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The Most Dangerous Jobs in America

Risky Workplace

You think your workplace is tough? Just compare it to these jobs.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor recently released data for the number of injuries and illnesses that occurred on the job for local government employees in 2008. Teachers, fire fighters, nurses and many other professions make the list. While this doesn’t include private sector positions, these statistics are a good indication of which jobs are the most dangerous in this country. We should also make clear up front that the rankings on this list are based on the total number of incidents logged, rather than the percentage of workers who got hurt. So unfortunately one uber clutz could inflate the numbers a bit, but it’s the breakdown of the risks facing each profession that paint a really fascinating picture.

Here are the top 20 most dangerous professions in local government based on the total number of reported injuries and illnesses that resulted in days off from work.

Photo Credit: phil_g

20. Teachers and Instructors

What can you say? Kids get rowdy sometimes and whether they like it or not, teachers get caught up in horseplay. These professionals get a lot of sprains and cuts, and also, they apparently fall down a lot. According to the BLS, there were nearly a thousand cases of teachers and instructors falling on the “same level,” which is more than most other indoor professions.

Total Number of Injuries and Illnesses: 2220

Overexertion: 70

Assaults and Violent Acts: 150

Cuts, Lacerations, Punctures: 140

Sprains, Strains and Tears: 680

Photo Credit: wilpf.org

19. Police Supervisors and Managers

While they do face their fair share of injuries, these supervisors are shielded from much of the danger that faces normal police officers, as we’ll see later. The biggest threat facing these supervisors is sprains, strains and tears.

Total Number of Injuries and Illnesses: 2300

Overexertion: 170

Assaults and Violent Acts: 220

Cuts, Lacerations, Punctures: 40

Sprains, Strains and Tears: 1180

Photo Credit: KOMUnews

18. Engineers and Construction Equipment Operators

This should come as no surprise. The more you work with your hands, the more likely you are to get injured. One of the biggest plagues for construction equipment operators and engineer operators is overexertion, with more than a thousand cases logged.

Total Number of Injuries and Illnesses: 2670

Overexertion: 1070

Assaults and Violent Acts: NA

Cuts, Lacerations, Punctures: 80

Sprains, Strains and Tears: 1250

Photo Credit: NIOSH

17. Registered Nurses

They may be in the business of helping people, but plenty of times nurses are the ones getting bandaged up…

Total Number of Injuries and Illnesses: 2980

Overexertion: 890

Assaults and Violent Acts: 350

Cuts, Lacerations, Punctures: 70

Sprains, Strains and Tears: 1460

Photo Credit: joguldi

16. Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics

EMT’s and paramedics lead a hard life, working incredibly long (and strange) hours. Of course, this life does come with its perks – you get the satisfaction of helping people, the thrill of doing so in a fast-paced environment and the opportunity to leave the office and work outdoors. (Check out our recent post on great outdoor careers.)

Total Number of Injuries and Illnesses: 3320

Overexertion: 1510

Assaults and Violent Acts: NA

Cuts, Lacerations, Punctures: 250

Sprains, Strains and Tears: 1920

Photo Credit: Adrian Miles

15. Laborers and Freight, Stock, and Material Movers

Not only is this one of riskier professions, it’s also one of the 25 fastest dying careers. No offense guys, but it might be time to start looking for other work.

Total Number of Injuries and Illnesses: 3340

Overexertion: 700

Assaults and Violent Acts: NA

Cuts, Lacerations, Punctures: 170

Sprains, Strains and Tears: 1130

Photo Credit: Kalabird

14. Secondary School Teachers

Sure we used to torture out teachers, given these numbers, you’d thing we were REALLY torturing them.

Total Number of Injuries and Illnesses: 3510

Overexertion: 190

Assaults and Violent Acts: 200

Cuts, Lacerations, Punctures: 110

Sprains, Strains and Tears: 1040

Photo Credit: Wikimedia.org

13. Correctional Officers and Jailers

Correctional officers and jailers endure some serious beatings at the office. There were more than a thousand reported cases of them getting assaulted, which makes sense given the population with whom they work.

Total Number of Injuries and Illnesses: 3860

Overexertion: 240

Assaults and Violent Acts: 1320

Cuts, Lacerations, Punctures: 150

Sprains, Strains and Tears: 1280

Photo Credit: aflcio2008

12. Supervisors of Fire Fighters and Prevention Workers

These supervisors seem to get it a little worse than their police counterparts, but they are still sheltered from much of the risk that fire fighters face in the field.

Total Number of Injuries and Illnesses: 3870

Overexertion: 810

Assaults and Violent Acts: NA

Cuts, Lacerations, Punctures: 120

Sprains, Strains and Tears: 2180

Photo Credit: Kiwi NZ

11. School Bus Drivers

It’s probably good that there’s no category for psychological injuries, because if most school buses are anything like mine growing up, then there’s no doubt bus drivers are ruthlessly tormented by kids all the time.

Total Number of Injuries and Illnesses: 4560

Overexertion: 370

Assaults and Violent Acts: 40

Cuts, Lacerations, Punctures: 100

Sprains, Strains and Tears: 1520

Photo Credit: laffy4k

10. Landscapers and Groundskeepers

Unfortunately, I am completely incapable of thinking about groundskeepers without picturing Groundskeeper Willie from the Simpsons. And if his experiences are in any way indicative of the real thing, then yes, it seems like a pretty rough job. These stats just back that up.

Total Number of Injuries and Illnesses: 4590

Overexertion: 1340

Assaults and Violent Acts: 30

Cuts, Lacerations, Punctures: 180

Sprains, Strains and Tears: 2290

Photo Credit: RJL20

9. Maintenance and Repair Workers

There were more than 2000 sprains, strains and tears reported on the job for maintenance and repair workers. But perhaps most intimidating of all, there were 70 cases reported of these workers suffering amputations on the job. Yikes!

Total Number of Injuries and Illnesses: 4660

Overexertion: 1120

Assaults and Violent Acts: NA

Cuts, Lacerations, Punctures: 330

Sprains, Strains and Tears: 2060

Photo Credit: army.mil

8. Nursing Aides, Orderlies and Attendants

As we’ve seen with the previous medical professions on this list, one of the biggest risks that comes with this kind of work is burn out. The same is true with nursing aides, orderlies and attendants. These guys need to get some more rest time. Nevertheless, several medical professions popped up on our list of the fastest growing jobs.

Total Number of Injuries and Illnesses: 4700

Overexertion: 2600

Assaults and Violent Acts: 260

Cuts, Lacerations, Punctures: NA

Sprains, Strains and Tears: 2790

Photo Credit: Werner Vermaak

7. Bus Drivers, Transit and Intercity

As bad as the school bus drivers have it, city bus drivers seem to have it worse. There’s no doubt that some crazy stuff happens on a public bus. (Just check out this video for proof, though be warned, there is some profanity.) Strangely, of the 300 assaults and violent acts reported against these bus drivers, 90 were caused by animals.

Total Number of Injuries and Illnesses: 4750

Overexertion: 520

Assaults and Violent Acts: 300

Cuts, Lacerations, Punctures: 30

Sprains, Strains and Tears: 2130

Photo Credit: unfoldedorigami

6. Refuse and Recyclable Material Collectors

Who said recycling was good for everybody? In addition to the thousands of cases of sprains and overexertion, there were several hundred reports of employees being exposed to “harmful substances of environments.” Green or not, that does not sound like fun.

Total Number of Injuries and Illnesses: 4750

Overexertion: 1130

Assaults and Violent Acts: 290

Cuts, Lacerations, Punctures: 380

Sprains, Strains and Tears: 1910

Photo Credit: mysza831

5. Teacher Assistants

Teacher’s assistants get it just as bad as regular teachers do, if not worse. There were more than a thousand reports of assaults and violent acts against teacher assistants in 2008. Unfortunately, there were also some reports of these assistants attacking their students too.

Total Number of Injuries and Illnesses: 8290

Overexertion: 980

Assaults and Violent Acts: 1060

Cuts, Lacerations, Punctures: 240

Sprains, Strains and Tears: 3040

Photo Credit: Rex Pe

4. Elementary School Teachers

When you decided to become an elementary school teacher, your main concern is probably just that you might be overworked or pick up a cold occasionally from one of your students. But with nearly a thousand assaults recorded, 2500 cases of sprains, strains and tears, not to mention 1,000 cases of back pain  and almost 3000 falls, this is a tough and risky job, to say the least.

Total Number of Injuries and Illnesses: 8430

Overexertion: 350

Assaults and Violent Acts: 820

Cuts, Lacerations, Punctures: 160

Sprains, Strains and Tears: 2530

Photo Credit: Chicago 2016 Photos

3. Fire Fighters

Other professions may have their risks, but these are the only guys on the list to get injured by “fires and explosion.” There were 680reported cases of heat burns and more than a hundred reported cases of tendonitis. And that doesn’t even get into the criteria below. Bottom line, we think fire fighters deserve all the praise they get for being brave, given all they endure on the job.

Total Number of Injuries and Illnesses: 16,800

Overexertion: 5100

Assaults and Violent Acts: 90

Cuts, Lacerations, Punctures: 680

Sprains, Strains and Tears: 10,390

Photo Credit: jeshua.nace

2. Janitors and Cleaners (Exluding Maids and Housekeepers)

Not only is it grunt work, but it’s dangerous grunt work. There were more than 20,000 injuries and illnesses reported in 2009, many of which were cases of overexertion. But there were plenty of other bizarre and dangerous cases. Nearly 200 reports of chemical burns, 40 cases of amputation and 40 cases of heat burns.

Total Number of Injuries and Illnesses: 20,880

Overexertion: 5720

Assaults and Violent Acts: 270

Cuts, Lacerations, Punctures: 1600

Sprains, Strains and Tears: 9360

Photo Credit: Augapfel

1. Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers

These professionals are the toughest of the tough. Not surprisingly, one of the leading causes of injury was assault and other violent acts. Besides that, there were nearly 4,000 reported highway accidents, 110 cases of heat burns and more than 3,000 cases of back pain forcing officers to take some time off.

Total Number of Injuries and Illnesses: 24,020

Overexertion: 1520

Assaults and Violent Acts: 4650

Cuts, Lacerations, Punctures: 940

Sprains, Strains and Tears: 9830

Photo Credit: thivierr

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