Do police and firefighters (who, oddly enough, have almost the same chance of dying on the job) really have higher workplace fatality rates than other occupations?
Check out the 2006 fatality statistics published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor. The national average mortality rate on the job for all occupations is 4 deaths per 100,000 workers. Police and firefighter deaths on the job are a bit over 4 times that average. Clearly their jobs are more hazardous than what most working people have to face.
But let's compare that public safety mortality rate with some other blue collar, mostly male jobs. The figures below are the number of on-the-job deaths annually per 100,000 workers, by occupation (and note the average for men vs. women):
- Policemen: 16.8
- Firefighters: 16.6
- Men: 6.9
- Women: 0.7
- Farmers and Ranchers: 37.2
- Grounds Maintenance Workers: 13.5
- Fishers and related Fishing Workers: 147.2
- Construction Laborers: 21.4
- Roofers: 33.5
- Structural Iron and Steel Workers: 61
- Operating Engineers and other Equipment Operators: 18.2
- Aircraft Pilots and Flight Engineers: 90.4
- Refuse and Recyclable Material Collectors: 40.7
- Logging: 87.4
- Mining: 28.1
- Taxi and limousine drivers: 22.1
- Truck Transportation: 27.2
You can read the entire document by clicking here.
Or here: http://orangejuiceblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/cfoi_rates_2006.pdf
As you can see, a number of occupations entail as great or greater risk. Indeed, a grounds maintenance worker faces almost as much mortality risk as our police and firefighters. Construction laborers face a 28% higher risk. Truck drivers are 63% more likely to die on the job. Roofers face twice the mortality risk of our public safety workers. And then there are some REALLY dangerous occupations to consider.
A common lament is that "police and firefighters' wives -- when they send their husbands off to work -- don't know whether or not they will return that evening." [Somehow it's unmanly to reverse the genders.] True enough.
But the fact is that there are millions of workers who go off to work each morning with less of a chance of returning home than the odds facing a police officer or firefighter.
One reason few people are aware of this fact is that when a public safety employee dies on the job, there is a huge amount of publicity. You seldom have a private funeral for a cop or firefighter -- it's an "all hands on deck" evolution.
Meanwhile every day people die on the job in these other riskier occupations, and such tragedies seldom get even a mention in the papers, let alone on TV.
Every occupational death is a tragedy, and no one should downplay that fact. But the idea that police and firefighters face incredible dangers is simply not true. Public safety jobs entail risk, but not THAT much risk.
In a separate blog item I will deal with the public safety RETIREE morality rate. For now, suffice it to say that there is little difference compared to the general population -- labor union propaganda notwithstanding.