Warning! Men are over twenty times more likely than women to die at work.
Studies show that men are at grave risk in the workplace. According to an analysis of official HSE data, between the years 2009-2014 male workers within the UK had a 20.75x higher fatality rate compared to females. This comes despite the fact that the workforce ratio between men and women is relatively equal, with 47% of the UK workforce made up of women.
Data from 2013/14 shows a total of 85 men died at work, whilst in the same year the fatality rate for women was considerably lower, at just four. This gender divide can be viewed in the following interactive infographic: The main cause of these worker fatalities was falls from height, which accounted for three in every ten worker deaths, of which most took place within the construction industry.
So why is there such a gap between the genders when it comes to fatality rates? One reason may be occupational segregation. Whilst there has been a big push to get women involved in trades typically associated with men, there is still a large divide between the number of males and females working within these risk-heavy industries. According to Health and Safety consultant Bryan Richards of Arinite, “Although there has been an on-going debate for more women getting involved in ‘physical industries’ such as construction, it does not work out in practice. Although `top percentile’ women may be fitter and more physically capable than many men, it’s about averages here, and typically the average woman cannot do the physically demanding work that an average man can do. These tend to be the jobs where there is a greater risk of fatal injury e.g. construction, utility industries etc.”
Gender stereotypes also make it difficult for equality in such industries. Construction worker Daniel Long suggests, “[women] would struggle to gain respect. Other builders wouldn’t want them carrying heavy blocks, for example”.
Construction work, though physically demanding, entails a variety of skills, some of which do not require workers to be overtly strong. Plastering, woodwork and bricklaying, whilst requiring stamina and high levels of fitness, are jobs where it is physically possible for women to get involved.
Official statistics suggest that although the proportion of women employed in the construction industry reached 13.4% in 2014, up from 11.7% in 1999, they still account for only 1.3% of the industry1. Essentially, men are expected to carry the brunt of the work when it comes to hard labour.
On top of the unfortunate likelihood of male deaths in the workplace, men are almost twice as likely as women to suffer a major or minor injury in the workplace. In this instance, the major cause of accidents is cited as slips and trips. These hazards are not industry-specific, and yet in 2013/14 the number of reported male injuries per 100,000 workers averaged at 94.9, whilst female injuries averaged at 52.8.
Office worker Luke Rees suggests this may be because of the stigma surrounding what constitutes “men’s work.” Rees says, “People often say ‘I need some strong, young lads’ when they want something done that involves risk. Even if it’s something simple such as changing a lightbulb, it’s still often expected that men will be the ones that get up there to do it. This means we’re constantly getting exposed to more workplace hazards – falling from stepladders and those kinds of things – than women.”
Have you struggled with gender stereotypes at work? Give us your thoughts below!