Every day people go to work and put their lives at risk, whether they are driving a truck, working construction, or flying a plane. But what jobs are the most dangerous? That can be determined by looking at the fatality rate. Unfortunately our South African statistics are far from the truth since accidents aren’t properly recorded or reported to the Workman’s Compensation fund and the Department of Employment and Labour whilst the fear of possible jail time or fines also deters employers from reporting.  Therefore we will be benchmarking from the USA and their Bureau of Labor Statistics  whom calculates the fatality rate of a job by taking the number of deaths per 100,000 full-time workers. This method ensures that every profession is represented correctly no matter how large or small the industry. These are the 10 most dangerous jobs of 2019, as reported by Newsweek:


The occupation with the highest fatality rate is logging workers, with 135.9 fatal work injuries per 100,000 workers, which equates to 91 total fatalities over the course of a year. This makes logging the most hazardous job of 2019. Not only is the job physically challenging, it involves heavy-duty chainsaws and falling trees, putting the workers at a huge risk each day. Within the South African environment the lack of OHS enforcement and training of workers have also been neglected in the Western Cape as majority of the plantations are based in the George, Knysna, Plettenberg bay and surrounding areas with little to no access to accredited training providers in these various areas.


Commercial fishing is far from the relaxing days at the lake that you might picture. As the second most dangerous job of 2019, commercial fisherman have a work fatality rate of 86 deaths per 100,000 workers. The cause of the deaths can usually be attributed to weather conditions, transportation accidents, or failing machinery.


While driving is often thought of as more dangerous than flying, when it comes to fatality rates on the job, the pilots rank higher. On average, the occupation has a 55.5 fatal injury rate, which breaks down to 75 fatalities in a year, and almost all of them were caused by plane crashes. Even though commercial flights are relatively safer due to the strict enforcement of standards and regulations by local and international agencies, the  South African private, charter and corporate industries often neglects safety due to the high costs involved with preventative maintenance, safety training, pro active inspections and/or employment of qualified safety officers.


Since their job puts them off the ground for hours each day, it’s not too much of a surprise that roofing work is rated as the fourth most dangerous job. The fatality rate for this profession is 48.6, with more than 100 fatalities each year. As suspected, most of these are caused from falling and the lack of providing fall arrest or fall prevention equipment. The Construction Regulations (2014) specifically requires that a competent fall protection plan developer to draft a site and activity fall protection plan. Roofers must also have a qualification in roofing or related field which is accredited with SAQA (South African Qualifications Authority) and be medically fit to work at heights.


Collecting recyclables and trash is not only a necessary job, it is also a dangerous one. Its fatality rate comes in at 34.1, and most of these are caused by either the worker or the truck getting struck by another vehicle or jumping off moving vehicles.


Working with iron and steel beams and cranes all day is no doubt hazardous. Even though the materials they work with are heavy, most of the 25.1 deaths per 100,000 workers are caused by falling or slipping. The statistics for amputations are much higher at 520.6 per 100 000 workers which makes this industry one of the highest risks industries world wide. Similar to Roofers employers performing construction activities are required to develop a fall protection plan when working at heights and all employees working at those heights must be medically fit to do so.


You know all too well how dangerous it can be to get behind the wheel. Even just driving to your office puts you at risk. So, imagine how much that risk increases when you drive all day long for your job. Due to traffic accidents, truck drivers and other driving professions, there is a 24.7 fatal work injury rate. This equates to an alarming 918 fatalities each year—the highest number of actual fatalities in any job. The onus on employers would be to provide a safe system of work towards their employees and the following key areas should be addressed I this field:

  • Vehicle management including proactive maintenance
  • Fatigue management
  • Route management
  • Driver management
  • Load management (Material, Capacity, Storage and transportation of loads)
  • Driver competency management
  • Emergency management



Even with the technological advances in the past decade, farmers and ranchers still have to work with a lot of heavy equipment and machinery. They also work with a variety of motorized vehicles, such as tractors and excavators, ploughing equipment and rotating machinery, which are the main culprit in the 23.1 fatality work rate for the profession. Amputations along with severe cuts are also very high on the list within this industry coming in at 312.3 per 100 000 employees for amputations and sever cuts requiring hospital treatment at 986.6 per 100 000.


Surprisingly, construction workers themselves did not make the top 10 most dangerous jobs of 2019, but their supervisors did. The job has a fatality rate of 18, with falls being responsible for half of the 134 actual fatalities. The other main risk factor for this job is being hit by another object. In South Africa these statistics are easier to come by and the actual 2018 fatality rate for construction workers in South Africa was 22.9.  The construction industry also had thee highest in compensation claim pay-outs for 2018 standing at nearly R56 000 000.


You may be surprised to learn that finishing off the top 10 dangerous jobs list is maintenance workers. It may seem simple enough, but these workers are consistently exposed to the elements and sharp tools, giving them a fatality rate of 17.4. To put it in perspective, even though this is the last job on this list, that is still five times higher than the average work fatality rate.

Employee safety is a serious concern, no matter what industry you are in. At ACS Empowerment Solutions we strive to implement proactive safety systems combined with ongoing employee training and awareness  to ensure our clients don’t form part of any injury statistic. Contact us to find out how we can assist you as employer.

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