6 Surprisingly Dangerous Jobs

By Jean Folger | May 17, 2010 AAA

Think "dangerous jobs" and you are likely to come up with fishermen and loggers for starters. These occupations have well-known risks, exemplified in reality television shows like Discovery Channel's "Deadliest Catch" and History Channel's "Ax Men". These jobs are considered hazardous because we all know that people die doing them. But what else makes a job dangerous, aside from the commute? Any type of job that causes a substantial risk of injury or illness, whether seen immediately or through long-term exposure, can be considered dangerous. One doesn't have to get tangled in a fishing net or hit by a falling tree to get hurt at work. Workers can find themselves under extreme stress, in harsh environments, or exposed to chemicals and hazardous pathogens. These professions might not garner the shock and awe that comes from working in the obviously risky occupations, but these six jobs are surprisingly dangerous. (Learn about some jobs that won't hurt your body or your mind in 5 High-Paying, Low-Stress Jobs.)

In Pictures: 6 Hot Careers With Lots Of Jobs

1. Commercial Pilot
For pilots, a small mistake can have catastrophic consequences. The 2008 Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) report found that 83 commercial pilots died while on the job that year. Pilots working in Alaska are at an especially high risk. In fact, the June 6, 1997, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) stated pilots in Alaska were 27 times more likely to suffer an occupational aviation-related fatality during 1990-1994. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that pilot error was to blame in 77% of the fatal crashes. (Preparing for the worst can protect your family. Find out more in How Much Life Insurance Should You Carry?)

2. Landscaper
The crew that comes once a week to mow your lawn is under considerable risk of suffering a work-related fatality. Landscapers and groundskeepers lost 131 workers during 2008, according to that year's CFOI. Sharp equipment, power tools, chain saws, environmental hazards and falls add up to a dangerous job that comes with a much higher than average risk of work-related injury. (Find out what it means before you need it, read The Disability Insurance Policy: Now In English.)

3. Bakers
Bakeries create yummy treats such as cookies and cakes that we enjoy from time to time. But the temperatures inside the bakery kitchen can exceed 120 degrees. The high temperatures become more dangerous as workers remain in the area without sufficient water or breaks. Extreme heat can lead to true, life-threatening emergencies including heat stroke and fainting. The CFOI indicates that 65 work-related deaths occurred in food preparation occupations during 2008.

4. Outdoor Recreation Workers
Raft guides, snowboard instructors, hiking guides and adventure trip leaders are all exposed to varying degrees of extreme weather conditions and environmental dangers. Heat and cold emergencies, including heat stroke and hypothermia, can quickly become fatal in the backcountry. In addition these workers are exposed to insect stings, snake bites, falls and even drowning. The CFOI attributes 11 fatalities during 2008 to tour and travel guides and recreation workers.

5. Building Cleaner
People who are employed as building cleaners find themselves exposed to a host of dangers, including chemicals, sharp objects, falling objects and even mold. The cleaning chemicals and mold exposure can cause asthma attacks, eye, skin, nose and throat irritation and can lead to long-term lung disorders. In all, 59 building cleaners died while engaging in building cleaning occupations, according to the 2008 CFOI.

6. Nurses
Nurses and other healthcare personnel can come in contact with a variety of blood-borne pathogens while performing daily duties. While trained to prevent exposure, the risk is still there in the form of contaminated needles, cuts from sharp medical instruments and exposure to an infected person's blood. Diseases that can be spread by blood-borne pathogens include certain types of Hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, and far less common but extremely fatal diseases such as Viral Hemorrhagic Fever. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported 57 documented cases and 140 possible cases of occupationally acquired HIV infection among healthcare personnel in the United States during 1981-2006.

Dangerous Paychecks
While the "Deadliest Catch" gets all the attention, other workers are up against different types of risk and dangers on the job. Stress, harsh environments, chemicals, pathogens, falls and power equipment all can create job dangers. While we don't often consider that the person who made our morning donuts risked his or her life to make them, there exists a vast array of surprisingly dangerous jobs.

Catch up on the latest financial news, in Water Cooler Finance: Crying Over Spilled Oil, And Buffett Goes To Court.

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