When the photocopier starts to smoulder, spare a thought for the ship breakers of Bangladesh

26 September 2018

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When considering a career choice, the mortality rate of an industry is not necessarily the first thing we think about.

If we’re asked to name the world’s deadliest jobs most of us, I’m guessing, would say something like lion tamer, stuntman or soldier.

The reality is surprisingly more mundane and it’s interesting to compare hazardous occupations by country for an insight into different working practices across the world.

Some of the deadliest jobs in Britain include refuse collection, painting and decorating and even farming, while in the US, aircraft pilots and flight engineers are near the top of the fatality league by profession.

In India coal miners, sanitation workers and bodyguards take their lives in their hands every time they clock on for work.

Data collected by the Office for National Statistics found that more than 850 people in the UK have died at work in the past six years.

By far the most – 167 in total – worked in agriculture  with the majority of deaths were caused by workers encountering heavy machinery and working from heights. Some 29 were killed by animals.

Around one in five workplace deaths are linked to accidents with heavy machinery, so it's unsurprising that 101 people died on building sites. Half were a result of falling from heights but falling objects were also a major cause of death.

Across all professions, some 29% of fatalities were due to falls with 69 people plunging from scaffolding, according to the statistics.

Other hazardous professions included lorry driving – 40 HGV drivers died on the roads during the period – joining and painting (falling from heights was, again, a big factor), and vehicle maintenance and repair.

Shockingly, some of  the UK's deadliest jobs are also some of the worst paid. For example, refuse collectors earn a little over £17,500 per year, despite 20 collectors dying at work in six years.

While America also has high fatality rates in these sectors, its deadliest trade was among truck and sales drivers, 918 of whom died last year compared with 260 agricultural workers, 217 ground maintenance workers and 134 construction supervisors.

But if all those jobs make you think of barge poles and distance, spare a thought for the ship breakers of Bangladesh.

This back-breaking labour supports around 200,000 people who spend 16 hours-a-day breaking down massive tankers and cargo ships that are built to withstand the toughest of conditions for a few dollars a day.

Estimated to be the world’s most dangerous job, if you’re not killed by an explosion or stabbed by falling shards of steel, then the toxic fumes and asbestos will get you. In a single year 30 men will die breaking up a single ship. Many workers, still in their twenties, die of cancer.

Maybe lion taming doesn’t seem such a bad option after all.

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