclusions as to its safety. However, a study from Oxford University asserts that commercial fishermen are considered 50 times more likely to die while working than any other profession.
What responsibilities does an employer have?
No matter what level of risk is associated with a job, employers remain legally obliged to provide a working environment that is as safe as possible.
We have seen that the most dangerous jobs tend to involve machinery, and it is vital that businesses ensure that all equipment is properly maintained and undergoes regular safety checks.
Training goes hand in hand with this, as no member of staff should be working with machinery if they have not been shown how to use it properly.
Proper safety equipment must also be provided, for example construction workers should be wearing hard hats to protect them from falling debris, while if they are working high up there must be measures in place to prevent them from falling.
This also applies to protection against industrial diseases. If an employee is working with chemicals, they must be wearing protective clothing that will prevent them from exposure to harmful substances.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list, it shows the sort of thing employers must pay attention to if they want to avoid costly, time consuming workplace injury claims. Contact Sheldon Davidson Solicitors on 0808 9000 990 if you would like more information on this complex area of employment law.
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