Bomb testers? Bail bondsmen? Stunt doubles? Sure, those are dangerous jobs. But plenty of ordinary, everyday jobs also make the cut for America’s Most Dangerous Jobs. Here is our top 10 list of notoriously dangerous jobs:
- Loggers / Landscapers / Groundskeepers: Watch out for falling trees, chainsaws, grinders, and other hazards of working in a rugged landscape. Loggers and landscapers are exposed to harsh temperatures, rugged terrain, and exposure to pests such as ticks, snakes, and wasps. Don’t forget about repetitive motion diseases – above-shoulder work or machinery vibration often takes a toll on the back, shoulders, elbows, and wrists.
- Fishers / Fishing assistants: Even in good weather, these workers face injuries due to heavy lifting and the use of dangerous cutting and packing equipment. When the storms roll in, even more hazards emerge – wind-related accidents, slips and falls, twisting injuries, and even drowning.
- Pilots / Flight engineers: Please sit back and enjoy your flight! While the work of a commercial pilot is fairly safe, pilots of small or privately chartered planes commonly encounter danger. These workers may face air disturbances, high altitude issues, knee and foot injuries due to jarring, and motion injuries caused by irregular takeoffs and landings.
- Roofers / Painters: Surprise, surprise – they fall…a lot! Besides the height risk, roofers and painters also suffer from heatstroke, fume-related conditions, and repetitive motion injuries to the hands and wrists. But the biggest risk to these workers? Many bosses illegally call them “independent contractors,” even if they are true employees under the law. Injured workers sometimes wrongly believe that they cannot collect workers’ compensation benefits. If you are in this situation, be sure to ask an attorney for advice!
- Structural iron and steel workers: Don’t get burned! These employees work at great heights and usually perform welding activities. They also work with heavy materials which can fall on them or knock them off balance. These folks also need to beware of dangerous fumes, prolonged noise, and injuries to the back and arms.
- Truck drivers / Delivery and sales drivers / Trash collectors: Professional drivers tend to exercise caution and follow the rules of the road, so accidents involving professional drivers are usually caused by someone else. However, due to increased time on the road, they do face an increased risk of accident. If a professional driver is blamed for an accident, beware! Many unscrupulous employers often force their drivers to work longer hours than DOT safety regulations allow. The driver’s exhaustion can get him or her killed. Also, question the boss who tries to avoid responsibility by calling a driver an “independent contractor.” Some drivers are contractors, but many drivers are true employees, no matter what the boss calls them. The legal distinction is very important, so seek legal advice if there is any question.
- Farmers / Animal processors / Agricultural managers: North Carolina farm workers proudly supply food to folks around the globe, but farming and agricultural/animal processing is very dangerous work. Workers use heavy motorized equipment, encounter large and unpredictable animals, lift and move heavy supplies, perform repetitive motion activities, and inhale pesticides and other toxins. Sadly, some employers still do not properly enforce safety rules, but even in the safest farms and processing plants, accidents still occur.
- Electrical power-line installers and repairers: Many of these jobs are unfilled! If you are strong, like to work outdoors for good pay, and want to provide a service that all Americans need, you should consider this field. Just remember to be careful; electrical work can be deadly because of exposure to electricity, heights, and extreme weather events. Find a responsible employer with a strong training and safety record.
- Nurses / Health Aids: Surprised? True, nurses and health aids may not have a high risk of occupational death, but they are frequently injured. The rising American obesity rate means nurses and other health care workers now lift and move increasingly heavy patients. They also encounter injury while assisting dangerous or volatile patients under the influence of mind-altering substances or suffering from psychological disorders. Also, the increasingly hectic and urgent nature of their work makes health workers prone to slips and falls, injuries caused by falling equipment, and accidents on the road when traveling to and from their work assignments.
- Mechanics, installers, and repairers: These hard workers often must bend, kneel, and stoop into tight quarters, and lift heavy objects. They are more likely than the general population to receive a direct hit by falling objects or moving vehicles, or to get a body part caught in machinery. Injuries to the hands and arms are common in this field.
Which jobs are not as dangerous as you might think?
Firefighters: America needs more volunteer firefighters and first responders so please consider signing up! While firefighters do face the possibility of exposure to a deadly force and dangerous chemical explosions, the everyday life of a firefighter is less risky than many other fields. Plus, they get to save lives and help others!
Law enforcement officers: The number of police officers killed and injured in the line of duty is relatively high, but mainly because America has a lot of police officers. Tragically, many officers are still killed in the line of duty every year, but the likelihood of death in the course of employment is not as high as most people think. Police officers are much more often injured from trips, falls, and a stress-related conditions like heart attacks. If you care about your community, consider the field of law enforcement.
Across America, the risk of serious occupational injury or death continues to fall due to increased attention to safety training and procedures. Nevertheless, some fields continue to see comparatively high rates. Know the risks and be careful out there!
A certified workers’ compensation specialist, Valerie represents state employees, union members, police officers, and all types of North Carolina workers. She also teaches trial skills to third year law students at the University of North Carolina School of Law and has taught workers’ compensation law at Wake Forest University. Listed in Best Lawyers in America in the area of workers’ compensation, Valerie was admitted to the National Academy of Social Insurance in 2011.