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The 11 Most Life-Threatening Jobs on the Planet




The following post was provided by one of our blog readers.  Thank you for the contribution to the WPA Blog, Liz Nutt.

Posted by Staff Writers of on March 5, 2012

The danger workers face on the job is not always compensated by higher pay.  Life-threatening jobs can be mind-numbingly simple, easily performed by unskilled workers or children, or as physically and mentally demanding as one can imagine.  Cable television shows like Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers give some sense of the dangers faced by workers in the sea fishing and truck driving industries respectively, while films like Workingman’s Death (2005) document examples of dangerous, and almost pointlessly unproductive manual labor.  Below are 11 life-threatening jobs ranging from the banal to the bizarre.

Street Sweeper (Rwanda)
The most humble of jobs can be the most dangerous. On the streets of Kigali province, in the country of Rwanda, women dressed in blue work from dawn to dusk sweeping the roads and highways. Drivers, going several miles per hour, zoom past, their cars missing the street-sweeping women by just inches. The women wear no reflective clothing, and there are no cautionary signs or pylons alerting drivers of the presence of these women on the road. In a country with 30% unemployment, street sweeping, which pays approximately $3 a day, is a sought-after job.

King Crab Fisherman (Alaska, United States)
More dramatic than street sweeping, crab fishing in the Bering Sea is one of the world’s most dangerous professions. The fishing takes place night and day in rough waters that constantly and violently rock the boats, sending high waves crashing over the decks. Fishermen can slip on the soaked deck, get hit by flying objects, or fall overboard into freezing water. In the 1990s, the Alaskan fishing industry experienced 400 deaths per 100,000 employees. That number has increased since.

Sulfur Miner (East Java, Indonesia)
Java’s sulfur miners gather chunks of yellow sulfur located next to a steaming, acidic volcano crater lake. The men hold their breaths and run into the clouds of hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide, gases that burn the eyes and throat, and grab as much sulfur as they can carry before returning to relative safety away from the lake. The miners gag, choke, and spit before repeating the process again and again. The sulfur they gather is used to bleach sugar, make matches, and vulcanize rubber. The miners are paid $10 to $15 a day, with some extra income coming from posing for photographs taken by curious tourists well away from the poisonous gas. Gloves and gas masks are unaffordable luxury items.

Police Officer (Kabul, Afghanistan)
As recently as December 2011, police officers and police stations in war-torn Kabul, Afghanistan, have been targeted by the Taliban soldiers and suicide bombers. CBS News reports that every day, five out of 10 Kabul police officers die on the job. Lack of training and high-tech tools, as well as government-level corruption and an economy based on the heroin trade, prevent Kabul’s police force from performing their job with any degree of safety or effectiveness.

E-Waste Recycler (Guiyu, China)
Old discarded electronics, including laptops, home entertainment systems, and smart phones, are exported to Guiyu’s electronic waste sites to be gathered and broken down, by hand, for scrap metal by thousands of low-paid workers and their children. The electronics release toxic metals and chemicals into the workers and the environment, poisoning families and their environment. The amount of e-waste on the planet is increasing at an alarming rate, mostly in developing countries, with illegal exporting and dumping contributing to the glut of toxic electronics.

Truck Driver (United States)
Driving a truck is one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that truck drivers are “more likely to die in a work-related accident than the average worker,” with highway accidents accounting for the majority of those deaths. Most accidents occur because of unsafe actions by drivers of passenger vehicles who, being unfamiliar with large vehicles, ignore the cautionary signage displayed on trucks.

Crocodile Wrestler (Nakhon Pathom Province, Thailand)
The Samphran Elephant Ground and Zoo has been a popular tourist destination since 1985, featuring choreographed performances by elephants, a garden of orchids, and a huge collection of specially bred crocodiles. At the zoo, tourists can enjoy watching crocodile wrestlers happily stick their heads inside the jaws of large crocodiles after first beating them with sticks and dragging them around by their tails. Tourists can also elect to say “no” to this display of animal cruelty and take their business to Thailand’s much more humanely run Elephant Nature Park.

Construction Laborer (United States)
How dangerous is construction work? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction boasts a work-related death rate of 18 people per 100,000. Construction companies, when they’re not taking advantage of undocumented workers or non-unionized workers, generally pay well. But the jobs often require workers to navigate dangerous environments, including underground, great heights, and busy highways. Hazardous materials, including heavy machinery, power tools, and explosives increase the hazardous risks of the job.

Sanitation Workers (United States)
In recent years, better training and improved safety equipment, including more visible outer clothing, have helped to make the still-dangerous job of sanitation workers a little bit safer. But many dangers will always be just part of the job. While collecting sanitation, workers can be struck and killed by passing automobiles, injured by improperly disposed-of hazardous waste, or crushed by the truck’s machinery. Garbage is often collected late at night or early in the morning. The resulting fatigue can impair a sanitation worker’s judgment and reaction time, creating the potential for accidents.

Coal Miner (Ukraine)
Ukrainian coal mining is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, with a work-related death rate 100 times higher than that of coal miners in the United States. In addition to unsafe, yet-to-be modernized mines, owned by billionaires who sell coal well below market rates and are unconcerned about worker safety, there are illegal pits employing freelance miners to dig for coal in near-empty mine shafts. “Our enthusiasm comes from our will to survive,” says one Ukrainian miner. “If you don’t work, you’ll freeze to death.”

Farmer (United States)
The farming industry is not immune to work-related injuries and deaths. Injuries sustained from charging livestock and tractor rollovers are common. There are instances of farmers falling into grain bins and suffocating as they’re smothered in the grain. And at contained feeding operations, gases, dust, and other irritants from decomposing manure have a toxic effect on the long-term health of farm workers. The dangers to workers in the farming industry are in the news recently, as the U.S. Labor Department moves to approve new rules for children working in agriculture. Fatalities for teenage farm workers are four times higher than those in non-farm industries, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.



Needlestick injury rates from 2001 to 2005 were well below pre-Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act rates, according to the study.


Source: February 18, 2012

A federal law enacted to protect health care workers from being stuck by needles has reduced the number of such injuries, decreasing the possibility for exposure to bloodborne diseases, according to research conducted by the University of Virginia School of Medicine.  The Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act (NSPA) requires employers to provide safety-engineered devices to employees who are at risk for exposure to bloodborne pathogens and to let frontline workers have a say in selecting these devices.

NSPA also mandated revisions to OSHA’s bloodborne pathogens standard, requiring employers to provide safer devices for at-risk employees, review exposure-control plans annually, and maintain logs of all injuries by sharp items. It also gave frontline workers a greater role in selecting appropriate safety devices.  To determine whether the NSPA has had an effect on the rate of needlestick injuries among hospital employees, researchers used a multihospital sharps-injury database maintained by the International Healthcare Worker Safety Center at the University of Virginia. Since 1993, a group of U.S. hospitals voluntarily contributed sharps-injury surveillance data.

Researchers selected the period from 1995 through 2005, which included 23,908 injuries that occurred in 85 hospitals in 10 states. They then calculated the annual rates of injuries per 100 full-time hospital employees, as reported by the American Hospital Association.

There was a trend toward increasing rates of injuries before the legislation was enacted, which was followed by a drop of about 38 percent in 2001 when the NSPA took effect. Subsequent injury rates through 2005 remained well below pre-NSPA rates, according to the study.  While the researchers noted that other factors might have contributed to the decrease, UVA’s Elayne Kornblatt Phillips, BSN, MPH, Ph.D., called the effect of the NSPA “very significant.”  “Health care workers are precious resources in this country and around the world,” Phillips said. “We keep reading in the news about the shortage of health care workers, especially nurses and physicians, and those are the two groups that are most often injured by sharp devices.”

The findings appear in a letter in the Feb. 16 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Phillips noted that the UVA findings underscore the importance of legislation that is well-crafted and well-enforced. “Even though there were OSHA regulations that intended to do the same thing, and devices on the market to do the same thing, we really didn’t see [the decrease] until the legislation was passed,” she said.

See entire article here.

New short videos from OSHA provide training to help inform workers on the proper use of respirators


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has posted a series of 17 videos to help workers learn about the proper use of respirators on the job.

These short videos, nine in English and eight in Spanish, provide valuable information to workers in general industry and construction.  Topics include OSHA’s Respiratory Standard, respirator use, training, fit-testing and detecting counterfeit respirators.  The videos are available with closed captioning for streaming or download from OSHA’s Web site.

OSHA’s Safety and Health topics page on Respiratory Protection also includes additional training materials, information about occupational respiratory hazards in different industries, and details of OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard (29 CFR 1910.134 and 29 CFR 1926.103).

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees.  OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.  For more information, visit


Posting of Injury and Illness Summary Required



By Neal O’Briant, Public Information Officer, NC DOL

Employers are reminded that they must post a summary of work-related injuries and illnesses that occurred in 2011. The N.C. Department of Labor requires the summary be posted from Feb. 1 through April 30.  Most employers must keep a Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (Form 300) that records work-related fatalities, injuries and illnesses.  The Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (Form 300A) is compiled from the data on the log.  Companies without any injuries and illnesses should post the summary with zeroes on the total lines. 

A company executive must certify that they have examined the OSHA 300 Log and that
they reasonably believe that the annual summary is correct and complete.
“This posting requirement is an important way employers keep their employees informed about safety and health conditions in the workplace,” said Wanda Lagoe, Bureau Chief of the Education, Training and Technical Assistance Bureau.

Companies that had 10 or fewer employees at all times during the previous calendar year are exempt from keeping injury and illness logs and posting summaries.  Certain businesses classified in a specific low-hazard retail, service, finance, insurance or real estate industry are also exempt from keeping injury and illness logs and posting summaries unless requested to do so for survey purposes.

For more information about recording criteria or for a list of exempt industries, contact the Education, Training and Technical Assistance Bureau at 1-800-625-2267 or locally at 919-807-2875.  Workplace Applications software can generate the OSHA 300, OSHA 300A or OSHA 301, or you can visit for more details.

If you are not located in NC, please check your own state for posting requirements.


OSHA publishes Injury and Illness Prevention Programs White Paper



OSHA has published a new Injury and Illness Prevention Programs White Paper on the agency’s Web site. An injury and illness prevention program is a proactive process to help employers find and fix workplace hazards before workers are hurt. These programs are effective at reducing injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. Many workplaces have already adopted such approaches, for example as part of OSHA’s cooperative programs. Not only do these employers experience dramatic decreases in workplace injuries, but they often report a transformed workplace culture that can lead to higher productivity and quality, reduced turnover, reduced costs, and greater employee satisfaction.

Thirty-four states and many nations around the world already require or encourage employers to implement such programs. The key elements common to all of these programs are management leadership, worker participation, hazard identification and assessment, hazard prevention and control, education and training, and program evaluation and improvement.

OSHA believes that adoption of injury and illness prevention programs based on simple, sound, proven principles will help millions of U.S. businesses improve their compliance with existing laws and regulations, decrease the incidence of workplace injuries and illnesses, reduce costs (including significant reductions in workers’ compensation premiums) and enhance their overall business operations. Read more on OSHA’s Injury and Illness Prevention Programs Web page.

OSHA has also initiated a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) Panel Process on a draft Injury and Illness Prevention Program rule on January 6, 2012. The SBREFA Panel process is an opportunity, prior to publishing a proposed rule, for affected small entities (including small businesses, small local governments and small not-for-profit entities) to provide input on the impacts of a draft proposed rule–as well as alternatives that OSHA is considering–on small business and to suggest ways such impacts might be decreased, consistent with agency statutory goals.

OSHA convened a SBREFA Panel, which consists of members from OSHA, the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, and the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (5 U.S.C. 609 (b)(3)). Visit the OSHA Web site for more information on the SBREFA process.



CAOHC and Pulmonary Function Technician First Quarter 2012 Schedules




See below for our course offerings for the first quarter of 2012 for Hearing Conservation and Pulmonary Function Technician Training:

CAOHC Occupational Hearing Conservation Certification

• January 4-6, 2012 (Toledo, OH)
• January 11-13, 2012 (Greensboro, NC)
• February 1-3, 2012 (Louisville, KY)
• February 7-9, 2012 (Greenville, SC)*
• March 5-7, 2012 (Indianapolis, IN)
• March 14-16, 2012 (Greensboro, NC)
• March 21-23, 2012 (Bloomington, IL)
• March 21-23, 2012 (Honolulu, HI)

CAOHC Occupational Hearing Conservation Recertification

• January 5, 2012 (Toledo, OH)
• January 12, 2012 (Greensboro, NC)
• February 2, 2012 (Louisville, KY)
• February 8, 2012 (Greenville, SC)**
• March 6, 2012 (Indianapolis, IN)
• March 15, 2012 (Greensboro, NC)
• March 22, 2012 (Bloomington, IL)
• March 22, 2012 (Honolulu, HI)

*Held at Greenville Technical College in Greenville, SC, taught by Workplace Integra, Inc. instructor.

NIOSH Spirometry Initial Training

National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety



• February 22-23, 2012 (Greensboro, NC)

NIOSH Spirometry Refresher Training

• February 22, 2012 (Greensboro, NC)

Complete 2012 Training Schedule







Hearing for the first time


In the spirit of the season, we present the story of Sarah Churman, a mother-of-two from Texas, was born profoundly deaf and had relied all her life on conventional hearing aids to make out basic sounds.

But she underwent pioneering surgery in September to have an Esteem hearing device implanted into her head.

Eight weeks after the nine-hour operation, the device was turned on.

In the video, which her husband filmed as the implant was switched on, Sarah hears herself laugh.  Overcome with emotion at hearing herself for the first time, she then bursts into tears.

The video speaks volumes. Click here to watch.

Follow Sarah’s blog:

And for another feel good video, click here to see an 8 month old baby hearing his mother’s voice for the first time.

Buy Quiet

National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety

Quieter tools and machines lead to decreased hearing loss among the workers who use them.  So why aren’t companies “buying quiet”? Read more about the challenges in this area and what NIOSH is doing to make it easier to “buy quiet”.  Join the discussion on the NIOSH Science Blog.