Firefighter one of nation’s safest jobs

by Steven Greenhut | January 23, 2013 4:26 pm

The nation’s astoundingly well-paid public firefighters insist that they receive their high salaries and pensions (averaging around $175,000 a year in total compensation in California, with age-50 retirements and schedules that allow them to sleep on the job and work only a few days every two weeks) because of the terrible dangers they face on the job. They do face occasional and serious┬ádangers, but according to a new National Public Radio report[1], such dangers are well below those faced by most of America’s workers.

The average death rate in 2011 was 3.5 per 100,000 workers for the average American worker. Fishermen had the most dangerous jobs with 121 deaths per 100,000, followed by loggers and pilots. Firefighters die at a rate of 2.5 per 100,000 workers, which is slightly above the rate for cashiers (1.6). Yet not many cashiers — or loggers or fishermen or taxi drivers, for that matter — receive “3 percent at 50” retirement plans courtesy of taxpayers. Police officers died at the rate of 18.6 per 100,000, which is significantly below farmers and just above construction workers, although well above the national average. About half of the police deaths are because of car accidents.

By the way, the government considers it an “on the job” death when a firefighter or cop dies from heart attacks, cancer and other common ailments. These are referred to as presumptions. It’s a presumptuous standard, but one that unlocks myriad benefits for surviving family members.

Police and fire also argue for their millionaires’ pension — one would need several million dollars in the bank to receive a lifelong six-figure payout for employee and spouse — based on the idea that they die shortly after retirement. Union officials repeat that falsehood, but even the union-friendly California Public Employees’ Retirement System released a presentation showing that the longest-living category of public employee is a cop followed by a firefighter. They tend to live well into their ’80s which, if you think about it, is why there are those huge unfunded pension liabilities.

All jobs have their dangers and stresses and I don’t wish to minimize those faced by public safety officials, but their unions promote an outsized sense of danger for disturbingly political reasons, just as their unions exploited the 9/11 tragedies for cheap political gain. I wish everyone a long and healthy life, but it would be nice if public-safety unions stopped overplaying the dangers they face in order to hit up the public for more cash. It’s time to stick to the facts.

  1. new National Public Radio report:

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