30 dangerous jobs that seem completely safe
When you clock in for work every day, are you putting your life in danger? Even if you don’t handle dangerous machinery or do manual labor, you still might be at risk. Read on to find our list of dangerous jobs compiled with Bureau of Labor Statistics data, workforce studies, and anecdotal evidence. (Ranking is in no particular order!)
1. Liquor store clerk
“The second most dangerous job for a female is a liquor store employee and that has a homicide rate of four per 100000,” economist Scott Cunningham told Reply All in April 2018. It’s certainly a dangerous profession for a man as well — just think about any TV news story you saw recently.
It probably involved a liquor store clerk getting robbed. Former liquor store clerk Ray Gallagher writes in Femsplain that she felt most unsafe when drunk “finance bros” would become aggressive when she didn’t sell them liquor after 10 p.m. (It’s against New Jersey law.)
NEXT: They might be able to win gold medals, but that comes at a cost.
2. Athletes, coaches, umpires
This profession was one of the many included on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) annual National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2017. It’s not surprising there’d be injuries and fatalities in the world of sports. What’s surprising is that most fatalities are due to transportation accidents. Here’s why that is:
Professional athletes, coaches, umpires, etc., have to travel a lot for their work. Having to travel frequently puts you at risk for car crashes, plane crashes, and other terrifying accidents. Plenty of injuries occur during games as well, as you can imagine.
NEXT: They let strangers into their cars every day — what could go wrong?
3. Taxi drivers, chauffeurs, rideshare drivers
Economists often compare risk with getting into a car. It’s surprisingly one of the most dangerous things that you can do! As you can imagine, those that do it professionally are at especially high risk. Besides risks like car crashes, violence against drivers from belligerent passengers accounted for a whopping 35% of injuries in the BLS report.
It’s not likely that rideshare drivers were included in the BLS’ National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2017. But it’s highly likely that drivers working for tech companies like Uber and Lyft face the same dangers taxi drivers and chauffeurs do.
NEXT: Machinery used in this profession makes it dangerous.
4. Agricultural workers
Like those in the sports industry, a lot of fatalities and injuries in the agricultural jobs sector are caused by transportation mishaps. Instead of buses, cars, etc. that athletes might use to travel, agricultural accidents are mostly caused by motorized off-road vehicles like tractors, says the BLS’ National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries.
The same report on 2017 statistics says that the industry has double the national rate for nonfatal injuries — 1,555 for every 100,000 “miscellaneous agricultural” workers. For agricultural managers (e.g., farmers, ranchers) 58.9% of injuries resulted in death, surprisingly.
NEXT: They work in facilities typically ridden with diseases — no wonder this job is on our list.
In a past Finance101 article, nurses were cited as racking up 20,730 work-related injuries in 2017. These medical professionals risk overexerting themselves, as well as contact with needles, assaults by patients, and the possibility of catching diseases while on the clock. Unlike a lot of agricultural workers we discussed in the previous slide, nurses are well compensated.
The average income for a nurse in the U.S. is $73,550 according to the Nurse Salary Guide. The same website says that nurses in California make the most, and in South Dakota, nurses make about $57,010. If you don’t get injured on the job, you might be able to enjoy the perks of good pay as a nurse.
NEXT: Looking for danger? Just add alcohol.
Alcohol clouds judgement and emboldens dumb people. So, stupid stuff tends to happen around places with a lot of alcohol — stupid stuff that can end in injuries or fatalities. Because of the dangers on site, the BLS ranked bartender as the 27th most dangerous occupation. It’s important to stay vigilant while slinging drinks behind the bar. Remember, safety first and fun second!
Besides drunks causing problems, it’s a physically demanding job that can result in a lot of boo-boos. “Injuries like tennis elbow, tendinitis, and carpal tunnel are all super common in bartenders, from shaking heavy shakers above your head all night,” writes Arielle Pardes in Cosmopolitan.
NEXT: You’ve probably called this type of tradesman when your sink was busted.
Sure, there are a lot of stinky messes, clogged toilets, and the drama of dropping a wedding ring down the drain, but plumbers face a lot of on-the-job injuries. Think about it — it’s a physically demanding job! Typical injuries in the field include, but aren’t limited to, repetitive movement injuries, asbestos poisoning, and hearing loss.
Pipe fitters and steamfitters (they’re usually lumped together as one group) deal with dangerous chemicals and gases on a daily basis. Overnight plumbers working for a 24-hour company also face lots of risks on the job — exhaustion from working odd hours being one.
NEXT: This profession has increasingly become the target of governments and extremist individuals alike.
You might think that it’s mostly been the journalists covering war zones that are put at risk. Well, as a female journalist I can confirm this statement from a 2019 report in The Nation: “Journalists today are facing a whole new set of occupational hazards, from relentless harassment, to mass arrests, or even assassination.”
Granted I haven’t faced threats of violence yet, but my colleagues and I increasingly face more and more online harassment (yes, even from Finance101 readers). The Nation credits the current commander in chief with encouraging hatred of all media (except for Fox and other conservative outlets).
NEXT: This is why only certified professionals can do this job.
9. Tree trimmers
Risks associated with being an arborist or any sort of tree trimmer are plentiful. Those risks become even greater when the service provider doesn’t follow safety protocol. According to the American Arborists website, those in the profession of tree care and removal face three major dangers: gravity, power lines, and decaying wood.
There’s a high likelihood of falling and getting electrocuted by high-flying power lines as trees are some of the tallest flora in the world. It’s also hard to spot decaying wood, which is a hazard as it breaks easily.
NEXT: My dad used to give these workers socks on Christmas as a way to say “thank you” for keeping our neighborhood clean.
10. Refuse and recyclable material collectors
Also known as garbage collectors, this profession requires early-morning pickups of residents’ trash, recycling, and compost (if your city collects it). In the BLS report that the majority of this article is based off of, refuse collectors are listed in the number five slot. BLS says most refuse worker injuries are from “transportation incidents.”
Makes sense — refuse workers are driving a lot and dealing with heavy machinery on their trucks daily. A lot of the riskiest jobs tend to involve frequent use of transportation. Although we use cars every day, they’re still an extremely dangerous means for transportation.
NEXT: You might run into this worker next time you’re in a drive-thru.
11. Fast food worker
Sure, you might not need a college degree to work in fast food, but that doesn’t mean the job isn’t challenging — or dangerous. Health Day wrote that an estimated 28,000 teen fast food workers are rushed to the ER every year due to work-related injuries. McDonald’s employee Tom Smith told Health Day about how a job-related injury inspired him to be more careful.
After sustaining a nasty burn while cleaning the grill, Smith became more vigilant. It’s easy to slip up, he says, because there’s a lot of repetition in fast food work. “It’s easy to become overconfident and take shortcuts that can lead to accidents,” he told the publication.
NEXT: This profession is known to have adverse effects on one’s mental health.
Mental injuries are just as dangerous as physical ones. Taking one’s own life is unfortunately much too common in the veterinary profession. Vet Practice Magazine reported in 2016 on a study that found vets experience more negative emotions at work than the general population. It was also discovered that many vets didn’t receive enough mental health care.
It’s easy to imagine working with sick animals leads to depression — especially if you get into the field because you love animals. The long hours, isolation, compassion fatigue, mountains of admin work, and overachieving nature of the profession also contribute to depression.
NEXT: This profession is especially dangerous for women working overnight.
Janitors and other sorts of cleaning jobs are ranked for four work-related deaths according to New Jersey-specific BLS data from 2016. It’s unclear in the data what were the biggest risks associated with the profession. However, a disturbing 2018 report from Reveal sheds light on dangers female janitors face.
Working alone at night, female janitors are at risk of rape and harassment. Some are in the U.S. illegally, thus limiting their ability to report to law enforcement. One company in particular, ABM Industries Inc., stands out for not protecting its janitorial workers.
NEXT: Besides dealing with crabby clients, this profession often requires putting your well-being at risk.
14. Flight attendant
Ever heard people say that driving a car is far more dangerous than getting on an airplane? That doesn’t mean you’re completely free of any and all dangers when you step foot on those man-made metal birds, however. Flight attendants face risks of aggressive turbulence and airplane crashes whenever they clock in for a shift at work.
You might be surprised to know that flight attendants don’t just serve peanuts and drinks, they also do preflight checks of emergency equipment, take care of special needs passengers, coordinate emergency care if necessary, and sometimes deal with aggressive clients.
NEXT: Any job using heavy machinery is a dangerous one.
15. Grounds maintenance workers
These are the folks you see watering the garden at your apartment complex or trimming the bushes at your office. Working with plants might seem like a serene job — turns out it’s not. The 2017 BLS report listed 15.9 fatalities per 100,000 workers, totaling 191 fatal injuries and 13,310 nonfatal injuries.
Groundskeeper is a physically demanding job, sometimes having to be performed in all kinds of harsh weather conditions. (The grass isn’t going to trim itself!) They might also have to use dangerous machinery. BLS’ report identified slips, falls, and trips as common injury causes.
NEXT: Like tree trimmers, these workers deal with the forces of gravity.
This applies to painters that work in construction and maintenance. They might apply paint and stain to buildings. Similar to grounds maintenance workers, painters might be injured by falls, slips, and trips. Like most of the gigs on our list, painting is physically demanding, which puts workers at risk for injuries.
Painters have to worry about falling from great heights, as well as demanding work environments, lifting heavy objects, and exposure to chemicals and other irritants. BLS reported 8.9 fatalities per 100,000 workers in 2017.
NEXT: Unless you were trying to tail your cheating husband or wife, you might not have met someone in this line of work before.
17. Private investigator
“The life of a private investigator isn’t as glamorous as it’s portrayed in the movies,” writes private investigator (PI) company Kusic and Kusic Ltd. in its blog. “In reality, there are aspects of the job that are unhealthy.” During a stakeout or travel, PIs might deal with the discomfort of extreme temperatures and lack of rest areas.
Exhaustion is common in the private investigator profession, with demanding work schedules and long hours. Don’t forget the unhealthy conditions involved with stakeouts and the on-the-go lifestyle — junk food city! PIs are also likely to find themselves in dangerous situations that can become violent.
NEXT: Even veterans in this field aren’t immune to dangers.
Individuals in this field must be certified and go through lots of training. Then, and only then, can electricians get to work fixing and installing power, communications, lighting, and control systems. You might think electrocution is the greatest cause of injury in this field, but it’s actually falls, slips, and trips, says the 2017 BLS report.
BLS found 74 fatalities and 4,890 nonfatal injuries in 2017. Other injuries electricians might suffer from can be caused by sitting in cramped spaces, and standing and kneeling for long hours. These might be long-term effects but are still significant when it comes to electricians’ well-being.
NEXT: Any gig that requires working some feet above the ground is dangerous.
People in this profession are in the business of replacing and fixing shingles and other materials on roofs of homes, stores, and more. Because roofers are often working on — well, roofs — they’re at risk for falls, slips, and trips. If roofers fall, slip, or trip on a roof, there are far more serious consequences than if that happened on the ground.
In addition, roofers are exposed to harsh weather often. It’s especially awful and dangerous for them during the hot summer months. Extreme heat can cause many terrible and uncomfortable heat-related illnesses.
NEXT: Any profession that has to frequently travel puts their lives at risk, according to data from the 2017 BLS report.
20. Aircraft pilots and flight engineers
Planes can be wildly dangerous if even the tiniest thing goes wrong. When it comes to the people that work on them, they’re more at risk for injuries caused by crashes than the average person. In addition to crashes, pilots and flight engineers face intense work situations. Covering the BLS 2017 report, 24/7 Wall St. says this in USA Today:
“The work of a pilot can be extremely demanding due to both mental stress and demanding scheduling, including overnight layovers, and exhaustion is a risk,” reported 24/7 Wall St. The publication writes that pilots are usually well compensated, however.
NEXT: This job was at the top of the BLS’ dangerous jobs list.
21. Fishers and related fishing workers
These are the people that make sure you have fish in your fish tacos on Taco Tuesday. (Or whenever you need your omega-3s, really.) Getting that fish, however, involves manual labor with equipment like fishing nets, gear, and potentials for slips and falls. Most of the accidents BLS recorded were transportation-related.
Add that to the often remote locations that fishers find themselves in and extreme weather, their boats will most definitely be rocked. Finding help immediately might be extremely difficult.
NEXT: At this point, it’s obvious that transportation is a huge safety risk. These workers are traveling constantly, making their work very risky.
22. Truck drivers
Truck drivers spend most of their time on the road, traveling long distances to deliver goods cross-country. They might drive either light or heavy trucks, wrote 24/7 Wall St. in USA Today. No matter the size of the vehicle, being a truck driver is still quite a dangerous profession.
Ranked highly for its amount of fatalities in the BLS’ 2017 report, most accidents are caused by transportation-related incidents like vehicle accidents. If you’re on the road all the time, you’re more likely to get into a wreck!
NEXT: These workers dive into the depths of the ocean to fix things, find things, build things, and more.
23. Occupational divers
A worker might don scuba diving equipment to provide a service for a client or company, for profit or for research-related tasks. Occupational divers might be searching for sea urchins for consumption, doing construction underwater, tending to tuna in a sea cage, and more, says the organization Australian Diver Accreditation Scheme (ADAS).
It sounds like a cool job, but plenty of accidents have occurred in this field. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) documented 116 deaths in the U.S. from 1989 to 1997 related to occupational diving.
NEXT: This gig, also done on the high seas, made the list of the top 20 most dangerous jobs in the U.S.
While fishermen (see slide number 21) catch the fish, sailors might be responsible for steering the ship in the high seas. Industrial Safety and Hygiene News (ISHN) says the profession involves “standing watch, taking measurements, steering and navigating marine vessels, as well as helping maintain the ship’s equipment.” These are often done on a moving ship …
This adds to the risk of injury. Extreme weather conditions and long stints at sea can also be detrimental to one’s health. Most common accidents are caused by transportation incidents, AdvisorSmith’s recent report indicated. Drowning is also a huge risk, writes ISHN.
NEXT: You should thank these people for not making you take the stairs next time you see them.
25. Elevator installers and repairers
If you work on the 10th floor of a building, you probably take riding an elevator up there for granted. Imagine climbing 10 flights of stairs every day! Unless you’re an actual StairMaster, that might be a tiring feat. Elevator installers and repairers are the ones that keep your elevator in tip-top performance shape.
Albeit important, this profession isn’t immune to dangers on the job. It’s a physically demanding job that requires workers to be in the vicinity of dangerous equipment on the reg. Our past Finance101 article indicated 30 elevator workers were found caught or “compressed” (yikes!) by an object in 2017.
NEXT: Someone’s gotta do it …
26. Septic tank servicers and sewer pipe cleaners
These workers are tasked with doing things most people don’t want to have to do — cleaning and repairing septic tanks and sewer lines. The workers use industrial equipment like water jets, sewer flushers, and power rodders, says AdvisorSmith’s report on the most dangerous jobs. The website ranked the job number 12 on their list.
Most accidents were caused by workers coming into contact with objects and equipment. Interestingly, the BLS reported zero deaths in this profession in 2017 when the department put together their report on the most dangerous jobs in the U.S.
NEXT: Their job includes climbing tall structures and handling super hot welding equipment. It gives me the heebie-jeebies just thinking about it!
27. Iron workers
Buildings’ primary reinforcement is iron and steel, thus requiring an iron worker to maintain and build strong buildings. A day in the life of an iron worker involves installing iron and steel on buildings, bridges, and roads, says AdvisorSmith. They scale tall structures and unload iron and steel all while adhering to specific plans for the projects they work on.
Iron workers also must work alongside crane operators and manipulate iron and steel. Any job that entails working at high altitudes and using heavy equipment is at risk for slips, falls, and trips. After analyzing BLS data, it seems that a lot of jobs like these have similar risks.
NEXT: Thanks to these people, you have electricity coursing through all the appliances of your home.
28. Line workers
It’s easy to imagine that working high up on cherry pickers installing and repairing power lines could be dangerous. But just how dangerous is the profession of line working? The BLS says this on its website: “Line workers encounter serious hazards on the job, including working with high-voltage electricity, often at great heights.”
Line workers usually do the regular nine-to-five like most office jobs (except up in the air), but BLS says some irregular hours are occasionally required. Power line repairs wait for no one — not even weekend warriors or line workers trying to take a holiday or evening off.
NEXT: Discovery Channel has a TV featuring some rough-talking workers in this profession.
The Discovery Channel show American Loggers documents the lives of a family logging business deep in the forest of northern Maine. The workers are gnarly dudes that are able to withstand the physical demands of working as a logger. The profession of commercial logging is no joke — you’ve got to be a tough guy or lady in order to hang.
So what could possibly put your life at risk as a logger? Well, just falling trees, extreme terrain, and sharp, heavy equipment, says CBS News. The news site put the profession as number two on their list of most deadly jobs.
NEXT: Any gig that requires you to basically work underground in a tunnel is immensely dangerous.
Fifty to 60 mining workers die annually, says a 2010 report in ABC News. As the authors of the article ponders if it’s the U.S.’ most dangerous job, they note that most miners “wear emergency breathing devices at all times in order to help give them enough time to escape a disaster.” Can you imagine living eight hours a day, five days a week like that?
In China, more than 2,600 mining-related deaths occurred in 2009. The stories of those that survived are pretty gnarly — one miner described eating sawdust and tree bark and drinking murky water in order to survive underground for several days. One thing’s for sure: Mining, or any of these jobs, really, isn’t for the faint of heart!