Careers that Could Kill You

Deadly Careers

Keep reading to learn about careers with the highest occupational death rates.

By Simon Herbert    

If you think airline pilot and firefighter are high-risk jobs, you'd be right.

But you might be surprised at which careers had the highest number of death rates in the U.S. Department of Labor's 2011 report, "National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2010."*

Keep reading to learn more about these risky careers with high death rates.

Career #1: Fisherman

Number of fatalities in 2010: 116/100,000 workers**
Average annual salary: $27,880**

Fishing is a relaxing pastime for most people. But for fisherman, it's their daily grind - and a dangerous one at that.

Fisherman responsibilities vary hugely, whether you want to be a deckhand or a captain of a vessel, but could include baiting, haulage, navigation, and unloading the catch, among other things, notes the U.S. Department of Labor.

What could kill you: Fishermen have a lot to contend with: baited hooks that can snag gear, getting dragged overboard by a large wave, slippery decks, and more, according to the Department of Labor. No wonder this is the occupation with the highest percentile incidence of fatalities.

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Career #2: Logger

Number of fatalities in 2010: 91.9/100,000 workers**
Average annual salary: $38,660**

Can you see yourself cutting down trees with a hand-held power chain saw? We didn't think so.

Logging workers are pros at it though, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In addition to cutting down trees, they might also be responsible for loading logs onto trucks, hiking through forests to assess logging conditions, and clearing areas of brush to plant another species of trees.

What could kill you: "Workers spend all their time outdoors, sometimes in poor weather and often in isolated areas," notes the Department of Labor. "Falling branches, vines, and rough terrain are constant hazards, as are the dangers associated with tree-felling and log-handling operations."


Career #3: Airline Pilot

Number of fatalities in 2010: 70.6/100,000 workers**
Average annual salary: $115,300**

Do you have a fear of flying? Your fear, unfortunately, might be justified with airline pilots having the third highest occupational death rate.

Pilots have career duties that include flying planes, understanding navigation and topography, monitoring weather conditions, and supervising crew members, notes the U.S. Department of Labor.

What could kill you: "Although flying does not involve much physical effort, the mental stress of being responsible for a safe flight, regardless of the weather, can be tiring," notes the Department of Labor. Other job hazards include the dangers of flying new and experimental planes.


Career #4: Farmer or Rancher

Number of fatalities in 2010: 41.4/100,000 workers**
Average annual salary: $65,960**

Feeding America isn't an easy or safe task - just ask our nation's farmers and ranchers.

Farmer and ranchers work to produce enough food and fiber to meet the needs of the American population as well as for export. This includes cultivation, spraying, seeding, fertilizing, wrangling, herding, mechanical equipment operation, and monitoring of crop prices, among other things, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

What could kill you: "Tractors and other farm machinery can cause serious injury, and workers must be constantly alert on the job," says the Department of Labor. "The proper operation of equipment and handling of chemicals are necessary to avoid accidents, safeguard health, and protect the environment."

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Career #5: Sanitation Worker

Number of fatalities in 2010: 29.8/100,000 workers**
Average annual salary: $34,310**

The fifth most dangerous job in America involves cleaning up. Surprising, right?

Refuse and recyclable material collectors are often responsible for gathering trash and recyclables from homes and businesses and transporting to a dump, landfill, or recycling center, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

What could kill you: "Some work at great heights and some work outdoors - regardless of weather and climate," notes the Department of Labor. "Some jobs expose workers to fumes, odors, loud noises, harmful materials and chemicals, or dangerous machinery."


Career #6: Truck Driver and Deliveryman

Number of fatalities in 2010: 21.8/100,000 workers**
Average annual salary: $32,140**

Coming in at number six are the men and women who spend most of their work days behind the wheel: truck drivers and deliverymen. They're the ones responsible for picking up and delivering freight and packages, long hauls, unloading items, and route planning, among other things, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

What could kill you: Some trucks carry hazardous materials, such as dangerous chemicals needed for industrial purposes, or waste from chemical processes that must be stored in approved facilities, notes the Department of Labor. Fatigue is also a danger that faces those in this profession.


Career #7: Police Officers

Number of fatalities in 2010: 18/100,000 workers**
Average annual salary: $52,810**

Unfortunately, those who protect and serve us must face a dangerous daily grind to do so.

Common responsibilities for police officers include emergency response, suspect arrest, traffic management, testifying in court, and first aid, notes the U.S. Department of Labor.

What could kill you: "In addition to the obvious dangers of confrontations with criminals, police officers and detectives need to be constantly alert and ready to deal appropriately with a number of other threatening situations," according to the Department of Labor.


Career #8: Taxi Drivers and Chauffeurs

Number of fatalities in 2010: 16.1/100,000 workers**
Average annual salary: $21,550**

If you've been to New York City and ridden in a taxi cab, you're probably not surprised with this career's ranking.

Taxi drivers and chauffeurs are responsible for the transportation of passengers, sightseeing services, vehicle-repairs, and more, notes the U.S. Department of Labor.

What could kill you: In addition to the hazards of the road, taxi drivers have a high risk for robbery because they work alone and often carry large amounts of cash, according to the Department of Labor.


Career #9: Construction Laborers

Number of fatalities in 2010: 15.6/100,000 workers**
Average annual salary: $28,517**

From highways to heavy construction sites, construction laborers are unfortunately surrounded by hazardous materials.

Common responsibilities include scaffolding, removing debris, distributing building materials, clearing and preparing highway work zones, operating mechanical equipment, and transporting, and setting explosives, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

What could kill you: Of the 635 fatal falls recorded overall across all occupations in 2010, over one-third involved falls from ladders or roofs, according to the Department of Labor's 2011 "Occupational Injuries" report. Construction laborers might also be exposed to hazardous materials, fumes, asbestos, and more.


Career #10: Athletes, Coaches, Umpires

Number of fatalities in 2010: 11.3/100,000 workers**
Average annual salary: Athletes $40,480; Coaches and Scouts, $28,340; Umpires and Related Workers, $23,730**

Whether it's getting tackled by five other guys on the football field, or getting smashed against the wall during a hockey game, athletes have a very dangerous career.

An athlete is responsible for training and participating in games, while coaches are responsible for getting the athlete in shape, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Umpires and referees are responsible for refereeing sporting events.

What could kill you: Forget that on-field testosterone; the Department of Labor notes that many athletes push their bodies to the limit, so career-ending injuries are always a risk.


*Note: The U.S. Department of Labor states that "the survey should not be misconstrued as a list of the 'most dangerous' jobs" as there are a variety of other elements to take into account when determining what jobs are "dangerous." According to the Department of Labor, these factors include "the likelihood of incurring a nonfatal injury, the potential severity of that nonfatal injury, the safety precautions necessary to perform the job, and the physical and mental rigors the job entails."

**All fatalities per 100,000 come from the U.S. Department of Labor, National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2010. All average salary information is from the U.S. Department of Labor, May 2010 statistics.


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