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Houston’s Most Dangerous Occupations
Workers in some of Houston's biggest industries face a heightened risk of on-the-job injuries, according to new federal data.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), on-the-job fatalities fell slightly last year to a total of 4,609, down from 4,690 workplace deaths in 2010. A recent CNN report on the nation’s most dangerous occupations touched on several industries that employ many people in and around Houston, Texas.

Fishermen

Although conditions have improved in the fishing industry over the past several years, professional fishermen still lost their lives at a rate of 121.2 per 100,000 workers in 2011, according to BLS data. In comparison, the average fatality rate for full-time workers in all industries was just 3.5 per 100,000 workers. The two main causes of commercial fishing fatalities are falls overboard and vessel disasters caused by flooding, instability or large waves.

Truckers

With 759 fatalities in 2011, commercial truck drivers suffered the highest death toll for any occupation, CNN reported. Last year’s figures represent a 6 percent increase in deaths since 2010. Driver fatigue is a contributing factor in many truck accidents, and new federal safety regulations have been implemented to limit the number of hours that truckers may spend on duty between breaks.

Aircraft Pilots

A total of 72 aircraft pilots and flight engineers died as a result of on-the-job injuries in 2011, bringing the industry’s fatality rate to 57 per 100,000 workers, according to preliminary data from the BLS. Plane and helicopter crashes can be triggered by a wide range of factors, including equipment malfunction, poor weather conditions, inadequate training and faulty maintenance.

Loggers

Nationwide, loggers were killed at a rate more than 21 times higher than the overall fatality rate in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many injuries and deaths occur when loggers are hit or crushed by falling logs, while others are caused by chainsaws and other dangerous equipment.

Sanitation Workers

A preliminary BLS report shows that 34 sanitation workers suffered fatal injuries last year. In a large metropolitan area like Houston, sanitation workers run the risk of being hit by cars and trucks while they work. In addition to the risk of traffic injuries, sanitation employees can be harmed by exposure to toxic substances, equipment malfunctions and failure to follow safety procedures.

Roofers

Falls are the leading cause of roofer fatalities, often resulting from an employer’s failure to take proper safety precautions such as installing guardrails or requiring workers to use safety harnesses. Other dangers that roofers frequently face include electrocution, exposure to hazardous materials and being struck by falling objects. Last year, roofers sustained fatal injuries at a rate of 31.8 per 100,000.

Legal Remedies for Injured Workers

While many jobs are inherently dangerous to some degree, workers face far greater risks when employers fail to establish and follow proper safety procedures. When Texas employees are injured as a result of a company’s failure to comply with adequate safety measures, they may be able to receive compensation through the legal system regardless of whether workers’ compensation benefits are available for their injuries. People who have been injured on the job in the Houston area should consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer to discuss their legal options and get advice for moving forward with an injury claim.

Keywords: workplace injuries
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