From rockslide control and wildfire mitigation to livestock handling and aerial tram maintenance, Colorado’s labor market has more than its share of occupational hazards. We talked to eight people whose careers might make you love your nine-to-five desk job just a little bit more.
Farming + Ranching
Name Brad Rock
Title Owner, Box Elder Ranch; vice president, Yuma County Farm Bureau
On the job 28 years
Typical farming salary $60,000 per year (median)
“My wife got run over by an animal a year ago.” It’s not an incident most would associate with the family business, but for rancher Brad Rock, it was just another day on the job—except it ended in the hospital. Rock and his wife had been sorting heifers and steers at their eastern Colorado ranch when one became agitated and charged. “Normally if you put your hand up or holler, they’ll stop,” Rock says. “This one was upset and didn’t; it ran into the gate and knocked her into the fence. It knocked her out.”
Every year, an average of 22 Coloradans are killed in agriculture-related accidents, and more than 1,600 injuries occur on Colorado farms—50 of which result in permanent disabilities. This isn’t hard to imagine if you take a peek at Rock’s feed machines and trucks, which are outfitted with large augers (drilling devices) and chains. “If you’re not paying attention and stick your hand in the wrong spot at the wrong time,” he says, “you could have an arm or a foot severed.” Which is even more difficult to deal with when the nearest hospital is 40 miles away. It could take an ambulance up to an hour to arrive at an accident—and that’s after someone finds you.
Rock and his staff of seven run the third-generation farm and feedlot, which stretches out over 40 miles near the Kansas and Nebraska borders. Tasks begin at 5:30 a.m. with cattle feeding; an hour later, the crew starts working about 6,000 acres of corn, alfalfa, wheat, soybeans, sunflowers, millet, and hay. During harvest season, workdays can stretch to 16 hours. If bad weather rolls in, they toil until the work is done—exhaustion notwithstanding—to make sure the animals and crops are protected. “The biggest issues farmers have with death from heavy equipment operation are fatigue and the push against Mother Nature,” Rock says. “Everybody’s pushing so hard to beat the storm or salvage a crop. It can be trying to get all that done and not do something stupid.”