America's most dangerous job: Civil servant?

Wednesday - 10/10/2012, 2:00am EDT

When you think of the "most dangerous" jobs in America, Bering Sea commercial fishman or lumberjack come to mind. So do construction work, farming, mining and police officers and firefighters. Many studies say that the most dangerous of them all is being a taxi driver. If another driver doesn't get you, some passenger will.

A friend, a retired D.C. police officer, said he was most at risk while driving. And he was in a car six, seven, sometimes more hours each day. Those were the bad times, he said.

He said he never drew, much less fired, his weapon except to practice and qualify. He said being in a car, in an urban area, killed and maimed more cops than all the drunks, domestic disputes, bank robberies and gang bangers they faced.

None of the "most dangerous" lists have federal occupations on them. Maybe they should take a look.

Working for the government can be hazardous to your health. We learned that lesson, again, with the recent high-profile killings of the ambassador and other State Department workers in Libya.

A few years ago, a "disgruntled" taxpayer crashed an airplane into an IRS office in Texas. One employee, who ironically had a reputation for helping troubled taxpayers, was killed.

Capitol Hill police officers and uniformed Secret Service personnel (one of whom was a friend of my mother's) have been wounded or died in the line of duty protecting members of the House of Representatives' leadership and President Harry Truman.

Some years ago, the U.S. Postal Service had a higher rate of disability retirements than the U.S. Marine Corps. Dog-bites-mailman jokes have been around forever. But when it's your arm or leg, it's not so funny. Postal workers also spend a lot of time on the road, and some of their encounters with irate patrons are downright dangerous. Social Security workers also take their lumps, which is why so many offices now have guards.

Many of the office-related attacks or problems are (like in most cases) either employee-on-employee or occur when a disgruntled spouse or significant other comes to the office looking for trouble.

An official with the Merit Systems Protection Board was terrorized — at her home — some years ago by a disgruntled fed.

And it turns out that the Department of Veterans Affairs may be the most dangerous place of all. A Federal Times investigation showed that VA leads all agencies in workplace violence, with nearly one in four employees saying they witnessed an act of workplace violence in the last two years.

So who have we missed? How dangerous (or safe) is your job? Let us know. Because people who don't work for the government should know it's not all coffee breaks and paper shuffling.

Today at 10 a.m., on our Your Turn radio show, we will be talking about workplace violence with the people who gathered the statistics and know the cases. We will also examine the jump in retirement applications and what it may mean to you on the job and when you get in line to apply for retirement.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Jack Moore

Ladybugs are able to walk underwater, according to Life's Little Mysteries. Tiny air bubbles get trapped to the adhesive bristles on their feet allowing them to remain upright.


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