While there are many professions where the average employee won’t face a situation more dangerous than a paper cut or an empty ink cartridge, there are some vital professions that have an everyday risk to life and limb. While no one would be surprised to learn that being a lion tamer can be risky, and it’s probably a safe bet that trapeze artists and sword swallowers have more workplace accidents than Fred from IT, sometimes just whose profession is fraught with peril, is surprising.
Running into a burning building requires courage, discipline, and nerves of steel. But thanks to improvements in equipment, fire fighting is a surprisingly safe job. What is dangerous, then? Here’s a list of ten professions that turn up year-after-year as the most hazardous and so can be considered exciting if you like to live on the edge. After all, for some people the most dangerous jobs in the world equal the most fun jobs in the world.
10. Bomb Squad Technicians
It’s not really a surprise that disarming incendiary devices cobbled together with the intention of causing destruction can sometime blow up in your face, literally. Use of remote-controlled robots can sometimes minimize the risk, but because those robots have a lower success rate of safely disarming bombs than a person does, many times it’s necessary for people to put themselves in harm’s way to ensure the safety of others. But it’s not all gloom and doom in this exciting career and plus they get a decent bomb squad salary. Bomb technicians have an incredible rate of success (Above 99% in most instances!) and many of them live long, productive lives without so much as a singed eyebrow.
9. Truck Drivers
While the call of the open road and the solitude of the truck driver is something celebrated in country music, peace of mind and an endless stretch of scenery is not the only thing that comes with this interesting job that you can get without a degree. Despite many countries having strict laws requiring truckers to rest on their routes, pressure to make deliveries on time sometimes leads drivers to take the road without enough sleep. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation leads to serious impairment in tasks like driving. That same pressure to deliver also sometimes leads truckers to ignore speed limits, and when you’re barreling down a highway in a gigantic machine weighing multiple tons, physics tells us that it requires a lot of energy for that machine to stop. Given that those trucks also are at risk for mechanical failures, and that they must contend with other drives on the road who don’t understand what physics says about inertia, it’s not surprising that road accidents are the main contributor to the danger of heading back on the road again for a truck driver.
Commercial flying is pretty safe. In general, it’s less risky to fly than drive a car. Why do pilots make the list? For one, pilots spend substantially more time in flight than the average person does in a car, and because cars can’t carry hundreds of people at a time, and most people don’t have the training or the ridiculous amount of money it costs to own their own plane, the number of pilots is far, far fewer than the numbers of drivers. This means that if something happens to a single pilot, the ratio of danger per pilot is far more greatly affected than if a single driver gets sideswiped by a milk truck. Another factor is the stark fact that running out of gas or having a mechanical failure is far more serious at 45,000 feet in the air than in the drive-thru lane of your local McDonald’s. But probably the largest factor in this is that piloting is a unique job that includes many people who fly things that are not big, well-staffed commercial airliners. People who fly planes like crop dusters, or those with dangerous careers who fly small planes close to the ground and have a much higher risk of having an unfortunate accident than Captain Smith of LuxuryAir.
7. Garbage collectors
This isn’t at all a glamorous profession, and it will certainly never develop the near mythological aura of heroism that fire-fighters or police officers have. But it is a dangerous job that seems to be done mostly by men. Not only is it necessary to prevent disease and vermin, being a garbage collector is surprisingly dangerous. Not only do they ride on the back of a moving vehicle, but it’s a moving vehicle with filled with strange chemicals and rotting food that’s equipped with dangerous crushing equipment to pack it all in. Next time you can’t be bothered to keep your empty cans in the correct box, remember, the affably surly middle-aged guy in a jumpsuit who lectures you about sorting your recyclables actually puts his life on the line.
Although being able to tell people that your office is a forest and you write reports in chainsaw is pretty cool, it’s no surprise that chopping down trees and splitting them into lumber isn’t exactly risk-free. While falling trees, malfunctioning equipment, and dangerous tools are obvious perils of the profession, loggers also face risk from environmental hazards such as snakes, insects, and the weather. It’s hard, heavy work that takes place outdoors, and loggers face danger from lightning, to heatstroke in the summer, to sudden dangerous winds. Once you’ve got that tree trunk down and safely secured, it doesn’t mean the danger is over. This is definitely one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Irregularities in the wood can cause dangerously large splinters to fly through the air. When thunder, rattlesnakes, and exploding trees are all in a day’s work, it’s a wonder that there aren’t more Heavy Metal songs celebrating the prowess of the logger’s job.
5. Construction workers
Don’t let the yellow safety helmets fool you; doing construction work is still a dangerous proposition. While improved safety harnesses, use of netting, and more accurate tools have lowered the overall risk of doing construction work from ye olden days, those riveters and jackhammers are not exactly child-safe. Not only do construction workers use heavy tools that pose a danger, they work in diverse environments that vary from underground, to hundreds of feet in the air. While variety may be the spice of life, the fact that their jobs are often in completely different environments from the one before means that construction workers experience many different flavors of danger.
Talk about working with a net! Roofers work on pitched, uneven surfaces high above the ground, often without anything to catch them if they should fall. And since one of their jobs is the repair of roofs, they’re also at risk from the very damage they’re there to fix. Rotten wood, loose tiles, and structural collapse have all contributed to the danger of keeping the inside in. And once more, there’s the weather to contend with. Sure, it’s nice to be outside and get a breath of fresh air, but when that fresh air turns into a violent wind and you’re fifty feet above the ground on an angled, slippery surface, the niceness quickly fades. And when a gentle rain can turn the surface you’re standing on into a playground slide that doesn’t end in a soft landing, the risks of roofing are readily apparent.
3. Metal Workers
Whether working with white-hot molten steel in a foundry, or using high powered torches to weld together towering structural beams, there’s a lot that can go wrong for metal workers. Don’t let the dance exuberance of 80s film masterpiece Flashdance fool you, being a metal worker requires a steady hand, a cool mind, and a metric gigaton of physical endurance. Most jobs making a mistake is something that will give you a fifteen minute conversation with your supervisor; metal working is one where a mistake could have disastrous consequences. Yet for all that it requires, metal working is a largely unsung profession that doesn’t get the admiration it deserves (the bouncy pop and sparkly dance routine from Flashdance is a notable exception).
2. Electrical power-line workers
When the power goes out, as it sometimes does, someone’s there to see it comes back on. Who does this? In many cases it’s an electrical power-line worker, climbing a wooden utility pole, or working in tight recesses underground to identify and repair the cause of the power outage. And while it does suck to miss the latest episode of Project Dance Idol Racers, the power-line workers are often in precarious positions to ensure that your lights come back on. One of the most common causes of power outages is severe weather; weather it’s lightning strikes that overload a transformer, high winds that knock down power lines, or heavy rains that seep through to underground power conduits. The power-line worker has to work in those same conditions that caused the outages. Sometimes tethered to a a splintery utility pole while winds howl around her. And if the power’s out where you are, chances are the power’s out where she’s fixing it, so all her work is done in the dark, except for the light she can bring on her own.
For many people, fishing is a fun, relaxing hobby consisting of lazy mornings at the lake wearing funny hats and using a tackle box. But commercial fishing is an entirely different sort of activity. At the mercy of the wind, waves, and temperatures that can vary from sweltering to well below freezing, fishers sometimes pull long shifts in excess of twenty hours while battling the elements. Falling overboard during severe weather is also a dangerous prospect, because not only does the crew have to battle the waves and winds, but the overboard fisher has a limited time to avoid freezing while managing to stay afloat. Despite improvements in equipment and weather tracking systems, the effort to keep crab legs on the buffet menu continues to expose fishers to the dangers of the deep.