The 25 Most Dangerous Jobs In America
If you know someone who works in one of these jobs, thank them for their courage.
Would you embrace the challenge of a dangerous job, or do you want to steer clear of risk in the workplace? Every year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) compiles a Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), which reveals the most dangerous jobs in the U.S., based on different metrics.
Here are America’s most dangerous jobs, according to fatal work injury rate, calculated per 100,000 full-time workers.
In 2017, 74 electricians in the U.S. died from workplace injuries — the equivalent of 8.4 per 100,000 workers. The most common injuries weren’t burns, as you might expect, but falls, slips and trips. In 2018, the mean annual wage for an electrician was $59,190.
It’s no surprise that firefighter is one of the most dangerous jobs in the U.S. But running into burning buildings isn’t the greatest threat — fatal accidents take place most often during transportation. In 2017, there were 8.9 fatal injuries per 100,000 firefighters. Firefighters earn an annual mean wage of $53,240.
23. Painter (Construction And Maintenance)
We’re not talking about people who paint portraits and other works of art from the safety of a studio here. Construction and maintenance painters may be exposed to all sorts of toxic chemicals in the course of their work, but the most common cause of fatal accidents on the job — experienced by 8.9 per 100,000 workers in 2017 — are falls (presumably from those high ladders), slips and trips. The annual mean wage for a construction and maintenance painter in 2018 was $43,050.
22. Athlete/Coach/Umpire/Related Worker
Athletes, coaches and umpires do very different jobs — albeit within the same field — but for the purposes of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, they’re lumped together. Again, it’s accidents during travel that are most likely to be fatal, affecting 9.5 per 100,000 workers in 2017. According to the most recent salary data, the annual mean wage for this group of workers was $45,080 in 2018 — although we all know the top athletes in the world can earn multiple times that amount.
21. Taxi Driver/Chauffeur
Yet again, transportation is the main cause of fatalities for taxi drivers and chauffeurs. This time it’s no surprise — their entire job revolves around transport. In 2017, taxi drivers and chauffeurs, who earn an annual mean wage of $28,450, suffered 62 fatal injuries — the equivalent of 10.5 per 100,000 workers. In case you haven’t noticed yet, transportation is dangerous!
20. Mining Machine Operator
Mining machine operators earned an annual mean wage of $52,920 in 2018 — more than the current national average of approximately $46,800, but perhaps still not enough to persuade most people to spend their working days in underground tunnels filled with combustible coal dust. Despite modern safety regulations, a mining machine operator remains one of the most dangerous jobs. In 2017, 11.7 per 100,000 workers died, most often through contact with objects and equipment.
19. Operating Engineer/Construction Equipment Operator
Operating construction equipment, like bulldozers, excavators and loaders, is a big responsibility — and one that comes with equally big risks. In 2017, there were 11.8 deaths for every 100,000 engineers and equipment operators. With the majority of their working day spent controlling heavy equipment, it’s no wonder that most fatalities occur during transportation. This is another occupation that pays more than the national average: an annual mean wage of $53,030.
18. Police/Sheriff’s Patrol Officer
Law enforcement can be dangerous work, and the figures say it all: 95 police and sheriff’s patrol officers experienced fatal injuries in 2017, which equals 12.9 per 100,000 workers. The high-risk scenarios officers find themselves in often involve direct violence, which is the primary cause of workplace fatalities. Transportation accidents come a close second for police and sheriff’s patrol officers, who earned an annual mean wage of $65,400 in 2018.
17. First-Line Supervisor Of Mechanics/Installer/Repairer
If you do a high-risk job, you should expect to be compensated accordingly, so it’s only right that first-line supervisors of mechanics, installers and repairers earned an annual mean wage of $69,320 in 2018. More common titles of these occupations include electrical foreman or maintenance foreman. According to BLS data, around 13 in every 100,000 of these direct supervisors died on the job in 2017.
16. Construction Laborer
Unfortunately, not all dangerous jobs come with a higher-than-average salary. In 2018, the annual mean wage for a construction laborer was $40,350 — almost $6,000 lower than the current national average. This isn’t a job for the fainthearted; workers spend large portions of their time at great heights on scaffolding or operating heavy equipment and potentially dangerous tools. In 2017, there were 14.3 deaths per 100,000 construction laborers in the U.S.
15. Grounds Maintenance Worker
Falls, slips and trips are the most common cause of fatal accidents among grounds maintenance workers, who earned an annual mean wage of $31,600 in 2018. This occupation involves outdoor work — often in adverse weather conditions and at dangerous heights while operating powerful equipment. Someone has to trim those tall trees! In 2017, 15.9 per every 100,000 grounds maintenance workers died on the job.
14. Maintenance And Repair Worker
Maintenance and repair workers carry out a wide range of tasks during a typical day, including electrical, plumbing and mechanical repairs. Nonfatal injuries are very common (a total of 23,200 in 2017) and 16.6 workers per 100,000 died in the course of their work, with falls, slips and trips being responsible for the most fatalities. Maintenance and repair workers earned an annual mean wage of $41,020 in 2018 — less than the national average.
13. Helper (Construction Trades)
In 2017, helpers in construction trades experienced 17.3 fatal injuries per 100,000 workers, with falls, slips and trips again being the most common culprit. In fact, construction work in general should come with a warning label because of the 25 most dangerous jobs in the U.S., four of them are within this industry. And when it comes to remuneration, helpers are at the lower end of the scale, with an annual mean wage of just $32,900 in 2018.
12. First-Line Supervisor Of Construction Trades And Extraction Workers
The 121 fatal injuries among first-line supervisors of construction and extraction workers in 2017 makes being a construction foreman one of the most dangerous jobs in the country. This equates to 17.4 per 100,000 workers. Still, these managers earn an annual mean wage of $70,450, according to 2018 figures, which makes the role slightly more appealing.
11. Miscellaneous Agricultural Worker
Agricultural workers in the U.S. earned an annual mean wage of $27,290 in 2018, almost $20,000 less than the national average, making this the lowest-paid job on this list — yet their job is one of the most dangerous. According to BLS statistics, 17.7 per 100,000 agricultural workers died on the job in 2017. Once again, transportation incidents caused the most deaths in this line of work.
10. Electrical Power Line Installer/Repairer
Exposure to harmful substances or environments goes hand in hand with working on electrical power lines, and this is the most common cause of fatal accidents. In 2017, 18.6 per 100,000 workers died in the course of this demanding, dangerous work. Let’s hope the annual mean wage of $70,240 makes it worth the risk.
9. First-Line Supervisors Of Landscaping, Lawn Service And Groundskeeping Workers
Considering what’s involved in landscaping, lawn service and groundskeeping work (using chainsaws, tractors and lawnmowers), it’s easy to see why this job is one of the most risky. In 2017, 21 per 100,000 workers died on the job, with contact with objects and equipment causing the most fatalities. According to 2018 data, these workers earned an annual mean wage of $51,280 for their leadership on dangerous tree-trimming and pruning tasks.
8. Farmer/Rancher/Other Agricultural Manager
Farming, ranching and other types of agricultural management also involve using powerful motorized equipment and vehicles, which is the most common cause of on-the-job deaths. There were 24 fatal injuries per 100,000 workers in 2017, and, unlike most other occupations, there were more fatal injuries than nonfatal ones (258 and 180, respectively). However, this type of work pays well; in 2018, the annual mean wage was $79,940.
7. Driver/Sales Worker/Truck Driver
Traveling long distances and lifting heavy objects takes its toll on drivers and sales workers — in 2017, there were 26.9 fatal injuries per 100,000 workers. As you might expect, transportation incidents (such as motor vehicle accidents) were the leading cause of death. The annual mean wage for drivers, truck drivers and sales workers was $40,920 in 2018 — yet another high-risk job that pays less than the national average.
6. Structural Iron And Steel Worker
Structural iron and steel workers often have to work at great heights on steel constructions, like buildings and bridges, which is the greatest risk of the job. Falls, slips and trips cause the most fatal injuries, which accounted for 33.3 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2017. This job is one of the highest-paid in the 25 most dangerous jobs in the U.S., with an annual mean wage of $58,170 in 2018.
5. Trash Collector
Another dangerous job that involves daily transportation is refuse and recyclable material collection, which is the technical term for this line of work. In this job, there were 34.9 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2017. Motor vehicle accidents and other transportation-related incidents cause the most fatalities. In 2018, refuse and recyclable material collectors took home an annual mean wage of $40,560.
Even the most experienced roofer loses their footing now and again, and sometimes a fall, slip or trip can result in tragedy. In 2017, 45.2 per 100,000 roofers died on the job, resulting in a total of 91 fatal injuries. The average roofer may not earn as much as the national average wage, but they took home $43,870 in 2018.
3. Aircraft Pilot/Flight Engineer
The highest paying job on the list is an aircraft pilot/flight engineer — people in this role had an annual mean wage of $146,660 in 2018, almost three times the national average across all occupations. Naturally, spending your days thousands of miles in the air comes with certain risks, and any type of plane crash has the potential to cause serious or fatal injuries. In 2017, 51.3 per 100,000 pilots/flight engineers died during the course of their work.
2. Logging Worker
Logging workers need high levels of physical strength and stamina, and it’s crucial to follow all safety procedures to stay injury-free. But not all accidents can be avoided and in 2017, 87.3 workers out of 100,000 experienced fatal injuries. The most common cause of death is contact with objects and equipment, such as being hit by a falling branch or having an accident with a chainsaw. In 2018, logging workers earned an annual mean wage of $42,340.
1. Fisher/Related Fishing Worker
In 2017, fishing workers (who earn an annual mean wage of $30,140) experienced the most fatal injuries of all occupations: 100 per 100,000 workers. Harsh, unpredictable weather conditions make fishing a dangerous vocation, and tumultuous seas often lead to drowning, which is the most common cause of death in this risky field.