Not surprisingly, the Sandra Bullock-George Clooney film has also managed to scare some folks away from the idea of finding gainful employment in space. Writer Susan Orlean summed up this sentiment best when she tweeted: “Just saw Gravity. Have decided not to enroll in astronaut school after all.”
If a high chance of physical harm isn't what you are looking for in a job, add these seven potentially hazardous means of employment (that don’t involve donning a spacesuit) to your list. Some might surprise you. And if there’s one simple takeaway, it’s this: If you want to stay safe, don’t get a job in construction or transportation — or on an Alaskan crabbing boat.
Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Long considered the uber-treacherous grand dame of dangerous jobs, a career in coal mining isn’t nearly as dangerous as it once was — a staggering 3,200 miners died in 1907 alone — thanks to numerous industry advances and safety measures. Still, coal mining does come equipped with inherent risks (mine wall failures, gas explosions, suffocation, poisoning, etc.) and numerous domestic mining fatalities have occurred in recent years including West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch Mine disaster (29 fatalities) in 2010, 2007’s Crandall Canyon Mine disaster, (nine fatalities including three rescue workers), and the Sago Mine disaster of 2006 (12 fatalities). While things have improved in the United States, coal mining-related deaths are still dramatically high in other countries such as China where, despite some recent improvement, annual fatalities are often in the thousands.
Photo: Todd McCann/Flickr
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2012, truck drivers and traveling salespeople beat out farmers/ranchers and construction workers on the hazardous occupation scale with 22.1 fatalities out of 100,000 workers. However, overall, more truckers died from injuries sustained on the job than any other profession (over 40 percent of all fatal work injuries) with 741 trucker deaths reported in 2012. The primary danger associated with long-haul trucking is an obvious one: traffic accidents, many of them the result of severe exhaustion and fatigue suffered by the drivers.
Photo: David Hyde/Shutterstock
Here’s a heavily romanticized/stereotyped — salty language, yellow slickers, whisky-filled flasks, that handsome Gorton’s fellow, you get the picture — and high-risk profession so perilous that it has its own long-running television show (OK, it’s not the only dangerous job with a TV show but it’s definitely one of the better ones). According to a 2013 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, commercial fishing is the second most fatality-heavy job in the United States with a death rate of 117 out of 100,000 workers. In 2012, 32 hardworking commercial fisherman (median wage: $33,430) perished on the job. Roughly half of these deaths were the result of boats capsizing in severe weather and vessels sinking from hull damage. Contact with dangerous onboard equipment and gear, falls overboard and succumbing to extreme fatigue are also some of the occupational hazards associated with the job.
Loggers and lumberjacks
Timber! While commercial fishermen — particularly those famously fearless king crab fishermen who face off against some truly gnarly conditions off the coast of Alaska — have long held the title of most deadly job in America, loggers and lumberjacks took top honors in 2012. That year, a total of 62 loggers perished on the job; overall, the profession has a fatality rate of 127.8 out of 100,000 workers. So what makes logging so hazardous? Try dealing with extreme weather (both hot and cold) encountered in far-flung locales (read: far away from hospitals) with rough terrain while also handling heavy — and often dangerous — gear such as chain saws. This may not seem all that bad but trust us, it’s a super-risky trade. And, of course, there’s always the chance of falling victim to falling giants or broken tree limbs or, as they’re known in the forestry biz, “widow makers.”
Photo: Tomo Jesenicnik/Shutterstock
Although they don’t have to contend with rough seas and malfunctioning chainsaws, waste collectors, those who perform the thankless task of hauling away our trash while we sleep, statistically hold one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States (fatality rate: 27.1 out of 100,000 workers), snugly falling in between fall-prone ironworkers (37 out of 100,000 workers) and power line installers/repairers (23 out of 100,000 workers). The biggest perils of this truly dirty job include being struck by oncoming traffic and coming in direct contact with potentially dangerous materials such as broken glass, medical waste and chemicals. In 2012, a total of 26 sanitation workers died from injuries sustained while on the job.
Photo: U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons
Although not statistically one of the most dangerous jobs in America, hyperbaric welding — or underwater welding — is one of those jobs that’s super daunting on paper as it primarily involves two things that are inherently on the risky side: commercial diving and construction work. Risks of the trade include electric shock from submerged welding equipment, explosions, and of course, decompression sickness. It’s a highly specialized job that pays well — in the range of $100,000 to $200,00 according to the American Welders Society — most likely because not all that many folks are willing to take the plunge.
Photo: Paul Fell/Shutterstock
Aircraft pilots and flight engineers
Singled out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as the third most dangerous job in America behind logging and commercial fishing with a fatality rate of 53.4 out of 100,000 workers and a death toll of 71 for 2012, this is the closest profession on our list to astronaut. Generally, commercial airline pilots enjoy a low fatality rate but their compatriots who man smaller aircraft — charter planes, bush planes, etc. — put their lives at risk each time they ascend into the skies. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, about a fifth of fatal plane crashes in the U.S. occur in Alaska, where the weather is unpredictable and wild, roads are scarce, and traveling by plane to get from point A to point B is a way of life.
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