Workplace Fatalities in the UK – Does Taking Risks Really Pay Off?

Whilst some professions, like firefighters, seem naturally more dangerous than others, accidents are bound to happen in any workplace.

Working at heights or with sharp machinery can be a threat to any worker, but are often mitigated by compliance with safety regulations.

A recent study by HSE compared the rate of fatal injuries per 100,000 workers in 2016/2017 of 12 industries.

As expected, the study showed that most fatal accidents at work in the UK happened in manual jobs. Nonetheless, seeing that work leave due to accidents leads to possibly large costs for both employers and employees, Arinite tried to find out if high risks of being involved in a fatal accident were in fact compensated by a high salary.

The finding from the HSE study were matched with Adzuna’s salary stats which calculates the average salary across an industry for all positions and professions. While this allows a quick overview per industry, variations in salary within an industry especially for low-paid manual jobs will not be reflected in those stats.


  • Waste and Recycling

The Waste and Recycling industry proves to be the most dangerous, with a fatal injury rate of 12.69 in 100,000 workers and a total of 14 accidents happening in 2016/2017.

The Recycling sector in particular shows a very low annual salary of £26,270 compared to the national average of £32,093.

The most common cause of death is being struck by a moving vehicle.


  • Agriculture

The second most dangerous industry is Agriculture, with 7.61 in 100,000 workers being fatally injured at work. Falling from height, being struck by a vehicle and being injured by an animal are the most common causes.

With £32,343, the annual salary lies slightly above the national average.


  • Water Supply, Sewerage and Remediation

With a total of 14 deaths in 2016/2017 and a fatal injury rate of 6.64, Water Supply, Sewerage and Remediation turned out to be the third most dangerous industry.

However, this is an industry that enjoys comparably high salary (Water Supply: £36,324; Sewerage: £35,774; Remediation: £38,611).


  • Mining and Quarrying

The Mining and Quarrying industry ranks 4th in comparison, showing a comparatively lower injury rate of 3.28, which is less than half the rate of Water Supply, Sewerage and Remediation.

The annual salary for Quarrying is below the national average (£30,572), but Mining is paying the most in the ranking with an average of £43,039 annually.


  • Electricity, Gas, Steam and Air Conditioning

The rate of fatal injuries for this industry lies at 1.63, which is still about 4 times higher than the national average of 0.43.

Gas-related jobs pay best in that sector (£34,010) while Electricity job pay the least (£31,638).


  • Construction

While there were a record number of fatalities (30 in 2016/2017), given that construction simply has the biggest workforce of all industries in the study, the fatal accident rate turns out to be 1.37 per 100,000.

The annual salary in the construction industry is £36,111 on average.


  • Transportation and Storage

The Transport and Storage industry holds the lowest average income, with £25,517 for Transport and £22,866 for Storage.

Still, their fatal injury rate is twice as high as national average, with 0.88 in 100,000 being killed in the UK in 2016/2017.


  • Manufacturing

0.66 in 100,000 workers were killed in the workplace in the Manufacturing industry, whilst the average salary of £27,354 was way below the national average.

Common causes for accidents are slips, trips, falls, being struck by an object or contact with machinery.


  • Public Administration, Education, Human Health, Social Work Activities

Scoring just below national average, with a fatal injury rate of 0.39, this industry is not paid very well on average, especially social workers seem to have a low income in comparison (£28,438).


  • Wholesale, Retail, Repair of Motor Vehicles, Accommodation and Food Service Activities

The fatal injury rate for this industry is half that of the national average.

Positions also seem to pay lower, especially among the Food (£24,199) and Retail (£25,639) section.


  • Communication, Business and Finance

Coming in second to last, Communication, Business and Finance are some of the least accident-prone industries. The rate of fatal injury is 0.12 in 100,000 workers.

Having one of the highest annual average salaries, especially in Business (£37,557) and Finance (£37,369), this industry appears to be one of the safest and best paying.


  • Arts, Entertainment and Service

The least fatal accidents in 2016/2017 in the UK happened in the Arts, Entertainment and Service industry, with only 0.06 in 100,000 workers being killed at work.

This area pays about national average, but enjoys a very safe work environment.

Research shows, that being at higher risk of getting fatally injured at work does not implicate a higher salary.

Whilst some jobs, like Mining, do show a high fatal injury rate and salary, others, like Recycling, show absolutely no correlation between the two.

Employers might not be able to change inequality in wages, but they can improve the employee’s safety at work by identifying and controlling any potential hazards.

That goes for every industry, not only manual jobs. A healthy and secure work environment is essential to a productive and successful business of any kind.

Source: Katharina Busch

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