Most Dangerous Jobs in America
Posted by PK Safety Team on May 02nd 2023
Firefighters, police, farmers, and construction workers all have one thing in common. They rank among the most dangerous jobs in America. These professionals need to contend with all kinds of risks on the job, including vehicle collisions, equipment failures, slips, falls, and even heat stroke. Everyone must wear the proper safety equipment based on the task at hand to avoid getting hurt.
Going to work can be dangerous for millions of Americans. While the safety of most workplaces has increased dramatically since the founding of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in 1970, accidents and injuries are still bound to occur. Some jobs are considered more dangerous than others, but workers must wear the proper safety equipment to protect their health and safety regardless of the task at hand. Understanding the risks involved with some of the most dangerous jobs in the U.S. can help employers and employees prepare for, if not avoid, potentially risky situations.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and data from the most dangerous jobs in the United States, there were over 2.6 million non-fatal injuries and illnesses in the private industry and just under 5,200 fatal work injuries in 2021. Let’s take a look at some of the most dangerous jobs in the U.S. and how employers can take steps to minimize the potential risks around them.
Transportation and Material Handling
Truck drivers and material handlers are at the top of the list. They work with various types of heavy machinery and goods that can cause accidents and injuries, including hazardous chemicals and sharp objects that can penetrate the skin and bodily organs. Workers should wear personal protective equipment, including chemical resistant safety gloves, goggles, and hazmat suits, when interacting with hazardous materials. The company must use spill containment gear and have a plan in place in case of a spill. Goggles and face/eye protection are also important if working around sharp objects or debris is spreading through the air.
Vehicle accidents and collisions remain a leading cause of workplace fatalities and injuries. Workers should keep a safe distance from vehicles during the loading and unloading process. Anyone in the worksite should also use traffic safety equipment, including high-visibility gear, to help the driver keep track of their location.
Law Enforcement and First Responders
Different types of professionals can put themselves in harm’s way when responding to an emergency. Police officers must respond to a range of potentially dangerous situations, including active shootings, domestic disputes, and other public disturbances. They can be shot or assaulted by someone in distress and incur other injuries by people or animals. The same is true of firefighters and emergency medical teams responding to 9-1-1 calls. Police need proper training and protective gear to protect themselves from injury on the job. They can use various de-escalation tactics to resolve tense situations, especially when dealing with individuals who are a danger to themselves or others. Anyone entering an enclosed space, including a person’s home or place of work, should wear a portable gas detector in case of a gas leak, such as carbon monoxide. Firefighters should also wear FR clothing to protect themselves from injury.
Construction Workers and Roofers
Contractors and builders need to protect themselves from a range of hazards when working on active construction sites. They use heavy equipment and work around industrial vehicles, which can lead to collisions and accidents. But the main risk comes with working up high. Construction workers often occupy spaces and structures over six feet off the ground.
They must wear the proper fall protection equipment to avoid falling off the side of the building, including a safety harness, hardhat, lanyard, and a secure anchorage system. Companies can also install guard rails around the edges of the worksite as an additional precaution. If the worker falls, the rescue system should catch them without cutting off circulation to their limbs or leaving them to dangle through the air. The rest of the team should be able to retrieve the worker as quickly as possible to prevent injuries and to avoid suspension trauma.
Workers also need to protect their ears when working around loud industrial equipment. They can wear different types of hearing protection if the sound level is at or above 85 decibels for more than eight hours.
Landscapers, Farmers, and Grounds Keepers
Working outside can be a risk alone. Temperatures are rising across most of the U.S. due to climate change, so landscapers, farmers, and gardeners need to protect themselves from heat exhaustion. Companies can use different types of summer workwear to keep workers stay cool and comfortable during warm weather, as well as sunscreen, insect spray, and cut-resistant gloves to protect their skin and hands from nicks and pricks. They should also drink plenty of water and avoid working in direct sunlight during the day’s hottest hours.
Planting, harvesting, and watering crops can also mean working with hazardous chemicals, including fertilizers and pesticides. Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers must wear chemical safety gloves to protect their hands from burns.
Equipment Maintenance and Utility Repair Workers
Working with industrial machines is already dangerous, but fixing them can be even more of a challenge. Individuals need to take precautions to ensure the machine has been disabled before they begin making the repairs by using the lock-out tag-out process. The job can also require a lot of kneeling and squatting. Workers should use ergonomically correct gear, including knee pads and standing mats, to protect themselves from long-term aches and pains.
If the equipment is located underground or in an area unfit for human occupation, such as a crawl space, manhole, or service tunnel, the worker will need to wear a respirator and filter to protect themselves from dust and other debris. They will also need to wear a gas detector or ventilator if the air is unsafe to breathe. Flame resistant clothing may also be required if there is a risk of flash fire due to the spread of flammable gases.
Workers will need to use a range of confined space gear to safely enter/exit the work area. This includes a rescue and descent system for lowering and retrieving the worker from the confined space. The team should practice the rescue and descent process and thoroughly inspect the area for potential hazards before the work begins.
Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians and mechanics can also easily be crushed by equipment and vehicles. They need to take precautions to secure the vehicle and work in a space that will limit their risk of injury.
Each job comes with its own risks. Workers need to understand the hazards associated with the task at hand to do everything they can to protect themselves from harm so that they go home at the end of the day. Once the risks have been assessed, individuals should use the proper safety equipment to stay safe in every situation.