Jobs More Dangerous Than You Thought

by Robert Seaton

You can’t avoid danger. —Jeannette Walls, Half Broke Horses

Yeah, you can. Don’t get one of these jobs, for instance. —me

David Henderson has rightly earned the title contrarian with his latest post which, to kick off National Police Week, points out that it’s more dangerous to be a farmer than a policeman – “For every 100,000 police, the annual fatality rate is 20. For every 100,000 farmers, it is 40% higher, at 28.” (Source.)

Now, on this blog, we’re good empiricists, and nothing warms the heart of an empiricist more than refuting a well-known, common sense “truth” with, you know, observations and data.

So that got me thinking: What jobs are more (or less) dangerous than one might naively suspect?

I present to you this delightful graph, taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

"Image of occupations with high fatality rates, from 2011."

Notice that the data here for farmers agrees with David’s. He has 28 per 100,000 versus the charts 25.3 per 100,000. (And given the endemic underreporting, the 28 number might well be more accurate.) Police officer isn’t included on the chart but David’s data would make it about as dangerous as… taxi driver. That’s right, folks. The brave folks keeping the peace of our nation? Just as brave as your local cabby. (Actually, given that police deaths dropped 20 percent in 2012, cab drivers might be braver.)

I’m going to propose we replace Police Week with Fisherman Week, because it’s about 6 times more dangerous to be a fisherman than a police officer. (And who doesn’t love a good tuna steak?)

Or maybe we should keep Police Week, but dedicate 6 weeks to celebrating fishermen. It’s only fair. And, of course, three weeks to pilots and people involved with flying, along with a solid two weeks for garbage men.

Some other fun facts

Digging a bit further into the data, we find this somewhat troubling statistic: 92% of workplace fatalities are men. (Do we blame the patriarchy for this one?)

And if you were wondering what state is the most dangerous: North Dakota. It’s about as dangerous to work in North Dakota as it is to be a police officer. From the AFL-CIO’s “Death on the Job” report:

Among all of the states, North Dakota stands out as an exceptionally dangerous and deadly place to work. The state’s job fatality rate of 17.7/100,000 workers is alarming. It is more than five times the national average and is one of the highest state job fatality rates ever reported for any state.

So probably we should have a week celebrating North Dakatons, too.

Further Reading



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