AdvisorSmith studied the most dangerous jobs in the United States based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. They studied professions with minimum employment of 50,000 workers to find the 25 most dangerous jobs among 263 total professions in the study. The fatality rate was normalized by adjusting the number of fatalities by employment in each profession.

On-the-job deaths have been rising in recent years, rising from 4,821 in 2014 to 5,250 deaths in 2018, an increase of 9% over the 5-year period. However, the rate of deaths adjusted for employment has only risen approximately 2.2% over the same period, as an improving economy has led to additional employment. In 2018, the average fatality rate among all jobs was 3.4 per 100,000 workers.

Our study found that some jobs are significantly more dangerous than others. The most dangerous job, logging, was 33 times more dangerous than the average job nationwide. Additionally, many of the most dangerous jobs earn average salaries that are below the May 2019 annual mean wage of $53,490. Companies that hire workers with the most dangerous jobs usually have workers’ compensation insurance premiums that are higher than average.

The study also found that self-employed workers were 3.3 times more likely to die on the job compared with hourly and salaried workers. Wage and salaried workers had an average fatality rate of 2.9 fatalities per 100,000 workers in 2018, while self-employed workers had an average fatality rate of 9.4 per 100,000 workers during the same period.

For more intriguing insights from the study, read on for the top 25 most dangerous jobs in America.

1. Logging workers

Fatal injury rate: 111 per 100,000 workers
Total deaths (2018): 56
Salary: $41,230
Most common fatal accidents: Contact with objects and equipment

The most dangerous job in America is logging. Logging workers had a fatal accident rate that was 33 times the average job nationwide.

Logging workers harvest forests to provide the raw material for goods such as wood, paper, and cardboard, in addition to other industrial products. These workers spend almost all of their time outside in forests and other isolated areas.

Logging workers use heavy machinery to fell trees and handle logs. Logging worker deaths are most often caused by contact with logging machines or logs.

2. Aircraft pilots and flight engineers

Fatal injury rate: 53 per 100,000 workers
Total deaths (2018): 70
Salary: $121,430
Most common fatal accidents: Transportation incidents

Aircraft pilots fly and navigate airplanes, helicopters, and other types of aircraft. In this profession, pilots are responsible for checking the condition of aircraft before and after flights, ensuring the aircraft is balanced, and planning for fuel and flight plans. Pilots also operate the aircraft, communicate with air traffic control, and monitor the aircraft’s systems during flight.

The majority of aircraft pilot fatalities occur in crashes of privately owned planes and helicopters rather than on regularly scheduled commercial jet aircraft.

3. Derrick operators in oil, gas, and mining

BLS Category: Derrick, rotary drill, and service unit operators, oil, gas, and mining
Fatal injury rate: 46 per 100,000 workers
Total deaths (2018): 20
Salary: $51,390
Most common fatal accidents: Transportation incidents, contact with objects and equipment

These oil workers setup, maintain, and operate the derrick and drill equipment used to extract oil and gas and mine for materials. The derrick is the structure above a well that holds the drilling equipment, while the drill rotates to displace the earth. The derrick may also include pumps to extract the oil or other materials from the well.

Transportation incidents and contact with objects and equipment were the two leading causes of death for these workers.

4. Roofers

Fatal injury rate: 41 per 100,000 workers
Total deaths (2018): 96
Salary: $42,100
Most common fatal accidents: Falls, slips, trips

Roofers are responsible for installing, repairing, and replacing roofs on homes and buildings. Their work involves taking roofing materials such as shingles, metal, or other materials onto roofs and securing them. Roofers generally must use ladders or other equipment to climb on top of buildings. The most common cause of fatal work injury for roofers is falling off roofs or ladders.

5. Garbage collectors

BLS Category: Refuse and recyclable material collectors
Fatal injury rate: 34 per 100,000 workers
Total deaths (2018): 37
Salary: $42,100
Most common fatal accidents: Transportation incidents

Also known as garbage collectors, refuse and recyclable material collectors collect our trash and recycling. Generally, these workers will drive a truck through neighborhoods and empty garbage bins and dumpsters into the trucks. Many bins are loaded by hand while some trucks have mechanical lifters. They then drive the trucks to a landfill or waste transfer station where the waste is unloaded from the truck.

The most common cause of death for these workers is being struck by a garbage truck or other vehicle.

6. Ironworkers

BLS Category: Structural iron and steel workers
Fatal injury rate: 29 per 100,000 workers
Total deaths (2018): 15
Salary: $53,650
Most common fatal accidents: Falls, slips, trips

Ironworkers are responsible for installing iron and steel on buildings, bridges, and roads. Their work often consists of climbing up on large structures, unloading iron and steel, and signaling to crane operators. They also use equipment to cut, bend, and weld iron and steel. Steel and iron are some of the primary reinforcing materials for large scale buildings.

Falls are the most common fatal occupational accident for structural iron and steel workers.

7. Delivery drivers

BLS Category: Driver/sales workers and truck drivers
Fatal injury rate: 27 per 100,000 workers
Total deaths (2018): 966
Salary: $29,610
Most common fatal accidents: Transportation incidents

Delivery drivers load and unload trucks or cars and drive them to their destination within a local area. These workers generally pick up cargo, food, laundry or other items from distribution centers or stores and deliver them to homes and businesses. They also may communicate with customers to coordinate deliveries, collect payment for goods, and process paperwork such as delivery signatures.

Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death on the job for driver/sales workers and truck drivers.

8. Farmers

BLS Category: Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers
Fatal injury rate: 26 per 100,000 workers
Total deaths (2018): 257
Salary: $71,160
Most common fatal accidents: Transportation incidents

Farmers are responsible for producing crops and dairy products and raising animals for food. They are responsible for the process of planting and harvesting or feeding and caring for livestock. Additionally, farmers purchase supplies for their farms and purchase and maintain farming equipment. They also sell their crops or livestock on the open market.

Crashes, including tractor crashes, were the most common fatal injury for farmers.

9. Firefighting supervisors

BLS Category: First-line supervisors of fire fighting and prevention workers
Fatal injury rate: 20 per 100,000 workers
Total deaths (2018): 14
Salary: $82,010
Most common fatal accidents: Transportation incidents

Firefighting supervisors are responsible for supervising and coordinating the work of firefighters. This work includes the prevention and control of fires. Some of the tasks that these supervisors perform include communicating and dispatching vehicles, evaluating fire size and condition, training and evaluating firefighters, and maintaining firefighting equipment.

The most common cause of death on the job for firefighting supervisors is traffic crashes, followed by fires and explosions.

10. Power linemen

BLS Category: Electrical power-line installers and repairers
Fatal injury rate: 20 per 100,000 workers
Total deaths (2018): 29
Salary: $71,960
Most common fatal accidents: Exposure to harmful substances or environments

Power linemen are responsible for installing and maintaining overhead and underground power lines that supply electricity to homes and businesses. In this job, these workers drive power maintenance equipment to job sites, climb electrical poles or use bucket trucks, and test, install, or otherwise maintain electrical equipment.

The most common cause of death for power linemen is death from electrocution.

11. Agricultural workers

BLS Category: Miscellaneous agricultural workers
Fatal injury rate: 20 per 100,000 workers
Total deaths (2018): 157
Salary: $25,840
Most common fatal accidents: Transportation incidents

Agricultural workers are responsible for tending crops and livestock. They may be tasked with planting, harvesting, and watering crops, along with maintaining irrigation systems and ditches. These workers can also use farm tools or equipment, as well as apply pesticides and fertilizers. For agricultural workers who work with livestock, they may be responsible for feeding animals and keeping animal living areas clean. Transportation incidents are the most common fatal accidents for agricultural workers, which can occur while these workers are moving between or to and from worksites.

12. Crossing guards

Fatal injury rate: 19 per 100,000 workers
Total deaths (2018): 14
Salary: $29,760
Most common fatal accidents: Transportation incidents

Crossing guards are responsible for the flow of pedestrian and motor vehicle traffic at crosswalks, intersections, schools, and other places where pedestrians and vehicles come into contact with one another. In this job, crossing guards may stop traffic and help to guide pedestrians safely through crossings and intersections. Crossing guards can also work to direct traffic using signs, flags, or hand signals. The most common causes of death for crossing guards are transportation incidents, which occur when vehicles hit and kill crossing guards.

13. Crane operators

BLS Category: Crane and tower operators
Fatal injury rate: 19 per 100,000 workers
Total deaths (2018): 9
Salary: $60,530
Most common fatal accidents: Transportation incidents, Contact with objects and equipment

Crane and tower operators are responsible for the operation of cranes and other equipment used to lift materials, machines, or other objects. Crane operators often work at construction sites to lift building materials onto higher levels of a building, or at ports where they lift containers off of ships. The most common fatalities for crane operators occur when their cranes crash into or are hit by other vehicles, or when objects hit cranes or their operators.

14. Construction helpers

BLS Category: Helpers, construction trades
Fatal injury rate: 18 per 100,000 workers
Total deaths (2018): 11
Salary: $31,830
Most common fatal accidents: Falls, slips, trips

Construction helpers are construction workers who assist trade workers in the course of construction. These workers can include building equipment contractors, building finishing contractors, foundation and exterior contractors, and others. The most common cause of death for these workers are falls and trips on construction sites.

15. Landscaping supervisors

BLS Category: First-line supervisors of landscaping, lawn service, and groundskeeping workers
Fatal injury rate: 18 per 100,000 workers
Total deaths (2018): 48
Salary: $52,340
Most common fatal accidents: Falls, slips, trips

Landscaping supervisors are responsible for coordinating and supervising the work of landscapers, lawn maintenance workers, and groundskeepers. In this role, landscaping supervisors manage landscaping projects, enforce workplace standards, inspect work, and instruct workers in the proper techniques for performing landscaping work. The most common cause of death for landscaping workers is falls, which can occur when working from heights performing tasks such as tree trimming.

16. Highway maintenance workers

Fatal injury rate: 18 per 100,000 workers
Total deaths (2018): 14
Salary: $42,410
Most common fatal accidents: Transportation incidents

Highway maintenance workers are responsible for maintaining highways, roads, freeways, runways, and other types of roads. They can perform work such as patching potholes, fixing rails and fences, replacing and repainting road markers, and removing snow or ice. Other tasks that these workers perform include fixing road signs, maintaining roadside shrubbery, and resurfacing roads. The most common cause of death for these workers is vehicle crashes, which can occur when highway workers are working on active roadways.

17. Cement masons

BLS Category: Cement masons, concrete finishers, and terrazzo workers
Fatal injury rate: 17 per 100,000 workers
Total deaths (2018): 11
Salary: $48,330
Most common fatal accidents: Falls, slips, trips

Cement masons provide finishing and smoothing work for poured concrete, which can be for roads, sidewalks, floors, or other applications of concrete. These workers use hand and power tools to align concrete forms and ensure that concrete is smooth and long-lasting. The most common cause of death for cement masons is from falls.

18. Small engine mechanics

Fatal injury rate: 15 per 100,000 workers
Total deaths (2018): 8
Salary: $37,840
Most common fatal accidents: Transportation incidents, violence and other injuries by persons or animals

Small engine mechanics repair and maintain small engines such as the engines on lawn mowers, motorboats, and motorcycles. These mechanics generally work in repair shops, but also spend significant time making service repairs out in the field for service emergencies. Transportation incidents are the most common cause of death for these workers.

19. Supervisors of mechanics

BLS Category: First-line supervisors of mechanics, installers, and repairers
Fatal injury rate: 15 per 100,000 workers
Total deaths (2018): 46
Salary: $70,550
Most common fatal accidents: Violence and other injuries by persons or animals

Supervisors of mechanics, installers, and repairers are responsible for overseeing the schedule and work of other mechanics, installers, and repairers. In this role, supervisors may perform training and inspect work to ensure that it meets standards. Supervisors may also be responsible for obtaining supplies and equipment such as tools or parts.

20. Heavy vehicle mechanics

BLS Category: Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians and mechanics
Fatal injury rate: 14 per 100,000 workers
Total deaths (2018): 27
Salary: $51,990
Most common fatal accidents: Transportation incidents, contact with objects and equipment

Heavy vehicle mechanics are responsible for maintaining and repairing heavy equipment such as tractors, bulldozers, and cranes. They can inspect equipment, run diagnostics, perform scheduled maintenance, replace parts, and otherwise ensure that equipment is running properly. The most common cause of death for these mechanics is transportations incidents.

21. Grounds maintenance workers

Fatal injury rate: 14 per 100,000 workers
Total deaths (2018): 225
Salary: $30,890
Most common fatal accidents: Transportation incidents

Grounds maintenance workers are responsible for ensuring that the grounds of parks, businesses, and residences are well maintained and clean. Some of the duties of these workers include maintaining grasses and lawns, removing weeds, trimming trees, bushes, and shrubs, watering plants, and raking leaves. Car crashes are the most common cause of death for grounds maintenance workers, often when traveling to or from a jobsite.

22. Police officers

BLS Category: Police and sheriff’s patrol officers
Fatal injury rate: 14 per 100,000 workers
Total deaths (2018): 108
Salary: $67,600
Most common fatal accidents: Violence and other injuries by persons or animals

Police officers are law enforcement officers tasked with enforcing the law, protecting life and property, and maintaining order. Police officers may perform tasks such as patrolling an area, issuing citations, investigating crimes, arresting suspects, and working with prosecutors on cases.

How dangerous is it to be a police officer? Working as a police officer is about 4.1 times as dangerous compared with the average job nationwide, based upon the workplace fatality rate. Police officers have a workplace fatality rate similar to maintenance workers, construction workers, and heavy vehicle mechanics.

The most common cause of death for police officers at work is violence by persons.

23. Maintenance workers

BLS Category: Maintenance and repair workers, general
Fatal injury rate: 14 per 100,000 workers
Total deaths (2018): 64
Salary: $39,080
Most common fatal accidents: Contact with objects and equipment

Maintenance workers perform routine maintenance at buildings and fix machines and mechanical equipment. These workers may fix equipment at homes, apartments, or businesses, and they may fix objects such as plumbing, electrical systems, and other machines. They may also be responsible for installing or assembling new equipment, doing general repairs, and ordering parts and supplies. The most common cause of workplace death for maintenance workers is contact with objects or equipment.

24. Construction workers

BLS Category: Construction laborers
Fatal injury rate: 13 per 100,000 workers
Total deaths (2018): 259
Salary: $36,000
Most common fatal accidents: Falls, slips, trips

Construction workers provide physical labor for construction tasks at building sites. These workers are responsible for tasks such as unloading building materials, building scaffolding, digging trenches, and operating other construction machinery. They may also spend time cleaning construction sites either in preparation for or after the completion of construction. The most common cause of death for construction workers is falls.

25. Mining machine operators

Fatal injury rate: 11 per 100,000 workers
Total deaths (2018): 9
Salary: $56,530
Most common fatal accidents: Contact with objects and equipment

Mining machine operators operate machines that remove rock, coal, metals, or other hard materials from a mine and load it onto conveyors that transport the materials out of the mine.

Methodology

In this study, we used data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS conducts a Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries that tabulates the number of workplace fatalities by occupation by year. We also drew employment statistics for occupations from the Current Population Survey. In this study, we examined 263 professions with employment of at least 50,000 workers nationwide.

To calculate the fatal injury rate, we took the number of fatalities divided by the number of jobs in a given occupation for a given year. We normalized the fatality rate per 100,000 workers in order to compare professions with differing levels of employment. To calculate the fatal injury rate, we took the average of the rate for 2014-2018 to reduce the impact of single-year anomalies in the fatal injury data.

Information on the most common fatal accidents was drawn from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, and salary data came from the Occupational Employment Statistics Survey.

Sources

  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries
  2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Population Survey
  3. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics Survey
  4. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates