10 Most Dangerous Jobs

Laura Morsch,

For most of us, the workplace can certainly be stressful, but it's hardly life-threatening. The typical worker has a low risk dying from a work-related injury – the fatality rate for all occupations is 4.1 per 100,000 employed, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But stress can take on a whole new meaning for workers in some industries, who literally risk their lives each day to bring the rest of us basic needs like food and electricity – a fact tragically brought to the national spotlight by the recent deaths of 12 West Virginia mining workers.

In 2004, highway incidents, falls, being struck by a falling object and homicide were the four leading causes of work-related fatalities. The riskiest industries were those in which the workers were frequently threatened by these events:

1. Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting – 30.1 deaths per 100,000 employed
2. Mining – 28.3 deaths per 100,000 employed
3. Transportation and warehousing – 17.8 deaths per 100,000 employed
4. Construction – 11.9 deaths per 100,000 employed
5. Utilities – 6.9 deaths per 100,000 employed

Within these and other industry groups, certain occupations saw fatality rates reach as high as 22 times the national average. The BLS lists these occupations, all of which had a minimum of 30 fatalities and 40,000 people employed in 2004, as 10 of the most dangerous in the nation:

1. Logging workers
Fatalities: 92.4 per 100,000 employed
Median pay: $30,080
Logging and timber workers duties include cutting down trees and cutting and moving logs, providing the raw material for countless products. The nature of their work puts them at constant risk of being killed by heavy, falling objects.

2. Aircraft pilots and flight engineers
Fatalities: 92.4 per 100,000 employed
Median pay: $135,430 – but may be much lower for commercial pilots.
Although aircraft pilots and flight engineers have one of the most dangerous jobs in the nation, don't swear off air travel just yet. This category also includes commercial pilots of smaller aircraft – including crop dusters and air taxis – that are far more likely to crash than your typical 747.

3. Fishers and related workers
Fatalities: 86.4 per 100,000 employed
Median Pay: $28,220
Fishers endure storms, fog, wind and hazardous working conditions before bringing you the fresh salmon on your dinner plate. Perilous weather puts fishers at risk of drowning if their boat capsizes or they fall overboard. And if they suffer serious injuries while at sea, help isn't readily available.

4. Structural iron and steel workers
Fatalities: 47 per 100,000 employed
Median pay: $42,410
These workers climb dozens of stories to lay the iron and steel that form buildings, bridges and other structures. Despite strapping on harnesses and other safety gear, structural iron and steel workers face a high risk of fatal injuries from falls.

5. Refuse and recyclable material collectors
Fatalities: 43.2 per 100,000 employed
Median pay: $26,950
When refuse and recyclable material collectors take away your trash, they risk traffic accidents and fatal injuries from explosions of hazardous materials. According to a University of Miami study, the leading cause of on-the-job fatalities for these workers is impatient motorists who try to pass the garbage truck and hit the driver.

6. Farmers and ranchers
Fatalities: 37.5 per 100,000 employed
Median pay: $38,600
Farmers and ranchers raise animals and plant, cultivate and harvest crops used to produce our food. However, the tractors and machinery used by these workers can be very dangerous: Non-highway vehicle accidents accounted for 40 percent of occupational fatalities for farmers and ranchers in 2004.

7. Roofers
Fatalities: 34.9 per 100,000 employed
Median pay: $31,300
When these workers climb atop your house to build or repair your roof, they risk slipping or falling from scaffolds, ladders, or roofs, or burning themselves on hot bitumen.

8. Electrical power-line installers and repairers
Fatalities: 30 per 100,000 employed
Median pay: $49,700
When your lights go out, line installers and repairers climb power poles and towers to get your electricity up and running. Power lines are typically high off the ground, so workers are at high risk of injury due to falls. Plus, these workers are often at risk of electrocution from contact with the high-voltage power lines.

9. Driver/sales workers and truck drivers
Fatalities: 27.6 per 100,000 employed
Truck driver median pay: $33,870
Driver/sales worker median pay: $20,320
Truck drivers transport goods including cars and livestock, and driver/sales workers deliver and sell their firm's products over established routes. Both groups spend the majority of their time on the road, putting them at high risk of highway vehicle crashes.

10. Taxi drivers and chauffeurs
Fatalities: 24.2 per 100,000 employed
Median pay: $19,790
The dangers of shuttling around patrons go far beyond highway crashes. Taxi drivers, who often work alone and carry large amounts of cash, may also find themselves victims of robbery and homicide.

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