Top 10 Most Deadly and Dangerous Jobs in America 2000–2020
What Are the Most Dangerous Jobs in America?
Whether you're a daredevil looking to combine business with pleasure or merely trying to avoid getting killed on the clock, you will find this article, with its statistics and details about the top 10 most dangerous jobs, useful in your job search.
Occupational Fatalities Declined, But Remain a Problem In 2013
Occupational fatalities have declined slightly in the US over the last six years, from 5.3 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2007 to 3.8 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2013. Occupational fatality rates reached a 23 year low in 2013.
Occupational Fatalities Logged By the US Census For 2014
The largest numbers of fatalities at work in America for 2014 happened in the following jobs. The rate of fatalities among these jobs and related industry sectors were higher in 2014 than in 2013.
- Logging workers
- Fishermen and related jobs
- Aircraft pilots and flight engineers: As jobs in aircraft and aerospace increase through 2020, fatalities are likely to temporarily increase as well.
- Refuse (trash/garbage) and recyclables collectors.
- Farmers, ranchers, and other agriculture jobs.
- Iron and steel workers.
- Truck drivers and other commercial drivers.
- Electrical power line workers.
- First-line supervisors of construction trades and extraction workers
Highest Fatality Rates For 2014
The rates of fatalities for four occupational fields in 2014 are much higher than for other occupations. These are:
1) Agriculture, fishing, forestry, and hunting:
24.9 per 100,000 workers
2) Mining, quarrying, oil & gas extraction: 14.1 per 100,000
3) Transportation & warehousing: 13.5 per 100.000
4) Construction: 9.5 per 100,000
Commercial Fishing: Deadliest Job in America Until 2015
Despite technological advancements and safety training, equipment, and procedures, commercial fishing remains the deadliest job in America. This is based on figures of deaths per thousand employed and a major reason the television show Deadliest Catch has been such a successful series.
#1: Commercial Fishing
Commercial fishing has a deadly history. There were:
- 129 deaths and 61 injuries per 100,000 for 2008,
- 116 deaths per 100,000 in 2010;
- 121.2 per 100,000 full-time workers in 2011.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics,
- The fishing industry, which suffered extremely high occupational death rates in the 1990s, fell to number three on the Top 10 most dangerous jobs list in 2006, but rose to number one in 2007.
- Commercial fishing remained in the top position for 2008 and 2010. It is dangerous and increasing in danger. The deadliest catch is becoming deadlier to the catchers.
The US Department of Labor found that Commercial Fishing had become safer during 2013, with the result that this category of jobs dropped to Number Two on the "dangerous list" in America. The rate of death in this employment sector remained high, however at 75 deaths per 100,000 workers, significantly fewer than previously.— Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), December 2014
#2 through #10 Most Dangerous Jobs
Number of Deaths per 100,000 People Employed:
#2 Loggers and Logging-related job titles:
- Death rate: 102.4 /100,00 in 2011. Still in second place, but with fewer deaths.
- Loggers and Logging Workers rose to Number One in danger in BLS findings in December 2014. This classification experienced 91.3 deaths per 100,000 workers. This rate is lower than in 2011, but higher than in Commercial Fishing in 2013.
#3 Aircraft Pilots and Flight Engineers:
- Death rate: 57.0/100,000 in 2011. Up from #6 in 2008.
#4 Refuse & Recyclable Materials Collectors:
- Death rate: 41.2/100,000 in 2011. This was #7 in 2010, but became deadlier.
- Death rate: 32/100,000 in 2011. Was #6 in 2010, but became deadlier.
#6 Structural Iron and Steel Workers:
- Death rate: 26.9/100,000 in 2011. There's been a drastic jump in deadliness in this field, since it wasn't even in the Top 10 in 2010.
#7 Agriculture; Farmers and Ranchers:
- Death rate: 25.3/100,000 in 2011. Was #4 in 2010; becoming safer.
#8 Driver/Sales Workers and Truck Drivers:
- Death rate: 24/100,000 in 2011. Same rank as 2010, but higher in death rate.
#9 Electrical Power Line Installers and Repairers:
- Death rate: 20.3/100,000 in 2011. This category wasn't in the top 10 for the last several years, but workers in these occupations have been complaining that the work is deadlier than people think. The statistics are beginning to match the workers' opinions.
#10 Taxi Drivers and Chauffeurs:
- Death rate: 19.7/100,000 in 2011. Not in the Top 10 in 2010.
Why Isn't "Stuntman" Or "Stuntperson" on the List of the Most Dangerous Jobs?
An update on the Internet at the first of June 2012 reported that revisions to 2010 put stuntmen at #9 with 2.5 deaths per 1,000; but deaths are reported per 100,000 and the correct number is reported at BLS at 2.5 per 100,000, putting stuntmen way down the list of dangerous jobs.
Job Titles That Dropped Out of the Top 10 Deadliest in 2011
These jobs became safer, meaning they produced fewer deaths per 100,000 workers:
Mining Machine Operators:
- A death rate of 38.7 per 100,000 in 2010 put it higher in rank than its #8 ranking in 2008. It was #5 in 2010. See: The Millfield Mining Disaster.
Industrial Machinery Installation, Repair and Maintenance Workers:
- Death rate: 20.3 per 100,000 in 2010. It ranked #9 in 2010.
Police Officers and and Sheriffs:
- Death rate: 18.0 per 100,000 in 2010 and up from #12 in 2008. #10 in 2010.
Coal Mining Tribute Statue in Shawnee, Ohio
Background on Commercial Fishing Fatalities
The Alaskan fishing and shell-fishing industry experienced 400 deaths per 100,000 employees in the 1990s.
In 2002, US commercial fishing deaths dropped on average, but raised significantly in 2006, rose again in 2007, and increased yet again in 2008.
Fishing is a high-paying job for the months of active work, but it is dangerous and entails challenging working conditions.
A Cable TV show, Deadliest Catch on the Discovery Network, shows real crab fishers in the Bering Sea. They make a living working many hours a day, 7 days a week, often in the dark, without a break, for long stretches of time. They must make the catch within the window of opportunity or lose their income for the year.
New ship hands sometimes cannot take the pressure and the amount of hard work and long hours required. Reruns of Deadliest Catch may be available on broadcast network TV in your local area, and the website offers online video archive viewing.
Deadliest Catch–Mike Fourtner goes Postal
Sucked Into A Buzz Saw
Other Dangerous Jobs That Changed Positions
- The Timber Industry (including loggers, lumberjacks, and helpers) held the #1 spot for many years with 92.4 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2006, a decrease from 118 in 2002. In 2008, fatalities increased to 116 deaths per 100,000 workers and timber is #2 in the Top 10 Most Dangerous Jobs in the USA. One of my pain-management patients was a timber cutter that had been sucked into a buzz saw. He was cut diagonally through the upper body from shoulder to hip and survived, in great pain, living on disability income. Others are hurt and killed by falls, trees falling on them, vehicular accidents, and other ways.
- The occupation of Farmer or Rancher became more deadly and dangerous in 2008, raising it to #3 with 40 deaths/100,000 workers.
- Structural Iron and Steel Industry workers remain in the #4 slot, with a slight decrease to 46/100,000 deaths. (In 2007, it was 76 deaths per 100,000 employees.)
- Sanitation Workers or Garbage Collectors and Recyclers rose to the #5 most-dangerous-job spot with 37 deaths/100,000 workers. These occupations were not even in the Top 10 for 2002. Since then, there has been increased in numbers employed in these fields and so the danger has become more visible and statistically relevant.
- With the increasing number of businesses, dwellings, and vehicles in America, Drivers and Material Movers are at increased risk for traffic-related accidents and/or being in some way injured by their machinery.
- Aircraft work-related fatalities increased significantly in 2006, bringing Aircraft Pilots to the #2 spot in the Top 10 Most Dangerous Jobs that year (82.2 deaths per 100,000). This number decreased to 72/100,000 in 2008 when Aircraft Pilots dropped to the #6 spot.
Even though the Top 10 Most Dangerous Jobs in America are all high-risk, they are generally higher-paying jobs as well.
Some Dangerous Jobs Became More Dangerous In 2008
Roofers were in the #7 spot on the list for 2008 with 34 deaths and 3 injuries/100,000 workers. A roofer I know was injured not only from tripping and falling, but also by the dreaded second and third degree burns from hot asphalt that are an occupational hazard. He was burned over 25% of his body and was unable to work again.
Coal Miners and other ore miners rose to #8 in 2008 with 22 deaths/100,000. A number of high profile mining catastrophes have occurred in recent years to drive up the number of deaths and injuries. Coal miners may rise again in 2009 BLS figures and again in 2010 compilations.
Merchant Mariners, another seagoing job, rose in danger to the #9 position in 2008 with 23 deaths and 5 injuries/100,000 workers. The sea now holds two of the Top 10 Most Dangerous Jobs (according to 2008 figures).
Millers, grain handlers/grinders and flour-makers were in the Top 10 of 2008 with the #10 position, at 12 deaths/100,000. In Ohio in 2008, at least two missing persons were later found suffocated in their farm's grain silos, having fallen in. The milling machinery is dangerous as well.
Top 11 to 20 Most Dangerous Jobs in 2008-2011
#11 Power Line Installer (30 deaths per 100,000 employed.) Rose to #9 in 2011.
#12 Police Officer (16/100,000.) Rose to #10 in 2010 and fell off the Top 10 List in 2011.
#13 Firefighter (7/100,000.)
#14 Oil and Gas Crew (24 deaths+1 injury/100,000.)
#15 Cement Makers (13 deaths+3 injuries/100,000.)
#16 Taxi Drivers and Chauffeurs fell in the Top 20 Most Dangerous Jobs in 2007 to #16 at 21 deaths+1 injury/100,000, then rose to #10 in 2011. In this category, nearly 50% of all work-related incidences involve truck drivers, material movers, van deliveries, forklifts, trash collectors, recyclers, cabbies, movers, or chauffeurs. The 22 deaths and 0.4 injuries/100,000 in 2008 is a reduction from 2007.
#17 Constructor Equipment Operators (16/100,000.)
#18 Slaughterhouse (2 deaths and 0.4 injuries per 100,000.) Read Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser for an eye-opening account of the repeated injury and exploitation of one such worker.
#19 Security Guards (Increasing in danger with 8/100,000.) More dangerous statistically than police officers (see link below).
#20 "Miscellaneous Agriculture Jobs" was in #10 for 2007. Because of the nature of increasing migrant and undocumented labor, accurate figures were not available for 2008. It is difficult to know what this occupational designation actually includes; it may include migrant workers and undocumented workers as well new documented immigrants and general farm laborers and casual employees paid in cash for short-term work. Farming family members might be included in this total.
Top 10 Most Dangerous Jobs in America, 2002-2007
Case Studies In Dangerous Jobs
Mining certainly rose into the Top 10 Most Dangerous Jobs for 2008, as shown above. See this link for the story of the infamous Southern Ohio Millfield Coal Mining Disaster in Athens County that involved my great uncle and his work.
Wild animal handling in zoos, parks, and research around the world involves dangerous and unsafe conditions. For example, look at this job description for a wild animal handler/crocodile keeper at an Australian zoo:
Department: Crocodiles; Reports to: Head Keeper, Australia Zoo.
- Position Description: As a crocodile keeper, you will undertake a structural training program to gain the knowledge and experience to work with and around crocodilians. This traineeship is competency-based and generally take three to four years to complete. All Keepers have a responsibility for the care and well being of animals under your attendance. They must be understanding and sensitive to the needs of the animals under their care. Keepers are responsible for the animal exhibits, involved with their maintenance and landscaping and presenting at daily demonstrations. Duties within this position:
- Undertake cleaning and maintenance of animal enclosures.
- Assist with the planning, development and construction of animal enclosures.
- Attend meetings as requested by Supervisor.
- Conduct animal health checks.
- Prepare food and conduct feeding of animals in accordance with diet requirements feeding schedules and procedures.
- Maintain records of observations and reports on animal behaviour and breeding.
- Conduct environment and enclosure safety checks.
- Undertake hands on care of animals.
- Undertake animal enrichment programs.
- Conducting water testing.
- Maintaining water treatment equipment.
- Conducting systematic equipment checks.
- Dispensing pool chemicals.
- Undertake public speaking and/or delivering demonstrations.
- Work within the guidelines of health and safety procedures to ensure both animal and personal, and visitor security.
Another dangerous and deadly job is any position that may be included with military duty in conflict zones and war.
If you are concerned about danger on your job or at your workplace, see the US Federal Government guidelines for avoiding and alerting employers to Imminent Danger in the workplace and OSHA guidelines.
Voyage to the Bering Sea
What do you think?
Is a higher wage worth the risk of injury at the workplace?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
How deadly or dangerous is the job of the flagger in construction sites?
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics found that from 2003 through 2007, only 28 flaggers were killed on the job in America. No newer figures are available at this time.
© 2007 Patty Inglish MS