When Your Spouse's Line of Work Is Life-Threatening

As a supervisor at a metal foundry, my husband is in harm’s way every day. It’s an exhausting way to live.

First thing every morning when I wake up, I check my phone for a text message from my husband. Usually I get “Love you honey! Have a great day,” or something similar. But this morning, it was much more sinister.

“Hi, I have a bad feeling today. It doesn’t help we are pouring something extremely dangerous. So just wanted to say I love y’all so much.”

I tried to focus my eyes to fully digest what I was reading. I realized he had not sent it when he got to work as he usually does, but an hour later. My husband doesn’t carry his phone with him at work, which means he’d taken a quick break from whatever he was doing to send me that text.

I felt sick to my stomach.

This has been my life for more than three years now: constantly worrying about my husband when he’s at work, praying that he comes home safe, and breathing a sigh of relief when he walks through our door. He’s a supervisor at a metal foundry where he pours thousands of pounds of hot metal daily, the temperatures at an unbearable level.

Almost every day, he comes home with an explanation for a new injury, or a story of how he barely escaped a catastrophe. He often arrives with horrible burns on his arms or cuts and scrapes from a tricky mold they were pouring that day. My husband has more scars from his few years working at the foundry than I do from my entire life.

I hate his job.

Such is the life of any wife married to a husband who works in dangerous conditions. I try to convince myself that he’ll be fine, but I always worry anyway. I say quick prayers throughout my day for God to keep him safe.

In an article published last year, Time Magazine rated my husband’s job as seventh most dangerous in 2014. The fatal injuries per 100,000 people ranked higher than electrical power-line installers and repairers, electricians, construction workers, and even police officers. Understanding what my husband experiences every day, this doesn’t surprise me in the least.

Today, at lunch, my husband texted to let me know that one of his coworkers is on his way to urgent care for a sliced leg. Another coworker is in the hospital with a staph infection contracted after surgery from a work injury. My husband has gone to urgent care twice for pieces of metal in his eye. Two days ago, he asked me to bring him a new pair of pants because a sharp piece of metal had cut his open at the crotch. Luckily, it barely nicked his skin.

My husband’s lungs are damaged from metal inhalation; the masks they wear do not keep out the tiny particles. Some days he coughs black mucus for hours. He follows the safety requirements, but they’re not enough to prevent these incremental injuries.

Why does he stay? Why does he keep risking his life every day? Because he has a family to support. He’s applied to hundreds of jobs in various fields, as have I. We’re trying to find something that pays a livable wage. I am more than willing to give up being a stay-at-home mom – something that is extremely important to me – if I could only find a job to replace my husband’s dangerous occupation.

Unfortunately, in our area, if you aren’t in the medical or tech industries, jobs are typically low paying. There are plenty of them, but the average hourly rate caps off at 10 to 12 dollars per hour. That’s not enough to sustain our family of five. We’d have more success in other parts of the country, but we’re tethered to this area because we co-parent with our eldest daughter’s mom. 

Another problem we face: neither my husband nor I have college degrees. While that has not kept either of us from lucrative careers in the past, companies now prioritize education over experience. The majority of applications are now online, so there’s no honest way around checking “no” in the education box, which disqualifies us from many jobs. Job postings commonly state they will not look at applications that don’t meet the education requirements.

Every day after work, my husband searches the new postings on multiple job sites. When I have time between writing, starting a new business, and raising my kids, I also search the listings for a position that either one of us would be able to fill. We will find a way to get him out of there.

Hopefully soon, my husband will land a position that does not put his life at risk on a daily basis. Until then, I’ll wait for that precious moment every day when my husband makes it home okay.