Uncover the sobering truth behind the top 10 most hazardous jobs, where courageous individuals face danger every day in order to keep the very fabric of American society from unraveling. The fatality rates presented in this article are based on the number of deaths per year per 100,000 full-time employees, assuming a standard work schedule of 40 hours per week and 50 weeks per year.
1. Tree Trimmer and Pruners
Fatal work injury rate per 100,000 full-time workers: 82.2
Total number of fatal work injuries: 3
Tree trimmers and pruners, responsible for maintaining the health and aesthetics of trees, hold the unenviable position of having the most dangerous job in America. As skilled professionals working at great heights and handling powerful equipment, they face a myriad of hazards on a daily basis. The fatality rate for this occupation is a staggering 21 times higher than the average American job, making it a perilous profession for those who choose this line of work.
Despite the essential nature of their services, tree trimmers and pruners must contend with not only the risks associated with working at heights but also the dangers posed by falling tree limbs and the potential for accidents involving equipment such as chainsaws and chippers.
2. Fishing and Hunting Workers
Fatal work injury rate per 100,000 full-time workers: 75.2
Total number of fatal work injuries: 23
Fishing and hunting workers hold the unfortunate distinction of having the second most dangerous job in America. These individuals work in harsh environments and frequently encounter unpredictable conditions, facing numerous hazards on a daily basis. They often venture into remote locations, battling inclement weather and treacherous terrain while operating specialized equipment and handling wild animals.
The occupational risks they face, including drowning, animal attacks, and accidents involving boats or firearms, contribute to a fatality rate that is significantly higher than the national average for other professions.
Fatal work injury rate per 100,000 full-time workers: 59.0
Total number of fatal work injuries: 115
Roofers, ranking third among America’s most dangerous jobs, face treacherous working conditions daily as they perform installations and repairs at significant heights. The risk of falling, combined with the physical demands of the job, contributes to an alarmingly high fatality rate.
3. Aircraft Pilot and Flight Engineers
Fatal work injury rate per 100,000 full-time workers: 48.1
Total number of fatal work injuries: 68
Occupying the fourth position among America’s most dangerous jobs, aircraft pilots and flight engineers must perform their job by operating complex machinery with little room for error. Contrary to what you might be thinking, this doesn’t include commercial airline pilots. Pilots in this position fly cargo planes and helicopters, life flight ambulances, and private air tours.
5. Structural Iron and Steel Workers
Fatal work injury rate per 100,000 full-time workers: 36.1
Total number of fatal work injuries: 14
Structural iron and steel workers, occupying the fifth position, face numerous hazards as they work on large-scale construction projects. They are exposed to risks such as falls from great heights, accidents involving heavy equipment, and potentially life-threatening injuries from sharp or heavy materials.
6. Truck Drivers
Fatal work injury rate per 100,000 full-time workers: 28.8
Total number of fatal work injuries: 1032
In sixth place, truck drivers encounter dangers associated with long hours on the road and the operation of large, heavy vehicles. The possibility of severe accidents, coupled with the physical strain from constant travel, significantly elevates the risk level for these professionals.
7. Refuse and Recyclable Material Collectors
Fatal work injury rate per 100,000 full-time workers: 27.9
Total number of fatal work injuries: 23
Refuse and recyclable material collectors, holding the seventh spot, are confronted with multiple hazards, including exposure to hazardous materials, heavy machinery accidents, and the risks associated with working on busy streets. These challenges make their occupation the seventh most dangerous in the country.
8. Underground Mining Machine Operators
Fatal work injury rate per 100,000 full-time workers: 26.7
Total number of fatal work injuries: 10
Underground mining machine operators, ranked eighth, work in challenging and confined environments where they face the threats of cave-ins, equipment malfunctions, and exposure to toxic substances. The combination of these risks results in a high fatality rate for these workers.
9. Construction Trades
Fatal work injury rate per 100,000 full-time workers: 22.9
Total number of fatal work injuries: 15
Construction trade work, ranked as the ninth most dangerous job in America, exposes workers to a myriad of risks in their daily tasks. These laborers must navigate busy construction sites, where they face hazards such as falls from heights, accidents involving heavy machinery, and the potential for injuries caused by sharp or heavy objects.
10. Electrical Power-Line Installers and Repairers
Fatal work injury rate per 100,000 full-time workers: 22.0
Total number of fatal work injuries: 30
Lastly, electrical power-line installers and repairers hold the tenth spot among the deadliest jobs in America. These professionals work with high-voltage electrical systems, often at great heights, putting them at risk for electrocution, falls, and injuries from equipment malfunction. The nature of their work makes it one of the most hazardous occupations in the United States.
More Key Findings About the Most Dangerous Jobs in America
- These findings are based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent report released in December 2022 for the year 2021.
- The 3.6 fatal occupational injury rate in 2021 represents the highest annual rate since 2016.
- A worker died every 101 minutes from a work-related injury in 2021.
- The share of Black or African American workers fatally injured on the job reached an all-time high in 2021, increasing from 11.4 percent of total fatalities in 2020 to 12.6 percent of total fatalities in 2021.
- Workers in transportation and material moving occupations experienced a series high of 1,523 fatal work injuries in 2021 and represent the occupational group with the highest number of fatalities. This is an increase of 18.8 percent from 2020.
- Transportation incidents remained the most frequent type of fatal event in 2021 with 1,982 fatal injuries, an increase of 11.5 percent from 2020. This major category accounted for 38.2 percent of all work-related fatalities for 2021.
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This article was produced by Our Woven Journey with statistics provided by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Featured image credit: Billion Photos/Shutterstock
Karee Blunt is a nationally syndicated travel journalist, focused on discovering destinations and experiences that captivate and inspire others through her writing. She is also the founder of Our Woven Journey, a travel site focused on inspiring others to create memory-making adventures with their loved ones. Karee is passionate about encouraging others to step out of their comfort zone and live the life they dream of. She is the mother of six kids, including four through adoption, and lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. You can learn more about Karee on her about me page.