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The Most Dangerous Jobs of 2015


American employers are always striving for improved conditions and job safety. Still, there are inherent dangers in the workplace. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that there were 4,585 on-the-jobs fatalities in 2013.

Some careers simply require those working in them to put their lives on the line for the good of others. Potentially life-threatening danger is part of the job description for police officers and firefighters.

The U.S. Fire Administration reports that as of July 2015, 46 firefighters in the United States died in the line of duty this year. Former Pittsburgh-area firefighter David Barckhoff, who spoke with for our 2015 Most Stressful Jobs report, says “[complacency] is when something is going to kill you.”

Similarly, a police officer’s job demands constant vigilance. The Officer Down Memorial Page reports 63 deaths in the line of duty this year. Along with police, other careers in law enforcement face dangers as a fundamental part of the job.

Rachel Sutton, a case manager for LCA Services in San Francisco and Marin, California, says that her work requires her “to be in close contact with gang members and predators” every day.

America’s roadways can be hazardous, and heavy/tractor-trailer truck drivers spend their entire work day on the nation’s highways and freeways. To make the job safer, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enacted a 70-hour work week restriction to prevent fatigued truck drivers from getting behind the wheel.

The FMCSA estimates the regulation will prevent 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries each year. In 2013, there were 1,099 on-the-job fatalities in roadway accidents across various industries – a high number to be sure, but a 5% decrease from the previous year. The industry is also considerably less dangerous now than in 1997, when the Department of Labor reports it was statistically among the most dangerous jobs in the U.S.

Other dangerous jobs are perhaps less obvious. The Office of Occupational Safety and Health Statistics reports in its 2013 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), released September 2014, that the highest rate increase of casualty occurred in private construction. The 828 deaths on the job in 2013 equates to a 3% increase over the previous CFOI.

Likewise, the dangers inherent with working in animal care may not be readily apparent. It’s certainly a much different nature of danger than police, emergency medical technicians, military personnel or firefighters face.

But animal care workers are ensuring the well-being of another living thing, and that can pose certain risks, explains Jme Thomas, executive director of Motley Zoo Animal Rescue in Redmond, Washington.

Since animals can’t communicate, there’s an element of unpredictability to working in animal care all in the field must be ready to address, Thomas says. “Working with dogs, you can get bitten,” she says. “Whether it's a small dog and a proportionally harmless [bite], or a big dog and a much more severe bite, it will happen. You have to work with many kinds of animals and feel secure, safe and still love them, whether or not they behave appropriately.”

Injuries like bites are very common for animal care workers working with common, domestic pets like dogs and cats. Large animals, like cows and horses, are responsible for dozens more deaths per year, the U.S. Census finds.

The BLS tracks injuries inflicted by animals along with injuries caused by other people, but in total, this category accounts for 11% of all on-the-job deaths a year.

Many of the most dangerous situations animal care workers face are, in fact, manmade.

The Human Society reports that there are roughly a quarter-million domestic animals in hoarding situations per year, and care providers are called onto the scene to remove these animals before clean-up crews can begin their work.

Some careers not tracked by the Jobs Rated report have historically been some of the most dangerous: jobs like fisherman and miner.

Of professions ranked in our 2015 Jobs Rated report, the following are 10 of the most dangerous:


The Most Dangerous Jobs of 2015: Airline Pilot

Annual Median Wage: $98,410
Projected Growth by 2022: -1%

Airline pilots are responsible for the safety of literally thousands of people every month. That’s quite the responsibility inherent with a job that’s also quite challenging. It’s no wonder Federal Aviation Regulations require aspiring pilots to take 6-to-8 weeks of on-the-job training on the ground before they can even take to the air.

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