The Most Dangerous Jobs

by | Jan 23, 2018

Workplace safety has improved tremendously in the decades since the Occupational Safety and Health Act went into effect in 1971. The previous year, more than 14,000 fatalities in the workplace or work-related activity were recorded. Nearly 50 years later, that figure has been reduced by almost two thirds—despite an expanding total workforce.

Still, despite improvements in standards, training, and equipment, no job is 100% safe. Accidents happen, and sometimes those accidents can lead to severe injury—or worse.

(If you’re still wondering how we’re going to tie this all back into foot health, don’t worry. We’ll get there.)

The Most Dangerous Jobs

If you want a safe workplace, don’t go into logging or fishing! These are generally considered to be the two most dangerous jobs in America today, according to data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Loggers have to watch out for falling trees. Fishing workers are at constant risk of drowning. In either case, exposure to extreme weather, proximity to heavy and dangerous machinery, and lack of access to hospitals and medical facilities are considerable hazards.

While logging and fishing industries remain strong in California, most people would still consider being a lumberjack or fisherman to be a somewhat exotic occupation. When you scan further down the list, though, you’ll see a lot of “regular” jobs. For example:

  • 4: Roofers
  • 5: Garbage collectors
  • 7: Truckers and delivery drivers
  • 8: Farmers and ranchers
  • 10: Miscellaneous agricultural workers
  • 11: Grounds maintenance workers
  • 13: Construction workers
  • 14: Police officers
  • 16: Maintenance and repair workers
  • 22: Electricians
  • 24: Painters

(Information gathered from a 24/7 Wall Street report published earlier this month, and republished by USA Today.)

A Few Common Threads

When you review the list of dangerous jobs in a little more detail, you find some common threads. If you look closely at the injuries themselves—especially what they are and how they happened—you tend to notice a large percentage of those injuries are clustered in two categories:

  • Transportation accidents. Getting into a car is probably the most dangerous thing you do every day, and the same is true for many workers whose jobs appear on this list. This category also includes workers likely to be directly struck by a vehicle—roadside construction workers or garbage collectors, for example.
  • Losing one’s footing. Slip, trips, stumbles, and falls represent a huge proportion of workplace injuries across countless industries. In the most serious cases, a badly timed trip could lead to falling from a height or unintended contact with dangerous machinery or equipment. But slipping and falling also leads to a lot of more mundane injuries that nonetheless can put you off the job for days or weeks at a time—ankle sprains or fractures, for example.

Both transportation incidents and accidental slips put feet and ankles at high risk.

Your Rights as an Injured Employee

While the annual list of most dangerous jobs in the country is determined by workplace fatalities, the vast majority of work-related injuries are of course nonfatal. There were roughly 2.9 million workplace injuries and illnesses in the U.S. last year. About 900,000 of those cases required the employee to miss at least one day of work, and most of those required the employee to miss more than a week of work. (The median length of recovery was 8 days.)

For most people with tight budgets, bearing the cost of medical expenses—and lost wages from missing work—would represent significant financial hardship. However, if your injury was suffered on the job, you are entitled to worker’s compensation benefits from your employer. In the state of California, every employer must participate in the worker’s compensation program and provide benefits to all their employees—the only people allowed to opt out are sole proprietors. Mandatory benefits include:

  • Fully covering all necessary medical costs, which includes not only doctor visits and hospital bills but also any prescription medications, medical equipment, or rehabilitation that may be needed.
  • Paying a portion of the injured employee’s lost wages. This is generally calculated as two-thirds of the employee’s average pre-injury weekly pay, up to weekly maximum. For injuries sustained in 2018, this maximum is $1,215.27 per week.

Worker’s Compensation and Medical Care

While as an employee you are entitled to worker’s compensation benefits, in order to get them you’ll still have to notify your employer and file a claim as soon as possible. If you don’t report your injury properly (generally within 30 days) and complete the necessary paperwork, you may lose your right to your benefits.

If you do need medical care after a workplace injury, you’ll want to make sure to tell the medical personnel right away that your injury was job-related. If you need help from a specialist, it would also be your benefit to work with one experienced in handling worker’s compensation claims and capable of conducting QME (qualified medical examiner) evaluations.

That’s exactly what you’ll find at the Southern California Foot & Ankle Specialists. Our own Dr. Robert Spencer is a qualified medical examiner in California, meaning he is fully trained and licensed to evaluate disability and compose medical-legal reports that can be used to determine and prove your benefit eligibility. Our team is also happy to help advise you through your legal obligations as an injured employee, so that you can receive your full benefits as quickly as possible.

For more information about worker’s compensation and medical care, you can check out the State of California employee FAQ for injured workers (you’ll find PDFs of the relevant forms there, too) and read our recent blog on the topic, which has more details about how our practice works directly with employees and employers to make the entire process as smooth as possible. We also have one more recent blog on protecting feet in the workplace that can help you prevent injuries before they even happen, especially if you work in an active occupation.