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The Country's Deadliest Jobs 

Wednesday, Jun 22 2011

Last week, San Francisco offered a final farewell to firefighters Vincent Perez and Anthony Valerio (except for Jeff Adachi, who was booted out). Gargantuan, citywide funerals for departed firefighters are, sadly, a long tradition. Much is asked of firefighters, and, unfortunately, much has been given.

There are easier ways to earn a living than by fighting fires; use of the word "fire" in your job title essentially guarantees dangerous and difficult work. You could hardly be blamed for venturing that firefighting is one of the nation's most lethal professions. But you'd be wrong. In fact, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more janitors die on the job than firefighters. A lot more.

In 2009, the United States suffered 4,551 fatal occupational injuries. Of these, 29 were firefighters. Forty-one were janitors. The deadliest profession by number of mortalities was "driver/sales workers and truck drivers" at 647 — "transportation incidents" claimed nearly 40 percent of all fallen workers, and drivers are at constant risk. Other professions counterintuitively outdying firefighters: grounds maintenance workers (154); carpenters (84); taxi drivers and chauffeurs (55); amusement, gambling, and recreation industries — excluding bowling (36); and bartenders (32).

Those hoping to avoid dying on the clock will still skip firefighting. Its fatal work injury rate per 100,000 workers is 4.4; the national average is just 3.5. Pescetarians, however, may have to rethink their worldview. Their fish-based diets are killing people — an astonishing 204 fishermen per 100,000 died in the most recent tally. "I'm not surprised," says Zeke Grader, the executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. Angling in the San Francisco Bay isn't the same thing as cheating death in the Bering Sea or off New England — which may be why no one has yet set a fishing-based reality show or movie here. But you needn't be too imaginative to figure out ways to perish by taking small boats into the heart of the sea.

The remaining list of most dangerous professions is a nightmare-inducing compilation of horrid ways to die: loggers, pilots, farmers, roofers, construction workers, and, of course, "industrial machinery installation" ("No, Frank! The red button!").

Professions with similar death rates to firefighting include property managers, mechanics, and workers in auto-parts stores. Chances of dying on the job aren't ludicrously high in any of these fields. Chances of a large public funeral, however, are rather low.

Read the source document online at

About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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