Almost 13 US workers die on the job every day. In 2020, more than 4,700 fatal injuries occurred in the workplace in the US. If there’s one thing these statistics tell us is that not all jobs confirm worker safety. Instead, some jobs are intrinsically more harmful than others. A firefighter has a higher chance of getting harmed while putting out a fire than a lawyer fighting a case in court.
Job safety significantly depends on the environment and industry. Some jobs require working in a more complex environment with continuous contact with chemicals, heavy machines, and other dangerous elements. However, we still witness thousands of individuals opting for these professions for several reasons. Some like challenges, while some have no choice. Whatever the reason, you must know the most health-damaging occupations and the risk attached to each.
Firefighting is a hazardous and nerve-wracking profession of all time. Playing with fire is no joke and requires strength, perseverance, and compassion. Hence, firefighters are known as society’s essential assets and unspoken heroes who risk their lives to save others.
Several kinds of firefighters include volunteer firefighters, inspectors, firefighters/paramedics, wildland firefighters, and many others. Firefighters face severe risks on the field, including physical and mental stress, exhaustion, heartaches, burns, etc. Additionally, the constant exposure to hundreds of contaminants and carcinogens (cancer-causing agents), including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), worsens their health. They also come into contact with several toxic hazards that increase mesothelioma risk ( a type of cancer). Potentially caused by asbestos, this cancer affects workers in various occupations and fields, including military veterans. According to the mesothelioma veterans center, mesothelioma is a potentially fatal form of cancer. However, a few top doctors might be able to sustain some of the symptoms and effects.
2. Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural workers
Agricultural workers spend a lot of time outdoors, which could mean constant exposure to sun, wind, or heat. Farmers are constantly at risk of fatal and nonfatal injuries. Moreover, farming is also a unique occupation that puts family members at risk of several injuries.
Agricultural work is naturally physically demanding. Farmers often have to travel from farm to farm, putting them at the risk of transport injuries. Moreover, most farmers don’t have a college degree and receive on-the-job training. No prior experience or knowledge about their field of work puts their health at an increased threat.
Farmers work in highly inconsiderable and often unbearable environments. Fatigue, poorly designed tools, insufficient funding, rugged terrain, and extreme weather conditions worsen their case.
3. Construction workers
Construction is an intense job. Construction workers must work with old, demolished buildings that might contain several harmful containments. The biggest construction risk is asbestos and silica dust that could mess with your lungs. Similarly, wood dust can cause asthma and nose cancer.
The most common construction accidents include falls, workers caught or stuck between objects, electrocution, and poor communication of hazards. Highway construction collisions, lack of respiratory protection, and powered industrial trucks are some more common construction accidents.
These accidents and fatalities occur due to working at height, accidental impacts, and vibrating tools. Loud noises and MSDs are also culprits of several construction site accidents.
4. Iron and steel workers
The death rate amongst iron and steel workers is relatively lower, but that might be due to few people in the profession. Iron and steel workers have highly challenging jobs. Structural iron and steel workers overlook installations of iron or steel elements in buildings. Given the height and the work, any fall could be menacing.
Other than heights, steelworkers constantly contact heavy machinery, contributing to numerous deaths and injuries. Moreover, hearing loss is common, given the loud noises at steel mills and similar construction sites. Likewise, airborne toxins and harmful chemicals are a significant part of any iron or steel worker’s job. Constant exposure to such destructive elements can lead to burns, blindness, and lung damage. Lastly, long-term exposure to vibration from equipment can cause nerve damage, especially in the hands and fingers.
5. Trash collector
Trash collection is usually a chore distributed amongst a team. These workers usually drive or ride on a truck to collect trash materials. The risks associated with such a job are potential transport-related accidents and exposure to toxic chemicals.
Most trash collectors are unaware of what they collect, reload, or offload from bins and trash cans. Sometimes, there could be harmful elements that could endanger the lives of these workers and put them at significant risk of injuries.
Garbage collectors face ergonomic injuries such as back strain and cuts from sharp objects. Furthermore, a few common injuries involved in the refuse and recycle occupation include falls, crush injuries, trauma from being struck by another vehicle, and head injuries.
6. Oil, gas, and mining unit service operators
Mining and petroleum engineering include operations in evaluating, exploring, and extracting minerals, petroleum, metals, and fossil fuels from the earth. Service unit operators are responsible for operating equipment to increase oil flow.
A few health-related risks associated with such a job include exposure to almost 94 contaminants and nearly 89 hazardous conditions and the risk of minor cuts, stings, and bites. Falls from height, fires, explosions, equipment and machinery malfunctions, and inhalation of toxic substances are some more causes behind injuries and fatalities in the occupation.
Most of a roofer’s job is spent on top of buildings and houses, which puts them at risk of dangerous and hurtful falls. Roofers’ job is a physical one. It requires lifting heavy machinery and tools and climbing and bending.
It is bad enough that roofers are at constant risk of falls, but they also face several more on-the-job hazards. For instance, roofers face the risk of electrocution from power lines, exposure to roofing debris, burns from volatile tears, etc. daily.
It is well-established that some jobs can be far riskier and more frightening than others. However, you must realize that no occupation is risk-free. If you think you have the potential to enter a dangerous profession, don’t hesitate. However, inquire entirely about the risk and potential harm associated with a position. Often, workers begin jobs uninformed and then regret their decisions later. Hence, before accepting an offer, always ask for details about your role and read your contract thoroughly. Ask your employer for health and other relevant compensation if it is a dangerous job. Finally, always follow SOPs. Even if you excel at something, don’t skip the rules.