February 20, 2011

Jobs You Never Knew Were So Dangerous (and maybe aren't)

 This article from MarketWatch via Yahoo: Risky Business: Jobs You Never Knew Were So Dangerous discusses jobs that have high injury rates which might surprise you.     Theres a few things to take away from the article. 

First off, the most deadly jobs aren't necessarily the ones you expect.   For example they say:

The rate of fatal occupational injuries for farmers and ranchers is 38.5 per 100,000 full-time workers, versus 4.4 for fire fighters, and 13.1 for police and sheriff's patrol officers, according to U.S. Labor Department data for 2009, the most recent available.

I don't know about you but it seems that many people think that firefighters and police are the most dangerous jobs in the world.   They aren't.   Have you ever watched Dangerous Catch?    Fisherman is the most dangerous job in the country.   Fisherman consistently have the highest fatality rate.   Police are often in the top 10 but sometimes they aren't.   Firefighters usually don't break the top ten.    We all know that police and firefighting is dangerous work.   When a police officer or firefighter dies in the line of duty it is often all over the evening news.   Fatalities in other jobs do not get so much media attention but that doesn't mean they don't happen. 

Injury rates higher in some surprising areas

If you look past the fatality rate you get another picture.    Sure policeman might be a more fatal job than many but they may not be as likely to be injured or ill on the job than some other occupations.    Bus drivers are injured quite frequently.   They say : "Bus drivers are exposed to a lot of force and vibrations when they are driving,"   I believe this.   Whenever I take a long road trip of 6 hours or more at the end of the trip I'm pretty tired out.  It is surprising how much driving a long distance can stress your body.   Driving a big bus can be more jolting on your body due to how those huge vehicles move.  Nurses can have more frequent injuries too.   They explain "Being stuck by a needle can be a problem..." and I assume they may be exposed to illness more as well.     Dental hygienists can also have more injuries about which they say "a lot of complaints from dental hygienists, who may assume contorted positions as they work hard on plaque-covered teeth."

Now we get to the part that I'm skeptical...

The article has a little graphic listing several occupations that have high rates of illness and injury.   The list is :

state psychiatric aides : 1459
local government EMTs and paramedics : 712
private tree trimmers and pruners : 680
local government nursing aides, orderlies and attendants : 646
private shuttle car operators : 610
local government dietitians and nutritionists : 589
local government house-keeping workers : 570

I can understand that tree trimmers would get injured.   They work on ladders and risk falling.   EMTs and drivers are also jobs I can see having more frequent injuries.   The more you drive the more you can get into a car accident.   I can also see how house keepers could be injured more often that some jobs because its not an easy job and has a lot of bending and such.

But the other jobs on that list really don't seem like they are very hazardous.   Why would dietitians and nutritionists have high illness or injury rates?   Is there some hazard about the food pyramid that I'm not aware of?   Maybe there is a reason those occupations would have higher injury and illness rates that I just don't know of.   But I doubt it. 

Notice that most of these jobs are in government positions.   What I suspect is that these people are not really sick or injured.    I believe what we are seeing here a list of government workers who play hookie from work due to very generous sick leave policies at government jobs.  More power to them.   But if you ask me these statistics are skewed by the amount of sick leave and policies for taking sick leave. 

Bottom Line:  Some jobs are obviously dangerous, some jobs are dangerous but its not as obvious, and statistics may be lying.

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