It’s well-known that firefighters and police officers put their lives on the line daily, and they don’t even get paid much for it. People remember to say thank you to these professionals frequently, and have kind words to offer as a show of support. But there are many common jobs out there that are deadly, and most people don’t even know it. Common, everyday jobs held by people who shop next to you at the grocery store, wave to you at the mailbox and walk their dogs past your house every afternoon may actually be fatally dangerous. They’re not armed military professionals who are prepared for fatal conditions — they’re nurses, trash collectors and vets. And they’re in deadly danger every single time they go to work.
In 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded 4,821 fatal workplace injuries. That’s a lot of people dying just to make a living. A great many of those people have common jobs that you probably rarely think of as being dangerous. Are you already working every day at one of these 15 very common jobs that may end up being fatal to you? How many people do you know who are risking their lives just to go to work?
Being a professional fisher is not the same as taking the boat out on the lake for the weekend. Professional fishers have one of the most dangerous jobs in the nation. They must contend with weather, potentially hostile marine life, malfunctioning gear and the terrible possibility that something could go fatally wrong at any moment. Don’t forget the worst part: they always know that they may sink to the bottom of the ocean. Professional fishers face the second-highest fatality rate for any workers in the U.S., right behind loggers. All this for an average annual salary of less than $30,000.
They literally put the roof over your head, but how much do you know about roofers? People who work on roofs professionally literally take their lives in their hands each and every day. There is always a danger of falling while working on top of a structure, and even when safety precautions are taken there are things that can go wrong. And they do. Roofers have a fatality rate of about 47.4 per 100,000 workers. Injury is also a constant possibility, as roofers work with a lot of potentially dangerous tools and gear. On average, they make about $40,000 annually.
13. Trash Collectors
Trash collectors are among a dedicated army of workers who keep civilization going. Even if you don’t think about them very often, you know they’re always out there cleaning things up. And if they suddenly disappeared and stopped picking up the garbage, you’d notice pretty quickly. What many don’t know is that garbage collectors face danger and death every single day. Americans generate about 254 million tons of trash every year, but thanks to about 120,000 waste workers we don’t have to look at it for very long. Per 100,000 employees, 33 garbage collectors are fatally injured every year. Trash collectors face road hazards and possible contamination every time they head out to work. They earn about $36,000 a year, on average.
Structural steelworkers have one of the toughest, most dangerous jobs in the country. Despite extensive safety regulations, steelworkers die every single year due to a fatal accident or injury on the job. They work with enormous steel beams and huge cranes, around huge pieces of equipment. They also work, sometimes, at great heights. Falls, slips, injuries and accidents happen even with safety gear. On average, they earn about $54,000 a year to put their lives at risk creating big buildings for everyone to enjoy. Even with strict safety regulations, this industry loses good workers every single year due to terrible accidents.
Truck drivers and other professional drivers are always at risk. The road is a dangerous place, and a fatal accident could happen literally at any time. Because truck drivers and others who drive professionally are often pressed to make good time, they may spend 14 hours a day behind the wheel. This causes fatigue, which only makes the job more dangerous. Truck drivers account for 12 percent of all work-related deaths in the U.S., which makes this one of the more dangerous jobs to have. The average salary is about $38,000. Professional cab drivers are still very much at risk as well. Lots of effort has been put into keeping cab drivers safer, but this job is still one of the country’s most dangerous. Around 19 workers in 100,000 die each year for an average annual salary of $25,000.
10. Electrical Workers
Electrical power workers put themselves at risk just to keep the world running. Not only do they face potentially fatal falls from the high-up places where they work, they also may be severely burned or electrocuted while they work. Electrical power workers must contend with power disasters, such as lines downed in storms. They work outdoors, and they often have to work in extreme weather conditions because that’s when power lines get damaged. That’s pretty scary stuff, and the average electrical worker earns $65,000 a year to do it. In 2011 alone, 27 power linesmen died in the U.S.
9. Registered Nurses
When you are at your weakest and your worst, your absolute most vulnerable, registered nurses are the ones who often take care of you. At one time or another, you probably had to sit and watch helplessly while your loved one suffered — and a nurse was there to care for them. What you may not know is that nursing is a potentially deadly job. An accidental needle prick can change the course of their lives for ever. Registered nurses work in an environment where they are exposed to contagious disease, lethal drugs, strong chemicals, radiation and razor-sharp tools. Nurses face dangers upon dangers even in a normal working day. Nursing has an incident rate of about 12 percent, and average about 12 annual fatalities. Registered nurses earn about $65,000 every year.
8. Construction Workers
Construction workers take all sorts of precautions and wear safety gear, and still they have a fatality rate of 17.4 per 100,000 workers. This is a very dangerous job, and even though construction workers are around all the time it’s not always easy to remember that. They face fatal dangers every single day. Cave-ins, electrical hazards, falls and falling objects are all potential risks. Construction workers must do their jobs even in dangerous weather conditions and in areas where there is heavy traffic. More than 250 construction workers are killed every year from fall damage alone. They earn an average of $30,000 a year.
7. Corrections Officers
Corrections officers aren’t out and about in the community like police officers, but they are doing a deadly job working around potentially dangerous people. Corrections officers face a very high rate of injury and illness because of the environment where they work. They guard prisoners who are in a highly stressful situation, and that means corrections officers face potentially deadly violence every day. Prisoners in jail may become desperately homicidal or suicidal, and corrections officers may become a target for their violence just because they happen to be at work that day. People in this profession earn about $40,000 annually.
EMTs are among the first to arrive at dangerous scenes where accident or injury has occurred, and they put themselves at risk to save others. They get out in the road at the scene of an accident, get close to the danger when there’s a fire and show up when someone has been severely injured by a dangerous shooter. There are more than 20,000 workplace injuries among EMTs annually. Every year, around 13 EMTs die in the course of work. They earn an average of $31,000 yearly for putting their lives at risk while saving the lives of others.
No one really thinks of veterinarian as a dangerous job, but animals are unpredictable. Vets may be bitten or scratched by dogs and cats. Big animals may kick or buck and cause serious injury. Studies have shown that vets also have an abnormally high suicide rate, as compared to the rest of the U.S. adult population. Reports show that a high rate of vets struggle with depression and psychological distress. They also work with potentially dangerous equipment, such as X-ray machines, chemicals and surgical tools. Vets also face pathogens and contaminants from their patients. Veterinarians make an average of $88,000 a year.
4. Maintenance Workers
Maintenance workers probably aren’t the first people who come to mind when you think of dangerous jobs, but they face daily risks to keep things running smoothly for other people. Maintenance workers put themselves at risk for falling hazards, electrical hazards and exposure to potentially fatal substances like asbestos and mold. They work with heavy equipment and dangerous tools. Maintenance workers may also be exposed to potentially deadly diseases found in standing water. They fatality rate among maintenance professionals is 14.4 deaths per 100,000 workers. They earn an average of $36,000 a year to put themselves in danger this way.
3. Groundskeepers and Landscapers
What could be more harmless than working with plants and trees? Lots of jobs, actually. Landscaping seems like a safe job, but it’s not. Statistics prove that actually, landscapers are putting themselves in danger all the time. In 2011, 167 landscapers died due to their jobs. Groundskeepers and landscapers work with sharp cutting tools and potentially deadly equipment every single day. If that equipment malfunctions, the results can be fatal. Landscapers and groundskeepers also face a much higher risk of injury than other jobs. For $29,000 a year on average, groundskeepers and landscapers face a fatality rate of 13.1 deaths per 100,000 workers.
You recognize a painter the moment you see them. The white clothes, the paint around the fingernails, the rollers and trays — none of it seems very hazardous, does it? You probably don’t recognize all the fatal dangers painters must deal with in their normal working lives, but they are there. Painters may have to work in high places, risking fall damage. They may find themselves working around electrical dangers as well. On a daily basis, they use highly flammable chemicals and materials. For every 100,000 painters, 10.8 die each year for an average annual salary of $36,000.
1. Water Treatment Operators
Water treatment operators are needed everywhere, and they’re at risk whenever they work. Without them, no one would have water to drink or wash with, and they put their health at risk to make it happen. Water treatment operators have one of the unhealthiest jobs in the country because of what they work with. These professionals face a high risk of exposure to contaminants, and they work in hazardous conditions with huge pieces of machinery and equipment. They’re exposed to chemicals, gas emissions and dangerous working areas with slippery floors. Water treatment operators earn about $58,000 per year to keep everyone’s water clean.
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