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Nation's 10 most dangerous jobs

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Mothers, don't let your babies grow up to be loggers. Not only is logging the most dangerous profession in America, accounting for 128 deaths per 100,000 individuals, loggers are paid poorly for taking such big risks, according to FinancesOnline, a web site that looked at Bureau of Labor Statistics data to find the nation's most dangerous professions and their average wages.

It's worth noting that the professions you'd expect to be dangerous -- police and firefighting -- don't make the top 10. Instead, the government reports that the most lethal activity is "transportation." Fatal work-related accidents involving cars, trucks, boats and planes accounted for a whopping 41 percent of the deaths in 2012 (the most recent year for which statistics are available). Of course, there are far more people engaged in professions that require time on the road, ranging from salesmen and truckers to taxi drivers, than there are people felling trees, so the per capita death rate by driving is smaller even though the total number of deaths is far greater.

The government data also indicates that it's far safer to be at work today than it was 10 years ago. In 1992, some 6,217 people died on the job, compared with just 4,383 in 2012. Aside from transportation-related deaths, the second most common cause of death at work is violence, accounting for 767 deaths in 2012. Getting hit, crushed or caught in machinery and other objects accounted for 712 deaths, while falls, slips and trips were the fourth leading cause of workplace fatalities, accounting for 668 deaths.

The nation's most fatal state is Texas, where there were 433 work-related deaths in 2012. With a total population of 26.1 million, the death rate in Texas is disproportionate to the state's size. California, the nation's most populous state with 38 million residents, ranks second in total number of work-related deaths, with 390 deaths in 2012, according to government data. That's up from 339 in 2011.

What are the nation's most deadly professions?

10. Construction laborers

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The construction industry accounts for the most workplace deaths, with 775 job-related fatalities in 2012. However, on a per capita basis, it was the safest of the 10 most deadly professions, accounting for just 9.5 deaths per 100,000 workers. However, subsets within this category are far more lethal. Construction laborers, who are working with power tools and in environments where they are likely to get struck with heavy materials, accounted for 210 deaths, which adds up to a per capita death rate of 17.4 per 100,000 employees. Average wage for construction laborers: $34,500.

9. Farmers, ranchers, agricultural managers

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It's probably not surprising that working with heavy farm machinery results in a disproportionate share of industrial accidents. Farmers and ranchers accounted for 216 work-related deaths in 2012, which adds up to 21.3 deaths per 100,000 workers. Wages in this industry are the second highest of all the nation's most dangerous jobs, however, with annual pay averaging $73,700, according to FinancesOnline. But it is worth noting that risks vary dramatically based on the type of farming that's done. You are far more likely to die on a cattle ranch (113 deaths in 2012) than a wheat farm (5 deaths). 

8. Drivers, including traveling sales people

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Given that the most common cause of work-related deaths are tied to transportation -- either being in a traffic accident or being struck by a vehicle -- it may be predictable that truckers, taxi drivers and traveling salesmen and women have the eighth highest per capita death rate, with 22.1 deaths per 100,000 workers. It's worth mentioning that this death rate is nearly seven times higher than the average fatal injury rate in all professions, which is just 3.2 deaths per 100,000 individuals. Is the pay worth the risk? Hardly. Drivers and sales workers have the lowest average wages of all the nation's most fatal professions, earning an average of $27,700 annually. 

7. Electrical power line installers and repair personnel

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The polar vortex that closed roads and many businesses throughout the Midwest, East Coast and Canada earlier this month, set one group into high gear -- the cadre of electric line repair and installation workers who were charged with returning power to tens of thousands of storm-ravaged utility customers. Working with live wires is dangerous enough. However, as crews in the sub-zero temperatures could attest, those repairing electric lines are often sent out during the worst weather conditions, when winter storms have felled power poles and ripped power lines away from their anchors. The chance of death in this profession is 23 in 100,000, making it the nation's seventh most deadly occupation. Average wages: $62,300.

6. Refuse and recyclable material collectors

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Picking up trash and recyclable materials accounts for 27.1 deaths per 100,000 workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. What makes this such a dangerous profession? A lot of driving, for one thing. But also exposure to hazardous materials and heavy equipment. Average pay: $35,200.

5. Structural iron and steel workers

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Casting burning metal and hanging off tall buildings while welding steel beams together helped make structural iron and steel working among the nation's most dangerous professions, accounting for 37 deaths for every 100,000 workers. Fatal injuries in construction trades rose in 2012 for the second year in a row. Average pay: $50,700.

4. Roofers

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The construction industry accounts for three of the most fatal professions in the country, but no construction job is quite as dangerous as being a roofer. Roofing accounts for 40.5 deaths per 100,000 workers. Not surprisingly, trips, slips and falls explain the vast majority of deaths. However, heat stroke also contributed to the fatalities in 2012. It's worth noting that while construction deaths rose in 2012, the profession is far safer than it was in 2006, when 41 percent more Americans died from work-related injuries in the construction industry than they did in 2012. Average pay for a roofer: $38,800 annually.

3. Aircraft pilots and flight engineers


Before you panic about getting on a plane, realize that the bulk of deaths among aircraft pilots and flight engineers occur in "non-scheduled" flights of both freight and passengers. Translation: Pilots are far more likely to die in a private plane than a commercial airliner. The profession accounts for the third-highest per capita death rate, with 53.4 deaths per 100,000 workers. However, it is also the highest paid of the nation's 10 most dangerous professions, with average annual pay of $128,800.

2. Fishing

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Far from the idyllic image of a fisherman sitting on a placid lake with a line in the water, commercial fishing is a treacherous occupation that requires going into deep and often stormy waters; throwing out nets and navigating heavy equipment while the deck beneath your feet bucks with every wave. "Transportation incidents" account for virtually all of the deaths. The fatality rate is 117 people per 100,000. The average pay: $36,900.

1. Logging

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Yet there is no job in the country that's quite as dangerous as logging on a per capita basis. Logging accounts for nearly 128 deaths for every 100,000 individuals working in the industry. The vast majority of deaths are the result of contact injuries -- falling trees and saws. Does the pay make up for the risk? You decide. Average annual wage: $34,600. 

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