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Are These Dangerous Jobs Worth Pay? You Decide

Karen Doyle

 

 

 

 

 

Dangerous jobs are a part of life — there are some jobs that aren’t safe that must be done to keep the economy moving. Some of these jobs pay big money because of the danger involved, but others don’t.

GOBankingRates compiled this list by looking at occupations with the highest rate of fatalities, sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries for 2017. These jobs were scored in terms of fatalities and mean annual wage, and then they were ranked based on that data. Although some jobs make the pay worthwhile, some of the most dangerous jobs in America might not be worth the pay.

20 Dangerous Jobs Not Worth the Pay

Every job has risks. Even the least dangerous office job can put you at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome. But some jobs are so risky, and so low-paying, that it simply isn’t worthwhile to take on the danger involved. Here are 20 dangerous jobs that don’t pay enough to offset the risk.

 

20. Maintenance and Repair Workers

Mean annual wage: $40,280

Total fatal injuries: 87

These workers keep buildings, equipment and machinery in good working order. They might work on heating plumbing, electrical and air conditioning systems, or they might paint and do structural and cosmetic repairs. These workers also perform duties such as pipefitting, welding, carpentry, and install, align and balance new equipment.

Any time you’re working with heavy equipment or in trades like plumbing and electrical work, there’s always a danger to your safety. Unfortunately, this line of work doesn’t pay enough to make that risk worthwhile.

 

19. Industrial Truck and Tractor Operators

Mean annual wage: $35,370

Total fatal injuries: 34

Industrial truck and tractor operators drive vehicles around warehouses, construction sites, storage yards, factories and so on. Since they are driving forklifts and other vehicles in areas where there are no roads, the risk of an accident is greater.

Even the industrial truck and tractor operators who work in Alaska, which has the highest annual mean wage at $52,880, might not be adequately compensated for the danger involved.

18. Tree Trimmers and Pruners

Mean annual wage: $38,580

Total fatal injuries: 78

These workers trim excess or dead branches from trees and shrubs in order to improve the health of the plant or to make the surrounding area safer or more attractive. This job often involves climbing trees and removing branches with a hand or power saw. Tree trimmers and pruners might work on the ground, on a ladder, on a truck-mounted lift or in the tree itself.

17. Agricultural Equipment Operators

Mean annual wage: $31,440

Total fatal injuries: 17

Agricultural equipment operators drive farm equipment like combines, balers and cultivators. They might also use husking, threshing, ginning or shelling machinery. These large, unwieldy machines are dangerous to operate, but the wage doesn’t compensate for the risk.

16. Light Truck or Delivery Services Drivers

Mean annual wage: $35,610

Total fatal injuries: 87

Any job that requires you to drive around all day is inherently risky, and these workers drive a car or light truck to deliver packages. Motor vehicle accidents are commonplace, and, in the case of light truck or delivery service drivers, the pay is not adequate to offset the danger of being on the road eight hours a day.

15. Fishers and Related Fishing Workers

Mean annual wage: $31,190

Total fatal injuries: 41

Fishing workers catch fish in rivers, lakes, ponds and oceans with nets, fishing rods, traps or other equipment. This is a difficult job made even more dangerous by the unpredictability of the weather, particularly on the ocean. The danger of this job combined with relatively low wages means that it’s likely not worthwhile.

14. Stock Clerks and Order Fillers

Mean annual wage: $27,450

Total fatal injuries: 19

Stock clerks and order fillers receive merchandise, materials and equipment, stock it on shelves in warehouses, stock rooms or storage yards, and select the merchandise and materials to fill customers’ orders. Working in warehouses or storage facilities with a large number of different items can be dangerous, especially if workers are expected to meet quotas or speed guidelines for filling orders. The low pay makes this a dangerous job that’s not worth the money.

13. Security Guards

Mean annual wage: $30,730

Total fatal injuries: 63

Security guards patrol and monitor commercial and industrial buildings and properties to prevent theft, trespassing or other crimes or rule violations. They often do not have the training or equipment that is provided to police officers, and the pay doesn’t justify the personal danger they might find themselves in.

 

12. Cleaners of Vehicles and Equipment

Mean annual wage: $25,770

Total fatal injuries: 19

These workers use cleaning agents and equipment to clean vehicles, machinery and other equipment. They might use chemicals that have the potential to be hazardous, and they might work with dangerous heavy equipment. These considerations, in addition to the low wage, make this a dangerous job that’s not worth the pay.

11. Retail Salespersons

Mean annual wage: $27,460

Total fatal injuries: 43

Being a retail salesperson might not seem like a dangerous job, but depending on the business, a retail salesperson might be the only one in the store, making them a prime target for a robbery. There are also risks associated with stocking merchandise, which retail salespeople often have to do. Combine this with the low wages and you have a job in which the pay doesn’t outweigh the danger.

10. Driver/Sales Workers

Mean annual wage: $29,090

Total fatal injuries: 60

These workers drive within a territory to sell or deliver items, like food products, or pick and deliver items such as commercial laundry. They might stock merchandise, take orders and collect payments from customers. Since they are on the road all day, their accident risk is high and collecting payments might make them a crime risk as well.

9. Janitors and Cleaners, Except Maids and Housekeeping Cleaners

Mean annual wage: $27,900

Total fatal injuries: 52

Janitors and cleaners clean floors, shampoo rugs, wash glass and walls and remove rubbish. Some might also clean equipment or outdoor areas like sidewalks and parking lots. Working with chemicals and moving furniture and equipment make this a risky job, and the low pay means it might not be worthwhile.

8. Farmworkers, Farm, Ranch and Aquacultural Animals

Mean annual wage: $27,840

Total fatal injuries: 52

These workers tend to cattle, sheep, goats, horses, poultry, fish and bees. They feed, water and herd the animals. They also perform other duties like branding, loading animals for transportation and castration. Working with animals is unpredictable and can be dangerous, and the low pay associated with this job means it’s not worth it.

7. Taxi Drivers and Chauffeurs

Mean annual wage: $27,480

Total fatal injuries: 62

Driving all day is dangerous enough, with the increased risk of having a motor vehicle accident. When you add in the fact that taxi drivers and chauffeurs carry passengers, who present their own set of risks, as well as the low pay, you get a job in which the danger outweighs the money you could make.

 

6. Landscaping and Groundskeeping Workers

Mean annual wage: $29,700

Total fatal injuries: 109

Landscapers and groundskeepers use power or hand tools and equipment to mow lawns, trim hedges and bushes, plant seed or bulbs, lay sod, fertilize lawns, and install sprinkler systems and concrete walks or borders. Often the equipment used is dangerous and training is primarily on the job, so the risk of injury is high. The low pay doesn’t offset the potential danger.

 

5. Laborers and Freight, Stock and Material Movers, Hand

Mean annual wage: $29,690

Total fatal injuries: 106

Moving stock or freight by hand is dangerous work, as items can fall off shelves or workers can trip and fall. If workers are required to meet a productivity quota, the danger can increase if they rush to move everything they are supposed to during their shift. The low average wage for this job means it’s not worth the money.

 

4. Cashiers

Mean annual wage: $22,130

Total fatal injuries: 42

This is another job that might not seem to be inherently risky, but it includes a convenience store and other cashiers who can be prime targets for a robbery. In fact, nearly any cashier is at risk for robbery since they are handling money. This job offers very low pay, so it’s not worth the risk.

 

3. Farmworkers and Laborers, Crop, Nursery and Greenhouse

Mean annual wage: $25,070

Total fatal injuries: 85

These workers plant, cultivate and harvest vegetables, fruits, nuts and other crops, and in doing so, use hand tools like trowels, pruning hooks and knives. They work with chemical fertilizers and other hazardous products, and the work is physically demanding as they manually pick and load crops. Low wages make this a dangerous job that’s not worth the pay.

 

2. Construction Laborers

Mean annual wage: $38,890

Total fatal injuries: 259

Construction laborers use hand and power tools to prepare sites, put up scaffolding, clean up debris and assist carpenters and other skilled workers. Construction sites are risky places, and these workers perform a variety of tasks that can be dangerous. The pay is slightly higher than some of the other jobs mentioned, but the risk means it’s not worth the money.

1. Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers

Mean annual wage: $44,500

Total fatal injuries: 840

Tractor-trailer truck drivers face a very high risk of accidents. Driving those big rigs all day long, often on little sleep, makes this the most dangerous job on the list. Despite the fact that the pay is relatively good, the risk is so great that this is the No. 1 job that’s not worth the money.

20 Dangerous Jobs That Could Be Worth the Pay

Some dangerous jobs pay enough that it might be worth taking the risk, and workers are willing to put up with the danger in exchange for a hefty paycheck. Here are 20 dangerous jobs that might make up for it on payday.

 

20. Bus and Truck Mechanics and Diesel Engine Specialists

Mean annual wage: $48,000

Total fatal injuries: 29

These workers diagnose, repair and maintain diesel engines, be it for trucks, automobiles or boats. The danger in this job comes from working with flammable diesel fuel and heavy equipment.

The diesel engine specialists who work in Alaska make the most money, with an annual mean wage of $65,410.

19. First-Line Supervisors of Landscaping, Lawn Service and Groundskeeping Workers

Mean annual wage: $50,020

Total fatal injuries: 53

The supervisors of those who provide landscaping and groundskeeping services earn enough money to make this dangerous job worthwhile. They make more money and take less risk than the workers they supervise since some of their time is spent on marketing and administrative duties like providing estimates and answering customer inquiries.

If you want to make the big money as a landscape supervisor, head to Alaska where the annual mean wage is $66,780. The metropolitan area that has the most landscape supervisors is Naples, Fla.

18. Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers

Mean annual wage: $49,530

Total fatal injuries: 24

These workers install or repair the systems that provide heating, ventilating, air conditioning and refrigeration. They might install oil burners, hot-air furnaces and heating stoves. Working with electrical and heating equipment, often within confined spaces, makes this a dangerous job, but the salary might make it worth it.

Workers in this job make the most if they work in Washington, D.C., where the annual mean wage is $67,920. Florida employs the most heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers.

17. Operating Engineers and Other Construction Equipment Operators

Mean annual wage: $51,890

Total fatal injuries: 45

These operators of heavy equipment, such as bulldozers, graders, derricks, shovels, tractors and front-end loaders face their fair share of danger, but their wages make it worthwhile. Many work for state and local governments doing road construction and repair, while others work for utility or mining companies.

Texas employs more construction equipment operators than any other state. If you’re looking for the highest wages, though, head to New York, where the annual mean wage is $77,580.

16. Postal Service Mail Carriers

Mean annual wage: $50,020

Total fatal injuries: 17

The fact that postal service mail carriers spend their day traveling either in a vehicle or on foot likely contributes to the danger of this job. Mail must be delivered in all kinds of conditions and across nearly every kind of terrain.

Mail carriers in Hawaii earn more than they do in any other state, with an annual mean wage of $52,100. California is right behind at $51,420.

15. Firefighters

Mean annual wage: $51,930

Total fatal injuries: 34

Firefighting is often what people think of first when the subject of dangerous jobs comes up. Excellent training and protective equipment, combined with a fairly high salary, make this one of the dangerous jobs that might be worth the money.

Most firefighters work for local, state or federal government, but some industries, such as air transportation, petroleum and coal manufacturing, and scientific research and development, also employ firefighters.

 

 

14. Electricians

Mean annual wage: $57,910

Total fatal injuries: 74

Electricians install, maintain and repair electrical wiring, equipment and fixtures, making this a dangerous job that requires training and experience to be performed safely. They might work in residential, commercial or industrial buildings, or outside installing or repairing streetlights or other exterior lighting.

Electricians in Hawaii make more than those in any other state, with a mean average wage of $77,990.

13. Plumbers, Pipefitters and Steamfitters

Mean annual wage: $57,070

Total fatal injuries: 39

These are the folks who assemble, install and repair pipes or pipe systems. They might also install heating and cooling equipment and mechanical control systems. Having to work in small spaces and use welding equipment contributes to the dangers of this job.

Most plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters are employed by building equipment contractors, but they might also work for utility construction companies and local governments. These workers get paid the most in Hawaii, where the average mean wage is $79,380.

12. First-Line Supervisors of Transportation and Material-Moving Machine and Vehicle Operators

Mean annual wage: $56,400

Total fatal injuries: 24

These workers supervise others who operate material-moving machines and equipment, such as machinery trucks and forklifts. They typically work in warehouses or storage facilities, or for courier or express delivery companies.

The executive branch of the federal government is the top-paying industry for first-line supervisors of transportation and material-moving machine and vehicle operators. These supervisors have an annual mean wage of $103,790.

11. Food Service Managers

Mean annual wage: $57,250

Total fatal injuries: 19

Food service managers provide supervision to workers at establishments where food and beverages are served. This category does not include chefs and head cooks.

New Jersey pays their food service managers the most, with an annual mean wage of $79,140. California employs the most food service managers of any state.

10. Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers

Mean annual wage: $64,490

Total fatal injuries: 95

Police and sheriff’s patrol officers are those responsible for maintaining law and order. A notoriously dangerous job, these officers are trained and well-protected against the risks they face.

There are police and sheriff’s officers at the local, county, state and federal level. Local governments are the largest employers, with a total of over 500,000 officers nationwide. The state with the highest annual mean wage for its police and sheriff’s patrol officers is California, at $100,090.

9. Farmers, Ranchers and Other Agricultural Managers

Mean annual wage: $80,320

Total fatal injuries: 258

These workers plan, direct and manage the operation of farms and ranches, as well as greenhouses, nurseries, timber tracts and aquacultural operations. They often hire, train and supervise workers who are responsible for planting, cultivating and harvesting crops, or for raising livestock. The managers often have responsibility for finance and marketing functions as well.

The most well-paid farm and ranch managers are in North Carolina, where the average mean wage is $93,780. California has the highest number of these workers.

8. First-Line Supervisors of Construction Trades and Extraction Workers

Mean annual wage: $69,200

Total fatal injuries: 121

These are the people who supervise the work of those in the construction trades, such as builders, masons, utility workers and roofers, as well as those in the extraction trades, such as excavators and oil and gas excavators.

Alaska pays the highest wages for these supervisors, with a mean annual wage of $99,690. The Houston metropolitan area has the largest number of these workers.

7. First-Line Supervisors of Production and Operating Workers

Mean annual wage: $62,660

Total fatal injuries: 31

These workers provide direct supervision and coordination of activities for precision workers, inspectors, assemblers, machine operators, fabricators and plant and system operators. Because they are supervisors, they are paid more and endure less risk than the operators themselves.

Utility companies pay the highest average wages for these supervisors. In the natural gas distribution industry, the mean annual wage is $100,510, and in the electric power generation, transmission and distribution industry, it’s $92,530.

6. First-Line Supervisors of Mechanics, Installers and Repairers

Mean annual wage: $68,120

Total fatal injuries: 35

These workers directly supervise mechanics and those who install or repair machinery or equipment. As supervisors, they would typically be paid more — and be exposed to less risk — than the employees they supervise.

The natural gas distribution and electric power generation, transmission and distribution industries provide the most salary opportunity for these workers. The annual mean wage in those industries is $94,420 and $91,290, respectively.

5. Electrical Power-Line Installers and Repairers

Mean annual wage: $68,710

Total fatal injuries: 26

There is inherent risk in any job in which you have to work with electricity, so those who repair and install electrical power lines are well paid. These folks might also put up poles and light or heavy duty transmission towers.

The electrical power-line installers and repairers who earn the most work in California, where the annual mean wage is $95,760. Texas has the largest number of these workers.

 

 

 

 

4. First-Line Supervisors of Non-Retail Sales Workers

Mean annual wage: $83,870

Total fatal injuries: 19

Those who supervise non-retail sales employees have a relatively low risk of incurring a fatal injury on the job, and have a high mean annual salary. People in this position often spend much of their time on paperwork, such as accounting and budgeting, or in human-resources related tasks.

To maximize your earnings in this job, go to work for a company in the oil and gas extraction industry. The mean annual wage for supervisors in that industry is $124,970.

3. Commercial Pilots

Mean annual wage: $89,350

Total fatal injuries: 50

Commercial pilots fly jets, prop planes and helicopters to transport people and cargo. This job category includes charter pilots, air tour pilots and air ambulance pilots. There is a risk of crashing when flying any aircraft, so these pilots are well compensated to take on that risk.

If you want to get a job as a commercial pilot, you might consider moving to Texas. That state has the greatest number of people working as pilots, and they get a higher-than-average salary at $105,590.

Related: Job Skills Worth Six-Figure Salaries

2. Athletes and Sports Competitors

Mean annual wage: $88,300

Total fatal injuries: 19

Those who compete in sporting events face a risk of serious injury due to the physical nature of their job and the intensity of competition at the professional level. The annual wage can differ significantly, as those who compete at a professional level can earn considerably more than the mean annual wage. This is a dangerous job at any level, but the salary potential can be huge.

If you want a better chance to make the big bucks as an athlete, head to Denver. The mean salary there for professional athletes and sports competitors is $194,410.

1. First-Line Supervisors of Police and Detectives

Mean annual wage: $91,590

Total fatal injuries: 18

These are the police officers who supervise and coordinate the activities of other officers. Any law enforcement position is a dangerous job, but the salary for a supervisory position might make it worthwhile.

New York state has the highest number of supervisors of police officers and detectives, but they are paid the most in California, where the annual mean wage is $143,450.

More on Jobs

Methodology: GOBankingRates compiled a list of occupations with the highest rate of fatalities, sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries for 2017 (latest data available). Occupations were based on the occupation level “Detailed.” Jobs were scored in terms of fatalities and mean annual wage, and then scored and ranked based on that data.

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Best and Worst Dangerous Jobs in America