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Is this the most dangerous job in Australia?

dangerous job - news

Read about one trucker's nail-biting road stories and discover the key stats on mortality across a range of high-risk industries.

Tiarn Andrews is a long-haul truck driver. Despite being in the industry for only 2 years, the 22-year-old has more than her share of tales from the road.

Tiarn Andrews

Andrews counts herself lucky to have avoided a major incident but has had a "fair share of near misses" on the highways.

Sadly, the same can't be said of others in her family's trucking business, which is based on the south coast of Western Australia.

"We've had 3 trucks roll over in the past few years. All 3 drivers ended up in hospital. 1 of them had a near-death experience," says Andrews, adding: "It's a lot for a small family business of 10 trucks."

Recalling the most serious accident, Andrews said a truck rolled onto its side and dropped at speed into a ditch. The driver was thrown to the floor of his cab.

On impact, a series of logs, which were being carried by the driver's first trailer, broke free and slammed through the cab. Fortunately, the driver narrowly escaped being wiped out by a log.

Long-lasting effects of accidents

According to Andrews, most truckers who go through a serious accident won't get back into a truck again.

Andrews continues: "My uncle was a truck driver. He was a good one. He had someone jump in front of his truck."

Tragically, the person involved ended up in the cab next to her uncle and died on impact.

"My uncle was 54 [at the time of the incident]. He never worked again. He lost both his houses. These days he doesn't get out of bed unless it's to eat or watch TV. He hardly talks to anyone.

"It's been almost 10 years and he still can't function with daily life."

Not surprisingly, Andrews is under no illusion on how dangerous the trucking industry can be.

Andrews adds: "Australian road crash stats show you're more likely to live than die in the case of a serious accident, but it's not by much."

So, is trucking the most dangerous job in Australia?

On the surface, it would appear so. Finder summarised the findings of Safe Work Australia's latest report into workplace safety.

The figures show 49 employees lose their lives each year on average in transport, postal and warehousing. This was the highest of all 19 sectors we reviewed.

Meanwhile the most likely cause of workplace deaths in Australia is a vehicle collision, accounting for 41% of all workplace fatalities.

However, on closer inspection, in fact, it's agriculture, forestry and fishing where Australian workers have the most to fear.

In addition to dealing with hazardous machinery and toxic chemicals, the work in these industries is often isolated and remote.

Overall, there are 13.1 fatalities per 100,000 workers in agriculture, forestry and fishing annually. This is 40% more than the 7.8 fatalities reported in transport, postal and warehousing.

With 3.1 fatalities annually, the construction industry is the third most dangerous industry in Australia.

Dangerous jobs compared

RankIndustryAverage number of fatalities per yearFatality rate per 100,000
1Agriculture, forestry and fishing4613.1
2Transport, postal and warehousing497.8
3Electricity, gas, water and waste services32.0

We used the most recently available work health and safety (WHS) figures from Safe Work Australia. We will update this article once new figures are published.

"Accidents waiting to happen" in the holidays

For Andrews, more awareness about truck driving from other road users would make the industry – and the roads generally – less dangerous.

"Tourists, travellers and city people that don't drive on country roads often and don't drive around big road trains often have no idea how to drive around trucks.

"They overtake on hills, when there's not enough time to pass, just before bends. They overtake then slow down in front of us."

Andrews usually drives triple or quad road trains. For scale, a quad road train Andrews drives measures a massive 48.5 metres from front to back.

She adds: "Caravaners also have a really bad tendency to brake in front of us when they want us to overtake.

"There's many incidents at holiday time with trucks almost running into caravans cause they brake in front of us thinking they're doing us a favour."

"Every long weekend and holiday season is an accident waiting to happen."

Drivers don't always have life insurance

Many truckers such as Andrews are getting behind the wheel without life insurance in place.

Andrews explained: "Truck drivers can get life insurance. One of the guys I work with has it."

But being accepted for life cover isn't straightforward. For example, Andrews suffers from psoriatic arthritis and insomnia.

"With my medical history, age and experiences, it's almost impossible."
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Despite the many risks involved in trucking, Andrews won't quit her family firm.

"If you're a good driver, pay attention and look after your fatigue, you'll usually be okay."

Whether it's work-related or not, life insurance pays a lump sum to your loved ones if you die or are diagnosed with a terminal illness.

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