The 10 Most Dangerous Jobs in America

by Emily Holbrook on September 20, 2011 · 36 comments

The thought of death or injury on the job doesn’t usually cross the minds of many office-dwellers. We are the lucky ones. There are a slew of occupations that, without the help of any extraordinary circumstances, claim the lives of many workers each year.

Things have improved greatly over the past decades, however. In fact, since the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) began tracking fatal occupational injuries 19 years ago, 2009 was the safest year on record with 4,551 fatal work injuries. In good news, 2010 was similarly less deadly with 4,547 fatal work injuries. But the fatality rate of some occupations still remain alarmingly high. Below are the 10 most dangerous jobs in America according to the most recent (2010) figures from the BLS and the fatal work injury rate (per 100,000 workers).

  1. Fishermen (116.0) — In late June, two people died when a 20-foot fishing boat capsized near the top of Alaska’s panhandle. A third person was able to climb on top of the overturned skiff where he waited for rescue. As the BLS states, “this occupation is characterized by strenuous work, long hours, seasonal employment, and some of the most hazardous conditions in the workforce.”
  2. Logging workers (91.9) — This occupation repeatedly takes a spot in the top 10 as not only one of America’s, but the world’s, most dangerous jobs. In one recent example, 61-year-old John Hutt, a Colorado logger, cut off his toes after he became trapped under heavy logging equipment. He then drove himself to an area where there was enough cellphone reception to call an ambulance. In the logging industry, he is considered one of the lucky ones.
  3. Airplane pilots and flight engineers (70.6) — It may be hard to believe that working as a police officer is safer than flying a plane, but according to the BLS, this is true. The bureau states that there were 78 fatal work injuries for this industry in 2010.
  4. Farmers and ranchers (41.4) — In August, a 40-year-old Illinois farmer was crushed to death by his tractor after it fell into a hole on his farm, which he was filling with dirt. And just this month a woman was hit and run over by a skid loader on a farm in Wisconsin. She was pronounced dead on the scene.
  5. Mining machine operators (38.7) — The most infamous accident within this industry is undoubtedly the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion in April of 2010, which claimed the lives of 29 out of the 31 miners on site. The accident was the worst in the United States since 1970, when 38 minters were killed at Finley Coal Company’s mines in Kentucky.
  6. Roofers (32.4) — Just three weeks ago, four roofers in San Francisco were seriously injured when the roof of a six-story apartment complex collapsed under them. And in April, a 56-year-old worker was re-securing metal roof panels on a building at Horenberger Field at Illinois Wesleyan University when he fell from scaffolding. He died in the hospital eight days later and his employer, Union Roofing, was cited by OSHA for two safety violations.
  7. Sanitation workers (29.8) — A tragic accident occurred on Labor Day when a 17-year-old sanitation employee fell off of a moving garbage truck and was run over, killing him instantly.
  8. Truck drivers and delivery workers (21.8) — In March of last year, a commercial truck driver was using his cellphone to make a call when his truck crossed the median in central Kentucky, striking a van that was carrying 12 members of a family. 10 people in the van plus the truck driver were killed. Just this week, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, concluding its investigation of the crash, recommended banning the use of mobile phones by commercial drivers except in emergencies.
  9. Industrial machine workers (20.3) — The number of accidents in this field is staggering. In January 2010, a Florida man had his genitals severed off after an accident involving machinery at an Future Foam Carpet Cushion in Orlando. The company was was fined $42,500 by OSHA for 10 serious safety violations.
  10. Police officers (18.0) — In 2010, there was a nearly 40% increase in line-of-duty deaths among U.S. law enforcement. The most recent officer death involved Deputy Sheriff Derrick Whittle of the Union County, Georgia, Sheriff’s Office. He was killed in an automobile accident while responding to a call on September 18th. He is the 48th law enforcement officer to be killed in a traffic-related incident in 2011.

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Emily Holbrook is the executive managing editor for National Underwriter Life & Health and the former editor of the Risk Management Monitor and Risk Management magazine. You can read more of her writings at EmilyHolbrook.com.

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Zachary September 20, 2011 at 10:30 am

Please note that Risk Mangement leads the Top 10 list of “professions resulting in sleepless nights”, just ahead of bartending ironically enough….

Hans Læssøe September 20, 2011 at 10:32 am

Super survey – based on (rather) recent data. However, the, by far, most dangerous joib in the US is being President. Quite a significant share of these have been killed “on the job” – in some cases despite rather significant and highly obvious security measures.

I’m not an applicant (nor can I be, I am not american).

Jared Wade September 20, 2011 at 10:51 am

Ha. Goot point, Hans. Most difficult job also.

Charles September 20, 2011 at 11:32 am

Whether or not a job makes the “Top 10″ most dangerous, all jobs can become dangerous very quickly. It has been said we are the sum total of our decisions. Hopefully, we make safe decisions when faced with the “perfect storm” of circumstances, regardless of profession.

Emily Holbrook September 20, 2011 at 1:28 pm

You are right, Charles. And risk management can be used in all of these professions to create a safer working environment.

Lenjerie femei October 18, 2011 at 2:49 pm

This is the best web blog I have read.

Darrell Price November 4, 2011 at 5:11 pm

I am a truck driver, 8th most dangerous job according to your survey. Your article talks about an accident that was the truckers fault; however numberous studies have shown that 80% to 95% of car vs. semi accidents are the car driver’s fault. If people would give us a little more respect and if driver training would teach car drivers some of the difficutlties we face, accidents could be greatly reduced.

Robert McNabb January 8, 2012 at 6:22 pm

I’m a logger, I love how mention is made of “risk management” to make all jobs safer.
Evidently the person writing this never set foot on a logging job, fishing boat, or farm.
There is just a certain amount of risk that can’t be managed. It’s part of the job to know the risk.

tierney January 22, 2012 at 7:18 am

I love how for a reason of why truck driving is dangerous they put using a cell phone causing the death of a family. Yes some truck drivers do things they shouldn’t as do all drivers. Most accidents are caused by someone in a regular car. Truck driver accidents are nothing in comparison to that. I drive for a living and don’t do such a thing as play with my phone while driving. Banning the phone from a truck driver completely when that’s all they have to communicate with family and work is ridiculous when there are hands free headsets. Furthermore an example of what truely leads to fatalities is bad weather that we drive through to provide Americans with every need. Truckers never get any respect.

mickie heard February 2, 2012 at 10:11 pm

Tierny- Thank you I have many truck drivers in my family and use to be one myself. Cell phones dont cause wrecks its the idiots even truck drivers that dont do what they need to when they need to. Just like guns dont kill people people kill people. Bad weather is a severe cause of truck wrecks/fatalities, four wheelers who dont pay attention and like you said no respect for something that is bigger than they are. Hmmm Think it will ever change? For my family’s sake and all the truck drivers out there(real truck drivers) I hope it does.

Paul March 20, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Who dies fishing???

Jerry April 3, 2012 at 5:07 pm

“Who dies fishing?” Depends upon who you ask. If you ask me, many large-mouth bass, too numerous to count. Ask my wife, and she’ll tell you both the fish and I are pretty safe.

Josh Wells April 16, 2012 at 5:00 pm

What about commercial glazier? Anybody that plays with glass all day I think can be very dangerous!

Shawn Marion April 25, 2012 at 1:20 am

you left out Roughnecks we lose people everyday in the Oil Field.

David Murray May 30, 2012 at 5:25 am

What the fuck is this shite

Austin givens June 3, 2012 at 2:10 am

In my personal opinion these are all true to an extent. But one of the most dangerous jobs to my knowledge has been left off this chart, iron work. I am a journeyman iron worker and I’ll be the first one to let you know I work beside people all day long that has many missing fingers and toes and often you see other body parts missing. Some cases of deaths in my line of work come from cranes falling over or rigging on loads being poor to the weight. But over all most of deaths comes from falls. I work all day everyday atleast 200 hundred feet off the ground. Walking beams that sometimes are only 6″ wide. And nothing around to catch yourself when you fall. I think someone needs to rethink this and add this craft. Because I know there is many people that would back up my opinion and agree with me when I say it should be in the top 5

Justin June 9, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Hey not to be rude check your facts try the sunshine hardrock mine in Idaho. That is the worst mining accident in us history and mining despite explosives, heavy equipment and that fact that between steel and rock flesh will always loose, mining is one of the safest jobs trailing in past the 15th most dangerous in the us…..

Justin June 9, 2012 at 1:22 pm

In the morning of May 2, 1972, a fire broke out in the Sunshine Mine. According to the US Mine Rescue Association, 91 workers died from smoke inhalation or carbon monoxide poisoning; 83 men were rescued, 81 on May 2 and two on May 9. The mine was closed for seven months after the fire, which was one of the worst mining disasters in American history and is the worst disaster in Idaho’s history. Today, a monument to the lost miners stands beside Interstate 90 near the mine.

Yes that is a quick quote from wiki but it is fact. I am a miner and as part of our training is to study that accident as well as coming from two mini.g families.. The heat from the fire was nominal but human flesh came off the bone like a cooked chicken no one was burnt but they succumbed to the toxic air. Afterwards the bodies slow cooked in the days that followed. The mine rescue team reported this as they were recovering the bodies.

Justin June 9, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Worst of all like in previous wars entire families were lost since father, sons uncles and cousins all worked the mine as it is in many mining communities. So that is the worst mining accident in US history since 1970 and in all of US history. Thanks for your time….

Devon June 10, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Idk how any of these jobs top power lineman have u seen what they deal with? Up to 745000 volts of electricity and ur Gunna say a fisherman or roofer has a more dangerous job.

pennsull June 13, 2012 at 9:10 pm

I have been truck driving for 10 years and have never seen such ruthless, inconsiderate idiots in my life.people need to slow down and give respect to others.btw.we are paid very weakly.

jurt August 8, 2012 at 11:40 pm

well you would at least think that the military would had made the list

Stacey August 16, 2012 at 4:25 am

Not only is truck driving featured on this list of fatal work injuries but truck drivers also have an increased risk of heart attacks, depression and cancer. Add this to the general truck driving related issues as severe back problems and strains and you have a very under appreciated and underpaid section of our workforce.

Tom Richards August 20, 2012 at 12:25 pm

Wow, it is hard to believe a farmer carries greater risk than a police officer. There must be plenty of room to improve the risk management processes for the farming industry!

chad tourigny September 3, 2012 at 7:41 pm

What about Industrial Cleaning? No we don’t allow cameras and such because of the risk involved! But we service the Mining and Refining Industries and everything inbetween!

Jared October 6, 2012 at 7:47 am

I am a logger, before that a builder, and before that a line clearence tree trimmer. I am having a hard time believing that a fisherman has a more dangerous job then i do. Everyday i risk my life with every tree i cut there is a constant danger every minute of every day. Not just when waves get to big. I dare any fisherman to come in the woods where the real men work and tell me that there job is more dangerous then mine. I know that these facts are based on average deaths to the amount of workers there are but in know way should there be one job ahead of logging. If you think there should be one, come try it and then you will see what real danger is.

Kelly October 10, 2012 at 10:01 pm

Jared, have you seen Deadliest Catch? There are no hospitals in the Bering sea. The Bering sea is relentless and unforgiving. They have no comforts and no time to sleep. Just thought you should know.

Danny Simmons October 11, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Electrical is not up there?

Melissa October 22, 2012 at 2:20 am

On all honest truth, there is not one job that is designed for the human body. Face it we work with all types of materials and chemicals. Do not cry because your job is not number one be glad that you do not have to work how the fishermen do. On all respect to Jared but seriously check your facts out or go to the army and fight for our country.

Vic November 19, 2012 at 5:52 pm

Who dies fishing? That’s a dumb question. ” The Fish”!!!!

Jack December 15, 2012 at 6:17 pm

Really look at the whole list, most of these jobs take very little education. Having worked in fishing, mining, and logging in Alaska for over 30 years there are quite a few idiots in these trades. Risk management is a joke. I have never seen a risk manager managing the hotshot who makes the place more dangerous for everybody. These jobs would be a lot less dangerous if their were minimum education requirements. By the way, I have a masters degree in mechanical engineering.

William March 7, 2013 at 8:29 pm

We truck drivers have people in cars deliberatly TRY to get us killed on a regular basis , we dont get upset at people that just make mistakes (we all do ) but people speeding up to block us from changing lanes and passing us only to repeatedly hit their brakes trying to get us to hit them etc. ask any truck driver , idiots TRY to cause wrecks ( they should be charged with assault at the least ) We have to keep our cool or you would see a lot more pictures of 80,000 pounds sitting on some criminally idiots roof !!!

Robyn March 18, 2013 at 6:34 pm

Truck drivers do have a dangerous job. There are a number of new rules related to truck driving (http://www.hartlaw.com/july-1-2013-deadline-approaching-for-hours-of-service-of-drivers-final-rule/) that will hopefully ensure all drivers are safer. Its a needed profession but as with anything we can make improvements.

EnglishCarInsurances April 18, 2013 at 2:34 pm

I agree with Fishermen in the first position, but don’t forget the oil field and mining.

Emily May 2, 2013 at 2:32 am

I’m amazed that construction related jobs are not in the list, but the statistic tells it all. Being at the sea is way far more dangerous for the factor that nature is uncontrollable and indeed stronger than men.

Holly November 29, 2013 at 7:34 am

I don’t think they consider military a job or odviosly they would be one. To reply to a comment that line workers should be on there. They usually deal with power outages so there would be no power… Anyway they go with the facts on deaths and nope line men are not there. Maybe you should go out on that fishing boat

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