Most Dangerous Jobs Introduction

About the most dangerous jobs, an introduction to the history and figures of people who die or are killed on the job.


The question is often asked: What is the most dangerous job in the world? A recent newspaper advertisement for "Knife-thrower's assistant (replacement)" is disconcerting, but excluding such death-defying heroics, it is likely that deep-sea diving from oil rigs is at present the world's most hazardous occupation. On the average, one out of every 100 divers dies each year. This is 33 times the death rate for coal miners.

In the U.S., 2 million people die annually. Heart disease accounts for almost 40% of these deaths, and cancer--the second leading cause--claims 300,000 lives. The gradual upswing in cancer rates has closely followed increasing industrialization during this century. Researchers in the United Kingdom estimate that 80% of cancers are caused by environmental factors and are potentially preventable.

In the U.S. every year, 14,000 people get up and go to work in the morning and are killed on the job. A further 2.2 million suffer disabling injuries. A more insidious and less quantifiable relationship lies between various occupations and disease patterns. Over recent years, public awareness has been alerted to asbestos-caused cancers, chronic chest diseases triggered by dusts and vapors, liver cancers which result from vinyl-chloride contact, and mental health problems common to a variety of occupations. But these "headline" conditions are really the tip of the iceberg. The Dept. of Health, Education, and Welfare estimates that there are 400,000 new cases of occupational disease every year in America. In the United Kingdom, a recent report showed that 1,400 people died during 1975 as a result of injury at work or from "prescribed" industrial disease. This figure is probably a considerable underestimate in that it excludes deaths from all work-related diseases which are not among the 50 or so conditions recognized for compensation purposes.

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