Security guards and taxi drivers among jobs with highest coronavirus death rate, figures say
PUBLISHED: 06:30 14 May 2020 | UPDATED: 16:44 18 May 2020
Care workers, taxi drivers and chefs are among the roles most likely to have coronavirus-related deaths for men, according to new figures which point to a link between higher rates and lower-paid jobs.
The Office for National Statistics, released this week, look at the deaths by occupation in England and Wales, for those registered up to and including April 20.
A total of 2,494 were registered, with almost two-thirds being men - the rate of coronavirus-related deaths sits at 9.9 per 100,000 deaths in men, compared to 5.2 for women.
Many healthcare workers, both men and women and including doctors and nurses, were not found to have higher rates of death involving Covid-19 when compared to the general population, the figures show, though those working in social care were, perhaps unsurprisingly.
Roles with elevated rates for men included taxi drivers and chauffeurs (36.4), bus and coach drivers (26.4) and chefs (35.9). Male security guards had one of the highest rates, at 45.7 deaths per 100,000.
One owner of a local security company, speaking anonymously, said protective personal equipment (PPE) was not mandatory for his guards, but that they were free to wear if it they chose to and were registered to have tests locally.
“Some have face masks, some have gloves,” he said. “If you are wearing gloves all day you might as well be washing your hands though, in my opinion. We also work with people who are hard of hearing, so face masks can be difficult.”
He said the security role was very hands-on, and that while he kept his distance from people where possible now, some situations were challenging to manage.
“Recently a lady fell over, and the human instinct is to go and help,” he said, “which is what I did. Really, I shouldn’t go over but I’m not comfortable doing nothing. Also, the physical security element is hands-on too - you can’t detain a shoplifter two metres away.”
He said his initial reaction to the figures was that the risk was not so much in the job itself, but the lifestyle that came with it.
“We work long hours, sometimes 16, 17-hour days in summer, have four hours sleep and start another long day,” he said. “We live off caffeine and Red Bull and eat what food we can have at festivals and events.”
Another local security guard, also speaking anonymously, said he carried a face mask and plastic visor with him, and constantly washed and sanitised his hands. But he said the job could be thankless.
“I have faced non-stop abuse from all different types of customers with threats just because they can’t go in the store together with their wife, partner mum or father,” he said. “But I face a lot of nice customers too, and a lot of the time it makes my time as a security guard worthwhile.”
Among transport drivers, the figures showed male taxi and cab drivers and chauffeurs had a death rate of 36.4, and bus and coach drivers had one of 26.4.
Mark Streeter, managing director of Norwich-based Courtesy Taxis, said he was doing his best to protect drivers, having bought hand sanitiser, wipes, gloves and masks early on, and was currently waiting for a delivery of thick plastic dividers to separate the front and back of the taxis to arrive.
He said Norwich firm Evander had been sterilising Courtesy’s cars once a week, and said, after prime minister Boris Johnson advised people not to use public transport, they were now offering 20pc off all fares.
“I have so many drivers off sick because they don’t feel comfortable coming to work,” he said, “which I understand. Luckily so far I’ve not had any reports of drivers having coronavirus.”
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He praised customers, who he said had been “respectful” and “terrific” during the pandemic.
For women, only one major occupational group had a statistically higher mortality rate for deaths involving Covid-19 than the general population- caring, leisure and other service occupations. The majority were care workers.
The data reveals a higher death rate for social care workers in both men and women, with 23.4 for men (compared to 9.9 in the general population) and 9.6 for women (compared to 5.2).
Simon Crawford, who works as a live-in carer in Norwich, said he’d received no PPE from the government, and instead had bought his own masks online at the start of pandemic.
“Nobody has contacted me regarding testing,” he said, “which was originally promised by the government.”
Union Unite has called for an inquiry into the handling of the pandemic, looking into why lower-paid workers, many from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background, have been at a greater risk of dying.
Miles Hubbard, regional officer for the eastern region, said it was crucial action was taken over the “alarming” statistics.
“The inquiry needs to include an investigation into whether the lockdown was introduced too late, whether it was possible for frontline workers to be able to socially distance at work, if effective cleaning regimes were in place and if workers were provided with the necessary PPE to properly protect them,” he said.
“In the meantime, every workplace needs to look at these figures and immediately reassess how more effective measures can be implemented to protect those who have continued to work or are returning to their jobs.”
It was echoed by Sam Leigh, eastern regional manager for Unison, who said it was the lowest paid bearing the brunt of the crisis, with health and social care among the hardest hit.
“Care staff are literally putting their life on the line to look after some of society’s most vulnerable people, but are being sent over the top without helmets – unable to get the right protective kit or forced into work because they can’t afford statutory sick pay,” she said.
She said the union had asked councils to sign up to the Stop the Spread pledge, ensuring proper protections for care staff and residents, and urged Norfolk County Council to sign up.
“And now more people are being sent back to work, crowding up public transport and increasing the risk of spreading the infection,” she said.
“Once again, it’ll be the so-called unskilled who suffer the most.”
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