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Illinois-based roofer Kevin Coleman
Fatality rate: 34.7 per 100,000

Median wages: $33,970

Height increases danger -- and roofing is an occupation where elevation is part of the job description.

Kevin Coleman has been roofing safely for 24 years, since age 18. He works commercial buildings with mostly flat roofs, so the possibility of falling is lower. Although he has worked as high as a 70-story building in downtown Chicago.

One particular hazard is hot tar. The roofers work with big buckets of the stuff heated to as much as 525 degrees.

"I got hurt only once," says Coleman. "A guy's shirt with a lighter in the pocket fell into the tar and exploded. My face was covered." He escaped with only a few scars.

Safety has increased for roofers.

"When I started, it was `Get up on the roof and go,'" he says. "Now you take OSHA safety courses and there's more safety equipment, too."

Roofers can fall even off flat roofs with no wall height, so one innovation was to set up a line of flags, six feet from the roof's edge, like an outfield warning track.

There's also more protection, such as restraints and nets, to catch workers when they do fall. But the prime reason for a steady drop-off of injuries and fatalities is better training, according to Coleman.

NEXT: Ironworkers
Last updated August 20 2010: 9:38 AM ET
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