If it was supposed to be fun, it wouldn't be called work, right? But different temperaments are suited to different occupations. For some, no number on a paycheck is worth sitting in a cubicle and staring at a computer all day. For others, an education or language barrier may have precluded a desk job. Others follow their calling, however risky it may be, or simply fall into a job that's relatively lucrative if you're one of the lucky ones.
Freak accidents can happen in any workplace, but in some industries, fatal injuries are common. Here are 10 jobs that frequently leave workers in need of medical attention -- and some of the statistics may surprise you.
The shrimp, Pacific salmon or king crab you ate for dinner didn't just jump out of the water willingly. Commercial fishers are responsible for meeting our seemingly insatiable demand for water creatures to dine on -- 8 billion pounds (3.63 kilograms times 10 to the ninth power) in 2008 [source: NIOSH].
Unfortunately, these fish and shellfish aren't found in the most accessible places. They reside, for example, in the icy waters of Alaska, where hypothermia can claim a man in a matter of minutes.
Those who work from boats are at the mercy of the weather and the water. A storm can capsize a vessel or sweep men off the deck with a huge wave. Heavy fog hides other boats, and rough waters cover submerged rocks.
Falling overboard is more common than you might think; not because fishers are clumsy, but because of all the equipment onboard a ship. If a crab-pot line happens to take you with it or you slip on a deck covered in fish innards, there's really only one place you're headed, and that's into the briny deep. Sometimes, men who aren't trained in diving are sent to untangle a net and never surface.
And remember that, onboard a ship, medical attention is far away indeed -- part of the reason that 504 U.S. commercial fishers died between the years 2000 and 2009 [source: NIOSH].
The Tin Woodman of Oz came by that body of tin after he chopped off his own limbs with an enchanted axe. Imagine what he would have done with a chainsaw.
Logging is one of the most dangerous jobs in the U.S. There were 40,000 logging injuries recorded in the U.S. in 2007, with medical costs totaling almost $300 million [source: New York State Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation].
Chainsaws are part of the danger. If you lose your footing, by slipping in the mud, for example, you don't want to be holding something with moving blades. Most chainsaw injuries occur on the left side of the body: lower leg, thigh, arm and back of the hand, in that order [source: New York State Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation].
It's manual felling, or cutting down individual trees, that claims the most loggers' lives [source: New York State Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation]. One chilling term in logger lingo is the widowmaker, a limb that's broken off but still caught in the branches of that or a nearby tree.
Skidding, or transporting the downed trees to the loading area, is the next most dangerous aspect of logging. Dragging an enormous load of fallen trees over terrain is hazardous, as is loading and unloading them from a truck.
Like fishers, loggers often work in cold, remote places regardless of snow, lightning, ice, fog and wind -- and nowhere near medical help.
Pilot or Flight Engineer
Ever since Icarus, humans have been obsessed with flight. Pilots get to experience it every day (and get paid for it!), but with that experience comes great risk. In 2009, 63 aircraft pilots and flight engineers were fatally injured, a rate of 57.1 per 100,000 workers [source: Bureau of Labor Statistics].
Pilots who dust crops can come into contact with toxins (and may have to take off and land in odd areas, too), while helicopter plots involved in rescue work have to fly at much lower altitudes than might be considered safe.
In addition to irregular sleep patterns and possible hearing loss, there is always on the mind of a commercial pilot the knowledge that he or she is responsible for the lives of a whole plane full of people. That kind of stress is exhausting, especially when faced with night flights, bad weather and instruments and parts that can, and occasionally do, fail.
In Alaska, where people are more dependent on air travel than in other states, aircraft crashes are No. 2 on the list of occupational deaths [source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report]. Contributing to the deaths were bad weather (poor visibility, wind and turbulence), landing or taking off from sites not approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), getting too close to terrain or water and engine or component failure.
Farmer or Rancher
If all the farmers and ranchers stopped working tomorrow, we'd be living on stale gummy bears. In 2008, chicken consumption per person was 58.8 pounds (26.67 kg) [source: U.S. Poultry and Egg Association]. Wheat flour use in 2008 was at 136.6 pounds (61.96 kg) -- per person [source: USDA Economic Research Service]. That's a whole lot of chicken and dumplings.
It's a hard job. A drought, bad storm or particularly nasty swarm of insects or disease can devastate the crops and livestock they've been carefully raising all year -- and with it goes all the money. The accidental death rate for farmers and ranchers was 10 times the national average for all industries in 2008, according to the National Safety Council [source: Fetsch].
They're very labor-intensive jobs, which is why there's so much machinery involved in farming, for example. With big, heavy, powerful machinery comes the risk of getting caught up in it. Tractors, hay balers and mowers make farming easier, but the human body is no match for them in a one-on-one encounter. Tractor rollovers are the cause of 1 in 3 deaths of farm workers [source: Compensation and Working Conditions].
Ranchers, on the other hand, can find themselves in enclosed spaces with cattle that weight about 1,000 pounds (453.6 kg). If a steer pins you against something, butts you or stomps you, you're not exactly evenly matched. Cows aren't as sweet as their image. In 16 of 21 cases of death by cow that the CDC studied, the agency concluded that they'd done it on purpose [source: CDC].
Roofer or Construction Worker
The thing about working on top of a building is that most people don't want to. Anyone afraid of heights or the law of gravity prefers to stay close to the ground. Roofers and many construction workers don't have that option.
Not surprisingly, many of them die from falls. Thirty-four percent of the 816 construction workers who died on the job in 2009 were victims of a fall [source: OSHA]. Others were electrocuted, killed by falling objects, caught in collapsing materials or fatally injured in a transportation accident to or from a job.
"Construction worker" is more of a catch-all term than a job description; fatality rates differ between public and private construction sectors, for example, or roofers and roadway construction workers.
When it comes to highway construction, the biggest danger to workers isn't other cars -- it's the construction vehicles themselves, especially dump trucks. Runovers and backovers are the No. 1 cause of deaths for those in work zones [source: Federal Highway Administration].
Depending on the job, a worker can also encounter cranes, chemicals, fork lifts, industrial wiring, transmission lines and a whole lot of ladders. Once you factor in human error and lax safety standards, it's not a pretty picture.
Refuse or Recyclable Material Collector
Collecting our garbage is a thankless job, but without refuse and recyclable material collectors, our lives would be far more unpleasant.
Besides having to deal with some of the grossest things imaginable, it's also an entire day of jumping on and off a truck and hauling heavy bags and trashcans. Lifting, pulling and pushing for such extended periods of time poses a painful challenge to the same muscles, tendons and ligaments every day.
Contact with some of the materials we toss, such as decaying food and garden waste, can cause gastrointestinal distress, such as nausea and diarrhea [source: Kuijer and Frings-Dresen]. Respiratory issues are also reported frequently.
More alarming, most fatalities are related to the garbage truck itself. It's possible to be crushed by a compacter blade, run over by the truck as it's backing up, or fall from the vehicle. Not a great way to go.
Traffic is the bane of existence for commuters. Staring over a sea of unmoving cars and looking out for aggressive or simply unskilled drivers is enough to raise anyone's blood pressure.
So it makes sense that truck drivers experience a great deal of stress on the road. The leading cause of death for truck drivers, however, is leaving the roadway and crashing or colliding with another vehicle, according to the Washington Department of Labor and Industries. Other deaths are caused by falling freight, being hit by a vehicle while outside the truck, falling from the truck or loading dock and electrocution [source: Washington Department of Labor and Industries]. Truck drivers are 11 times more likely than the general worker to die on the job [source: NIOSH Science Blog].
The more common, everyday injury or complaint is neck and shoulder pain. Eleven hours of driving will do that to you. A less obvious cause of illness for long-haul truckers is heart attacks. Because of the nature of the job, they resort to a fast-food diet that's low in exercise. Combine those factors with an irregular sleep schedule and the stress level, and the human heart just might surrender.
In 1907, 3,242 miners died on the job in the United States [source: MSHA]. Fortunately, that number has decreased significantly as the decades have passed. But in 2010, the number of deaths increased for the first time in years -- 71, compared to 2009's 34 [source: MSHA]. An explosion at West Virginia's Upper Big Branch Mine in April 2010 killed 29 people, the worst mining disaster since a 1970 explosion in Kentucky resulted in the deaths of 38 people [source: Urbina].
Most injuries and fatalities occur at coal mines. The most common cause of death in these accidents? Ignition or explosion. Powered haulage and roof falls also claim lives [source: MSHA].
Perhaps most infamous is black lung, the common name for pneumoconiosis, which is caused by breathing in coal dust. The dust inflames your air sacs and causes scarring and lung damage. Its symptoms are a cough that doesn't quit and shortness of breath -- and lungs that have quite literally turned black as coal.
Taxi drivers are responsible for getting many an intoxicated reveler and weary traveler to where they need to be. There's a perception of danger on the side of the passenger -- after all, you have no idea whose car you're getting into.
But less widely recognized is the danger passengers pose to the driver. Most of us who live in cities would never pick up a hitchhiker, fearing a Santa Rose Hitchhiker Murderer sort of end. But that's what taxi drivers do all day. And they're often alone at night and in possession of cash, which makes them an attractive target.
According to NIOSH, cabbies are more likely to be injured or murdered on the job than police officers or guards [source: NIOSH Science Blog]. The organization has been working since 2008 on epidemiological research on violence against taxi drivers. One project involves analysis of newspaper articles describing the more than 700 taxi driver murders reported between 1992 and 2006, in the hopes of being able to make prevention recommendations based on the findings.
Firefighter -- like doctor or astronaut or princess -- is one of those jobs kindergartners declare as their dream career. Fire, saving people, an awesome uniform, a Dalmatian and a cool, loud truck? Sign 'em up.
Those are indeed part of being a firefighter, but the job has far more to it than that: late nights, extreme stress and the very real possibility of injury and death.
About 81,070 firefighter injuries are reported each year in the United States [source: U.S. Fire Administration]. Most of them occur in structure fires, and the most common causes are overexertion, exposure to hazards, falls and vehicle collisions traveling to and from the fire incident.
But the most common cause of a firefighter's death isn't a fall through a burning roof. It's sudden cardiac death.
Some of the causes of heart attacks have nothing to do with occupation, but are instead attributed to causes such as family history, age and gender. Firefighters are exposed to smoke containing carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide and particulate matter, which are all known to have effects on the heart. Other factors that may contribute are the sweating and fluid loss that occur during an incident, and also the quick switches between downtime at the station and heavy physical exertion [source: NIOSH].
It's a firefighter's job to enter to the place everyone else wants to flee. The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks resulted in the deaths of 343 firefighters and paramedics. See this story in The New York Times for their faces and names.
Want to learn more about dangerous jobs that may send you to the ER? We've got lots more information on the next page.
How are ambulances dispatched and why do they cost so much? HowStuffWorks takes a close look at the world of ambulances.
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