America’s most dangerous jobs have been revealed in a new analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Personal injury lawyers Agruss Law Firm analyzed fatal occupational injury data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to uncover which jobs have the highest rate of fatal injuries per 100,000 workers.
- Logging workers
– 82.2 deaths per 100,000 workers
– Median salary – $46,330
Logging workers were found to have the highest fatal injury rate of any job, at 82.2 deaths per 100,000 workers. Logging workers are responsible for cutting down and harvesting timber from forests to provide the raw materials for consumer and industrial products. Logging workers are split up into several sub-categories, but it is ‘Fallers’, those whose job it is to cut down trees with hand-held power chainsaws, that are at the highest risk. In fact, Fallers accounted for 33 of the 43 recorded fatal injuries sustained by loggers throughout 2021. The majority of these fatalities are a result of contact with a machine or object, such as a log, according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook.
- Fishing and hunting workers
– 75.2 deaths per 100,000 workers
– Median salary – $31,382
Fishing and hunting workers were found to have the second highest fatal injury rate, at 72.5 deaths per 100,000 workers. These workers are responsible for catching and trapping various forms of animal life which are used for human consumption, animal feed and bait. Their duties include locating fish or wild animals, safely storing and packing their catch and operating and maintaining nets, traps and onboard equipment. Fishing workers account for most of these fatalities, where the largest cause of death is drowning. This is commonly caused by slippery decks, entanglement in fish nets and being knocked over deck by large waves or storms.
– 59 deaths per 100,000 workers
– Median salary – $47,110
Roofers were found to have the third highest fatal injury rate at 59 deaths per 100,000 workers. They are responsible for the installation, repair and replacement of roofs for both commercial and domestic buildings. The most common cause of fatalities for roofers is slipping and falling from scaffolding, ladders or roofs, with Falls, slips and trips accounting for 96 out of the 115 recorded deaths in 2021. Completing physically demanding work also puts roofers at an increased risk of heat-related illnesses when working outside during the hot summer months.
- Aircraft pilots and flight engineers
– 48.1 deaths per 100,000 workers
– Median salary – $134,630
Aircraft pilots and flight engineers rank as having the fourth most dangerous jobs, with a fatal injury rate of 48.1 deaths per 100,000 workers. Those working as Commercial pilots account for most of these fatal injuries. Out of 68 recorded deaths of aircraft pilots and flight engineers in 2021, 59 of those were commercial pilots. Commercial pilots are responsible for unscheduled flight activities such as chartered flights, rescue operations, firefighting and crop dusting, rather than standard consumer flights, which are completed by airline pilots.
- Structural iron and steel workers – 36.1 deaths per 100,000 workers
– 36.1 deaths per 100,000 workers
– Median salary – $58,550
Structural iron and steel workers rank as the fifth most dangerous job, with a fatal injury rate of 36.1 deaths per 100,000 workers. Structural iron and steel workers are responsible for erecting, placing and joining steel girders and columns to form the frameworks for buildings and bridges. Iron and steel workers are often required to work at elevated heights in order to carry out their job. Despite safety measures being in place, Falls, slips and trips were found to be the biggest cause of fatal injuries for workers in these occupations, accounting for 9 out of 14 recorded deaths in 2021.
- Driver/sales workers and truck drivers
– 28.8 deaths per 100,000 workers
– Median salary – $36,660
Driver/sales workers and truck drivers rank as the sixth most dangerous job, with a fatal injury rate of 28.8 deaths per 100,000 workers. Workers in these occupations are responsible for picking up, transporting and delivering packages and shipments. Transportation incidents were found to be the most common cause of death for this occupation, with 814 deaths due to roadway incidents in 2021 alone.
- Refuse and recyclable materials collectors
– 27.9 deaths per 100,000 workers
– Median salary – $38,500
Refuse and recyclable materials collectors ranked as the seventh most dangerous job with 27.9 deaths per 100,000 workers. Workers in this occupation are responsible for collecting and dumping refuse or recyclable materials from containers, with some workers driving the truck itself. Much like truck drivers, transportation incidents are the leading reported cause of death for refuse and recyclable materials collectors. Transportation incidents were responsible for 14 deaths of workers with this occupation in the latest figures from 2021.
- Underground mining machine operators
– 26.7 deaths per 100,000 workers
– Median salary – $48,651
Underground mining machine operators were found to have the eighth most dangerous job, with 26.7 deaths per 100,000 workers. The occupation involves using machines to remove coal, metal, rock or stone from underground mines, and load this onto conveyors and shuttles. The most common cause of death in this occupation is through contact with objects or equipment, which accounted for seven fatal injuries throughout 2021.
- 9. Helpers, construction trades
– 22.9 deaths per 100,000 workers
– Median salary – $37,357
Construction trade helpers ranked as the ninth most dangerous job, with 22.9 deaths per 100,000 workers. This occupation involves assisting brickmasons, carpenters, electricians and other construction-based roles with their duties. Construction trade helpers are expected to hold materials or tools, and clean work areas and equipment. Fifteen workers in this occupation are reported to have suffered a fatal injury in 2021, with transportation incidents being the leading cause of death.
- Electrical power-line installers and repairers
– 22 deaths per 100,000 workers
– Median salary – $78,310
Electrical power-line installers and repairers rank tenth, with 22 deaths per 100,000 workers. These workers are required to install, maintain and repair the power grid, which transfers electricity from generating plants to customers’ homes and businesses. Line installers and repairers are often required to climb poles or towers and regularly work with high-voltage transformers, which puts them at increased risk of death from falls and electrocution. In fact, exposure to harmful substances or environments was the biggest recorded hazard for this occupation, accounting for 17 of the 30 recorded deaths in 2021.
Michael Agruss, Managing Partner at Agruss Law Firm commented on the findings, “When looking at the potential risk posed by any given occupation, it often isn’t enough to just look at the total number of fatalities, as this is likely to be overrepresented in jobs that have a large population of workers to begin with. By looking at rates of fatal injuries, we were able to obtain a clearer understanding of which jobs pose the greatest risk, as a proportion of the number of workers and hours worked for each occupation.”
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics: Hours-based fatal injury rates by industry, occupation, and selected demographic characteristics, 2021, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics, CPI Inflation Calculator
The above data table from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics was used. Industries and general categories were removed from the final ranking and fatal injury rates for different professions were ranked from highest to lowest. BLS was used to determine each job’s May 2021 median pay. Where median pay was not available for May 2021, the CPI Inflation Calculator was used to upscale median salary from the last available data.