If pop culture served as our guide to America's most dangerous jobs, then police, firemen and fishermen would probably claim top honors. And that wouldn't be entirely off — all those occupations are in fact among the top 20 deadliest in the country. But you may be surprised to see where they rank relative to other professions.
The fishing industry is certainly dangerous — it has the second highest fatality rate nationally — but logging has a significantly higher rate of deaths on the job. In third place are aircraft pilots and engineers.
Garbage collectors, roofers and agricultural workers are all among the top 10 deadliest gigs in the country. Taxi drivers and chauffeurs are 12th in the nation.
Police officers rank 15th, and firefighters come in at 18th.
How is it possible that the fatality rate for garbage collectors is more than triple the rate for police officers? Sanitation work is actually quite dangerous — bags of refuse are often filled with sharp and heavy objects that workers have little ability to protect themselves from, should the bags open up unexpectedly.
Policing, however, has grown dramatically safer for the past two decades as violent crime has plummeted, and assaults against officers have decreased. In 2013, the percentage of active-duty police killed in homicides was about the lowest it's been in a century. Which is all to say that while police officers encounter extremely high-risk scenarios far more than most other professions, the chance of these risks resulting in negative outcomes is small, mainly due to shifts in the criminal landscape and risk management practices.
That's probably how to look at fatality rates in other professions as well. A number of jobs have inherent risks, but safety is also a function of how a profession and its technologies and practices have adapted to those risks.
h/t Washington Post