If you chop down trees, climb electrical power poles, fly airplanes, drive big trucks or handle farm animals for a living, you are a member of an elite group. People in these occupations have some of the most dangerous jobs in the United States, according to an August 2013 article in “Forbes.” Danger, in this case, is measured by the likelihood of a fatal accident while on the job. The top three most dangerous jobs in 2012 were logging, deep sea fishing and piloting, according to “Forbes.”
Danger comes in many forms. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 4,628 workplace fatalities occurred in 2012. Fires and explosions caused the fewest deaths, resulting in 122 fatalities. Exposure to harmful substances and falls, slips and trips resulted in 340 and 704 deaths, respectively. Contact with objects and equipment caused 723 deaths, and workplace violence -- in which injuries are caused by people or animals -- caused 802 fatalities. Transportation incidents topped the list by a wide margin, however, with 1,923 fatalities in 2012. The determination of the top 10 most dangerous jobs is based on deaths per 100,000 workers in the occupation, not the actual number of deaths. Logging, for example, is considered most dangerous because the total number of deaths is high in relation to the small population of 43,900 loggers.
Falls, slips and trips were the most common cause of fatalities for construction workers in 2012, followed by transportation incidents, according to the BLS. Transportation incidents were the top cause of fatalities for all agricultural and driving-related occupations and for refuse and recyclable material collectors. The death rates for each occupation varied. Among construction laborers, 214 lost their lives, compared to 232 farmers, ranchers and agricultural managers and 813 drivers, sales workers and truck drivers. Heavy tractor-trailer drivers accounted for 695 of the deaths among the last group. The large numbers of individuals in these occupations resulted in death rates per 100,000 workers that were lower than for occupations considered more dangerous.
Height is a dangerous factor for electrical power line installers and repair workers, structural iron and steel workers, and roofers. Other possible risks include electricity for power line workers and heat stroke for roofers, especially in the summer months. Welding is a dangerous factor for steel and iron workers. Roofers and structural steel and iron workers were most likely to be fatally injured in slips, trips and falls, according to the BLS. Power line worker fatalities resulted primarily from exposure to harmful substances -- such as electricity -- or harmful environments. A total of 27 electrical power line installers and repair workers, 22 structural iron and steel workers, and 73 roofers lost their lives in 2012.
Pilots and flight engineers snagged the No. 3 spot in the most dangerous jobs list for 2012. All deaths in this occupation were caused by transportation incidents. However, the BLS does not distinguish between airplane crashes and automobile accidents when reporting pilot and flight engineer fatalities. Seventy-two pilots died in 2012, most of whom were commercial rather than passenger pilots, according to the BLS. Fishers and fishing workers took the second-place position for most dangerous jobs in 2012, with 33 deaths. All but one of the fatalities in this occupation resulted from transportation incidents. In logging -- the most dangerous occupation of 2012 –the BLS reports 63 deaths occurred.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Table A-5. Fatal Occupational Injuries by Occupation and Event or Exposure, All United States, 2012
- Forbes: America’s to Deadliest Jobs
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2013 (Preliminary Results)
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Logging Workers