When you think of dangerous jobs, what are the first ones that come to mind? Firefighter? Construction worker? Commercial fisherman? These are all risky occupations, but there are others that you might not know about. Here, we’ve compiled a list of the deadliest jobs in the United States, plus several that didn’t make the cut but deserve to be discussed.
What’s the one thing these jobs have in common, other than their risk? They are crucial. We rely on these workers every single day, whether we know it or not.
Top 10 Deadliest Jobs in the U.S.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracks occupational injuries and fatalities across the country and has assigned a fatality rate to each occupation that has enough workers to measure effectively. Nationwide, the fatality rate has remained fairly constant over the past decade, at about 3.5 fatalities per 100,000 workers. As of 2020, the rate was 3.4.
According to BLS statistics from 2020, the most recent year for which this data is available, the 10 deadliest jobs in the U.S. by fatality rate are:
- Fishing and hunting workers (132.1 fatality rate)
- Logging workers (91.7 fatality rate)
- Roofers (47 fatality rate)
- Construction trade helpers (43.3 fatality rate)
- Aircraft pilots and flight engineers (34.3 fatality rate)
- Refuse/recyclable material collectors (33.1 fatality rate)
- Structural iron and steel workers (32.5 fatality rate)
- Truck drivers and driver/sales workers (25.8 fatality rate)
- Underground mining machine operators (21.6 fatality rate)
- Nonmetallic mineral mining and quarrying (21.4 fatality rate)
Workers in fishing and hunting are at the highest risk, with a fatality rate that’s nearly 39 times the national average. Loggers come in second, followed by roofers and construction workers. The workers in each of these top 10 categories are in highly physical roles or are responsible for operating or working around heavy machinery, including aircraft and commercial vehicles. The risk of injury is significant when compared with workers who spend most of their time indoors, at a desk, or at a computer.
6 Risky Jobs You Should Know About
What about risky jobs that you might not even know about or consider? There are a couple on the list above that would not make most people’s top 10 or even top 20, and there are a few others we’ll cover.
Coming in as the sixth most dangerous job in the U.S., garbage collection may not be at the top of your mind when you think of potentially deadly occupations. However, refuse and recyclable material collectors face serious job-related hazards. They drive around, emptying bins and dumpsters into their trucks by hand or using mechanical lifters, and transport waste or recyclables to sorting facilities or landfills. They are at risk of injury on the road and while loading/unloading waste. The leading cause of death for sanitation workers is being struck by a garbage truck or other motor vehicle.
Welding is a dangerous occupation in and of itself, working with extreme heat, dangerous tools, toxic fumes, and blindingly bright light. Underwater welding takes it to another, more dangerous, level. Working on pipelines, ships, oil rigs, and dams, these workers are not only at risk of injuries that any welder faces, but they work in an environment where they face the additional risk of drowning or being stuck underwater.
Underwater welding is essential to offshore drilling operations and the maritime industry as a whole. Because underwater welders work offshore, sometimes in international waters, their injuries and deaths are more difficult to track. The fatality rate for underwater welders is estimated at a shocking 15%, significantly higher than the BLS’s reported fatality rate for workers in fishing and hunting.
With a fatality rate of 18.6 deaths per 100,000 workers, power linemen face a combination of hazards: heights, extreme weather, and high-voltage power lines. They also deal with a considerable amount of pressure to get their jobs done quickly, yet a single mistake or act of carelessness could have deadly consequences.
The employees at America’s plants and refineries, factories, and warehouses keep our country running. They are responsible for producing and distributing products we use every day, from the cars we drive to the gas that keeps our homes warm. They are also at risk of suffering on-the-job injuries from toxic exposure, heavy machinery accidents, overexertion, repetitive motion, and disasters like fires or explosions. When industrial accidents happen, they have the potential to endanger the lives of every worker at a plant or refinery, plus the people who live and work nearby.
Maritime work is one of the most dangerous occupations, and yet offshore injuries and fatalities are grossly underreported by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), which was established after the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. The BSEE does not count fatalities in state waters or those that occur in transport to or from oil rigs, fixed platforms, or other offshore facilities. As such, it’s difficult to assign a fatality rate to this industry. However, offshore workers spend long hours performing complicated and physically demanding tasks in tough conditions. At sea, they are far from medical facilities that could provide the lifesaving care they need if they’re seriously injured. They are at risk of suffering harm in falls overboard, fires, blowouts, rig explosions, and other catastrophic events.
Coming in as the eighth most dangerous occupation according to BLS fatality rates, truck drivers are at risk of experiencing serious injuries in traffic accidents and also while loading or unloading cargo. The fatality rate for truckers and driver/sales workers in 2020 was 25.8 per 100,000 workers. Truck drivers may spend the majority of their time behind the wheel, and they may be in the biggest and heaviest vehicles on the road, but they are also at risk of suffering catastrophic on-the-job injuries.
No Matter Their Occupation, Every Person Deserves a Safe Workplace
The people in all of the occupations we talked about in this article perform invaluable tasks that support the economy and our way of life. They may have “dangerous jobs,” but this does not excuse the incidents that may claim their lives. Employers in all industries are obligated to provide workers with the tools, training, and equipment they need to do their jobs safely. They must observe state and federal regulations to provide the safest work environment possible, even if their employees are linemen, offshore workers, or truckers.
At Arnold & Itkin, we believe America’s hardest working people deserve better, and that means safer workplaces and more measures taken by their employers to protect their well-being. When companies cut corners to boost profits, ignore safety regulations in the name of productivity, or make any decision that degrades worker safety, our work injury attorneys are ready to hold them accountable. No matter what.