The Most Dangerous Jobs in America

Some jobs have inherent dangers, but they still need to get done. If you’re like many people, you will think of police officers and firefighters as having the most dangerous job — they’re up their, but they’re not in the top ten most dangerous. Some dangerous jobs don’t initially jump out as dangerous — possibly because incidents involving dangerous jobs don’t always make the news as frequently as jobs involving police and firefighters. For a variety of reasons, these jobs may be more dangerous than law enforcement or firefighting jobs.

While data from NISOH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) provides many details about the causes of accidents, injuries and deaths; the simplest summary of dangerous jobs is compiled from the data documented by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which presents the number of workers killed or injured out of 100,000 workers employed in a specific job.

In 2016, logging was the most dangerous job with 125.9 fatal injuries per 100,000 workers. The non-fatal injury rate was 2,449 injured per 100,000 workers. The high profile job of firefighting, which many would guess is one of the most dangerous jobs, was documented at 6.1 fatalities per 100,000 workers, and 927 non-fatal injuries per 100,000.

One of the major reasons fatalities and injuries are prevented on the job are the result of protections provided by unions. Firefighters are members of one of the most powerful unions in the world, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF). The IAFF, established in 1918, pushes for better wages, benefits, working conditions and improved safety for union member firefighters. One of the key issues for firefighter safety is having enough personnel staffing for fire engines. For example, four firefighters on a fire engine is better than three, three is better than two. The number of fire engines and other apparatus that respond to a fire is also important. Safely operated fire departments operate with quality safety equipment and well-trained and well-planned crews — including backup crews, also known as Rapid Intervention Teams (RIT). Volunteer firefighters are more likely to find themselves understaffed at a harrowing scene. The chance of injuries and fatalities among firefighters are much more likely when these human beings are faced with situations and assignments involving victims in life-threatening situations. Incidents that require rapid response of tasks by understaffed and/or under-equipped firefighters are much more likely to cause injuries and fatalities among firefighters. The local union of firefighters pushes for negotiations with community leaders (village boards and city councils) to assure reasonably adequate equipment and staffing. The IAFF has also been instrumental in the establishment of more full-time union firefighters.

Many workers in other professions don’t have the community support and don’t have a powerful union that protects them adequately. Some workers have no union, and are “protected” after an injury or fatality occurs when OSHA fines a company with a large monetary penalty.

Other jobs, such as the jobs of police officers and sheriff’s deputies, involve tasks that are much more volatile and unpredictable than other jobs. Incidents that seem to start out routine can expand and quickly overwhelm law enforcement personnel. Police unions can push for simple solutions, such as two police officers per squad car, but unions are often faced with more complex issues involving politics and court procedures that can ultimately reduce the safety of police officers’ jobs.

Here’s a look at some of the most dangerous jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2016 data.

Law Enforcement

Fatal injury rate per 100,000 workers: 14.6
Non-fatal injury rate per 100,000 workers: 1,700

Being a police officer is very dangerous, and we’re grateful that there are still people who are willing to answer the call of duty and protect the rest of us.Whether you’re a police officer, prison guard, or parole officer, any job that puts you in contact with criminals each day is dangerous. Swearing in as a police officer means you will probably face a life or death situation every day you hit the streets. It’s a dangerous world, and fortunately, there are brave men and women willing to risk it all for the common good.

Industrial Truck Operator

Fatal injury rate (per 100,000 workers): 6.1
Non-fatal injury rate (per 100,000 workers): 1,063

This might not seem like a dangerous job, but it is. Danger is present any time thousands of pounds are lifted high in the air by a powerful lift truck. Forklift operators run the risk of being crushed by falling debris or pinned in between a truck and a stationary object. Safety around forklifts is a huge concern for companies and operators alike, as accidents can happen in an instant. Industrial Truck Operators match the fatal injury rate of firefighters at 6.1 per 100,000, and have a worse injury rate than firefighters with their rate of 927 non-fatal injuries per 100,000.

Commercial Fisherman

Fatal injury rate per 100,000 workers: 86.0
Non-fatal injury rate per 100,000 workers: Unavailable

Anyone that has watched the program “Deadliest Catch” knows how dangerous being a commercial fisherman is. Extreme cold, heavy fishing pots, and the constant pitching of the deck makes this one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Every fishing season, fishermen lose their lives around the world, yet the lure of a big payday makes them come back year after year.


Fatal injury rate per 100,000 workers: 135.9
Non-fatal injury rate per 100,000 workers: 2,449

The logging industry is among the most dangerous in the world. Loggers travel into the forest to selectively harvest trees. They scale trees dozens of feet off the ground and use chainsaws to fell the tree. Falling trees and sharp chainsaws can severely injure a logger that isn’t careful. They are miles away from any hospitals or medical services, so if an accident happens, it can be hours before they will find help.

Structural Iron and Steel Worker

Fatal injury rate per 100,000 workers: 25.1
Non-fatal injury rate per 100,000 workers: 2,158

Working with massive steel beams high off the ground is dangerous work. Steel and iron workers have shaped America’s skyline for generations. Conditions have gotten better with increased safety regulations, but fatalities still occur every year. Working hundreds of feet off the ground with heavy machinery and materials comes with high risks.

Garbage Man

Fatal injury rate per 100,000 workers: 34.1
Non-fatal injury rate per 100,000 workers: 2,702

This might seem like a safe job compared to the others on the list, but when a garbage man gets out of the truck to collect the can, he becomes exposed to speeding traffic. In the pre-dawn hours, these workers can be hard to see. Flashing lights draw a driver’s attention to the truck itself, and the person becomes difficult to spot. There are 34.1 fatalities per 100,000 workers each year in this profession, which makes it one of the most dangerous in America.

Surprisingly, Aircraft Pilots and Flight Engineers have a Fatal Injury Rate of 55.5 per 100,000 workers, and a Non-Fatal Injury Rate of 466. Roofers compare closely to pilots with a Fatal Injury Rate of 48.6 and a Non-Fatal Injury Rate of 3,257. So roofers have a lower fatality rate compared to pilots, but a higher injury rate compared to pilots.

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