Loggers. Commercial fishermen. Firefighters. It's not surprising that these occupations top the list of the most dangerous jobs.
But when research engine FindTheBest set out to identify how well high-risk jobs pay, one occupation that doesn’t involve such extreme working conditions landed on the list: truck drivers and delivery drivers. The reason: Transportation-related incidents are the number one cause of on-the-job fatalities across all job categories, accounting for 40% of deaths, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics.
People who spend long days behind the wheel, such as workers making regular store deliveries or restaurant take-out drivers, are at a higher risk of having an accident. Truck drivers and a group the BLS calls driver/sales workers together rank as the ninth most dangerous profession. Two other transportation-related jobs also landed relatively high on the list: Taxi drivers and chauffeurs come in at No. 16.
As for how much these dangerous occupations pay, FindTheBest found that few risky jobs will make you rich. To see how much workers in these professions earn, FindTheBest combined data from the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) with median wages from the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook and Occupational Employment Statistics Report.
According to the BLS Occupational Handbook, the median wage for all professions in 2012 was $34,750. According to FindTheBest's analysis, only four of the top-10 high-risk jobs pay at least $10,000 above that; three pay about the median and three pay less.
The most well-compensated workers in the top 10 are aircraft pilots and flight engineers, who make a median salary of $129,600 a year. Many pilots fly routine routes for commercial airlines, while others fulfill more dangerous roles, such as assisting firefighters, transporting freight to remote areas, and performing search and rescue operations. A higher number of those pilots, who also earn less, die on the job.
None of the remaining professions pay nearly as well as being a pilot, but agricultural managers, electrical power-line installers and repairers, and steel workers all make a median wage that’s more than $10,000 above the median for all professions.
Farmers and agricultural managers face all sorts of risks, from charging animals, to tractor accidents and even asphyxiation from falling into bins of grain. Electrical power-line installers and steel workers operate at extreme heights, which puts them at risk of falling and slipping—the third most common reason for death in 2013.
The remaining six professions on the list pay only slightly above the overall median wage, or even below it.
Roofers, waste collectors, and construction laborers make a median salary of about $35,000, yet these workers face a risk of death that’s five to 12 times greater than the overall U.S. rate of 3.4 fatal injuries per 100,000 workers.
Logging workers, fishers, and sales and truck drivers earn less than the median wage but face a fatality rate between 6.5 and 37.5 times higher than the risk for all jobs. The lowest paid in the top ten: sales delivery drivers, who earn just $27,530 a year.
Chainsaw accidents and falling logs and branches are among the main dangers loggers—the number one most dangerous job in 2012—face. Fishermen encounter many hazards as well, such as slippery decks, swinging equipment, and capsizing boats.
But there has been improvement in these grim numbers. The fatality total in 2012 (4,628) was the second lowest since the CFOI was first conducted in 1992 and a slight improvement from 2011. Some new technologies such as non-rollover tractors for farmers, foot straps for roofers, and improved safety training overall have helped reduce fatality rates.