Deadly Occupations and Dangerous Jobs

deadly-occupations-electrical-workersThe next time you find yourself looking at the clock wishing it was time to check out of work for the day, consider this:

For a number of Americans, their checkout may be both final and fatal.

Every job, every occupation has their risks. That’s life. However, some ways of earning a living come with dangers few of us have to face on a daily basis.

When looking at the upcoming facts and figures, keep in mind some jobs may appear to have more fatalities in sheer numbers, but are actually less dangerous when compared to an equal number of employees in other occupations. Also, take into account on-the-job fatalities change from year to year and from industry to industry.


One of the jobs with the highest risk of never making it home to dinner is the fishing industry. For almost every year since 1992, fishing has topped the list of job fatalities. (Logging took first place in 2013.) From 2000 to 2014, 763 fishermen went out for their daily catch and never returned alive. That’s just about 54 a year.

Bad weather, slippery conditions, heavy machinery, transportation accidents… all contribute to these grim statistics. And for a median salary of only about $27,000 a year, it’s a lot of risks and back-breaking work for precious little monetary reward.


Lumberjacks are a rugged lot. They have to be, with an average of around 65 fatalities a year. (There are more logging workers than fishermen.)

When you combine huge trees, heavy machinery, chainsaws that can cut you in half within seconds with high altitudes and bad weather – deadly mistakes can happen. And once again, with a median salary of just $33,000 a year, this is another occupation where the rewards seem to be somewhat lacking.


This is somewhat surprising, as we tend to think flying is extremely safe. In most cases it is, but when something goes wrong – it goes very, very wrong. With 63 occupational-related deaths in 2013 – the old pilot adage is right: Flying is hours and hours of boredom, interrupted by intervals of sheer terror.

However, pilots are well compensated for the risks they take, with an average salary of between $92,000 and $120,000 per year.


Next in order of danger comes roofing, followed closely by waste disposal jobs. It’s not hard to see how roofers get into this category – falling from the top of a house is not conducive to good health. In fact, falls make up the majority of these accidents. 69 people lost their lives in 2013 from roofing accidents.

Refuse collection and recycling operations are occupations one normally doesn’t associate with being high risk. However, 33 people lost their lives in 2013 alone at these jobs. Death by transportation accidents and crushing were the leading causes here.

deadly-occupations-truck-driverTRUCKING AND DELIVERY DRIVERS

By far, the occupation with the highest absolute number of total fatalities is truckers and transportation workers. In 2013, 748 people were killed doing their job. As you can imagine, road-related accidents and crashes are the leading causes of these deaths. Long hours, driving 40 tons of steel and cargo on many times poor roads and in bad weather, it’s the rare driver who hasn’t at least once in their career looked death in the face.


All of these occupations have a common thread – they involve heavy, dangerous machinery and less than optimal working conditions. Falls, blunt trauma injuries, transportation accidents – and for electrical line workers dealing with enough juice to light up a city – one lapse of attention can turn your average work day into your last one on earth.

Combined fatalities for 2013: 478

Transportation Accidents a Major Cause of Death, Followed by Workplace Violence

One common thread running throughout these jobs is transportation. Either the employee is involved in a direct crash or some vehicle hits them.

  • Fully 40% of all fatalities have transportation factors as the cause.
  • Most, unfortunately, workplace violence (either by another person, animal attacks or suicides) accounts for 17% of on the job deaths with 397 homicides and 270 suicides. While homicides have decreased, work-related suicides are slowly inching up in numbers.
  • Falls slips and trips make up for 16% of accidental deaths, the same percentage (16%) as coming into fatal contact with equipment and other objects.
  • Exposure to harmful chemicals, substances or environments takes 7% while fires and explosions reap an additional 3%.


One area where job safety has definitely gotten far better is law enforcement. 2013 was one of the safest years in history for policemen of all stripes. Of the 76 officers dying in the line of duty in that year, 58 were from traffic accidents or slips and falls. 18 were from actual gunfire. In the traffic incidents, the cause of death in 14 of those cases was due to not wearing a seat belt.


On a more positive side, work-related deaths have decreased over the last several years, and across almost all sectors and employee demographics. The one group that has shown an increase in on-the-job fatalities has been Hispanic or Latinos, while firefighting and government work has actually become more dangerous for those employees.

The state with the most workplace related deaths? Texas.

In 2012, Texas reported 536 fatalities. In 2013, that number was 493.

California, Florida and New York took the dubious honors of coming in second, third and fourth places respectively.