Dangerous Jobs

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Dangerous jobs

Most Dangerous Jobs - Ranked
America's most dangerous jobs - 2007

Dangerous Jobs


What is the most dangerous occupation in the United States? Is it truck driver, fisher, or elephant trainer? The public frequently asks this question, as do the news media and safety and health professionals. To answer it, BLS used data from its Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) and Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII).1 

How to identify dangerous jobs

There are a number of ways to identify hazardous occupations. And depending on the method used, different occupations are identified as most hazardous. One method counts the number of job-related fatalities in a given occupation or other group of workers. This generates a fatality frequency count for the employment group, which safety and health professionals often use to indicate the magnitude of the safety and health problem. For example, truckdrivers have the largest number of fatalities and accounted for about 12 percent of all the job-related fatalities in 1995. (See table 1. PDF) But this number is influenced not only by the risk workers face in that occupation, but also by the total number of workers in the occupation. 

The second method, fatality rates, takes into account the differing total numbers among occupations. It is calculated by dividing the number of job-related fatalities for a group of workers during a given period by the average number of workers during that period.2 This rate depicts a worker's risk of incurring a fatal work injury within the employment group and is expressed as the number of fatalities per a standard measure. For example, the fatality rate for truckdrivers is 26.2 deaths per 100,000 workers (table 1. PDF). When occupations are ranked by fatality rates, truckdrivers become the ninth most dangerous occupation.

The fatality rates in table 1 (PDF) relate the total number of job-related deaths in 1995 to the annual average number of workers facing that risk for various groups. These measures are considered experimental because they do not reflect the movement of persons into and out of the labor force, the length of their work week or work year, or the effect of holding multiple jobs.

Another method of expressing risk is an index of relative risk. This measure is calculated for a group of workers as the ratio of the rate for that group to the rate for all workers.3 The index of relative risk compares the fatality risk of a group of workers with all workers. For example, the relative risk for truckdrivers in table 1 (PDF) is 5.3 which means that they are roughly five times as likely to have a fatal work injury as the average worker.

Analysis of dangerous jobs is not complete, however, unless data on nonfatal job-related injuries and illnesses are examined.

Table 2 (PDF) shows those occupations with the largest number of nonfatal injuries and illnesses, along with days away from work to recuperate. This table shows that truckdrivers also lead the list for the occupations with the largest number of nonfatal injuries and illnesses. It also shows the chance of incurring an occupational injury or illness which is expressed as the total number of workers in the employment group compared with the number of workers injured in that group. For example, the chance of a truckdriver having a serious injury is 1 in 15, meaning that for every 15 truckdrivers 1 will have a serious injury during the year. But laborers and nursing aides and orderlies have a greater chance of injury or illness than truckdrivers. (See table 2. PDF) 

Median days away from work to recuperate is yet another measure that can be used to evaluate dangerous jobs. (Median days is an average such that half of those injured take more than the median days to recuperate while the other half require fewer days.) The median days to recuperate from an injury for the 10 occupations listed are highest for truckdrivers and carpenters, each showing a median of 8 days to recuperate, compared to all workers who had a median of 5 days.

Based on the index of relative risk in the chart (PDF), truckdriver is not the most dangerous occupation. This distinction belongs to fishers. Commercial fishers are about four times as likely as truckdrivers to be killed by a fatal work incident (21.3 and 5.3, respectively). 

Using this method of analysis, one could in fact identify even more dangerous occupations like elephant trainers who in some years have had 2 work fatalities. Based on employment figures of about 600 known elephant trainers in the United States, this would produce a fatality rate of 333 per 100,000 workers and a relative risk that is 68 times greater than for the typical worker. Clearly, in this analysis an elephant trainer has the highest risk of a fatal work injury even though the frequency is low or nonexistent in some years. The purpose of this example is to illustrate the importance of viewing frequency counts, fatality rates, and indexes of relative risk to discern dangerous jobs.

The occupations identified by the frequency risk techniques and a chance of injury can be used to target prevention efforts and may reduce both the number and rates of fatalities and injuries for those workers at highest risk. 

Characteristics of dangerous jobs

Today, the jobs that have the highest fatality rates and frequency counts are found in outdoor occupations or occupations where workers are not in an office or factory. These include truckdrivers, farmers, construction laborers, and airplane pilots. Most of these workers have one thing in common: they are affected by severe weather conditions, while driving on highways, flying airplanes, performing farm chores, or working on construction sites. Highway crashes are the primary cause of trucker fatalities, falls are the leading cause of death for construction laborers, and tractor rollovers account for 1 of every 3 farm worker fatalities.

Homicide is another serious concern in some job settings. In 1995, homicide accounted for 16 percent of job-related fatalities. Workers most at risk are those who work late at night, work alone, and handle money. Taxicab drivers are the most susceptible and have a relative risk about 10 times higher than the typical worker. Other occupations that have a high relative risk of homicide include police and guards.

For jobs with high numbers of nonfatal injuries and illnesses, overexertion is the leading event. These injuries result from lifting objects or, in the case of nursing aides and orderlies, patients. Injuries from overexertion accounted for about one third of all the nonfatal injuries in 1994; it took a median of 5 days for those injured to recuperate.

Two occupations appear on both the fatal and nonfatal lists: truckdrivers and construction laborers. But the leading event for fatal and nonfatal incidents for each occupation is different. For truckdrivers, 68 percent of the job-related fatalities are from highway crashes, whereas overexertion is the leading nonfatal event, accounting for 29 percent of the incidents. For construction laborers, the leading fatal events are falls and vehicular-related incidents such as being struck by a backhoe. For nonfatal incidents, the leading event is contact with objects, primarily equipment and tools used on construction sites.

This difference between the leading cause of a fatal and nonfatal injury for truckdrivers is important because it suggests different kinds of prevention efforts. For example, to reduce highway crashes, driver training and proper maintenance of trucks is essential, whereas, to reduce the incidence of overexertion, proper lifting techniques must be taught along with proper use of lifting equipment. For construction laborers, prevention programs for fatal events require awareness of the hazards of falling off buildings, ladders, scaffoldings, and other structures while for serious nonfatal injuries, prevention would focus on the proper use of tools.


1 Data on fatal work injuries are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), 1995. This program, which has collected occupational fatality data nationwide since 1992, uses diverse data sources to identify, verify, and profile fatal work injuries. Information about each workplace fatality (occupation and other worker characteristics, equipment being used, and circumstances of the event) is obtained by cross-referencing source documents, such as death certificates, workers’ compensation records, and reports to Federal and State agencies. This method assures counts are as complete and accurate as possible.

The Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII) collects information from a random sample of about 250,000 establishments representing most of private industry. Worker characteristics are collected only for those workers sustaining injuries and illnesses that require days away from work to recuperate.

Because the scope and methodology of CFOI and SOII are slightly different, comparison of the fatal and nonfatal data is problematic.

For more information on either CFOI or SOII, access the World Wide Web at http://stats.bls.gov/oshhome.htm or E-mail

2 There is more than one method to calculate fatality rates that measure the incidence of fatal work injuries for groups of workers. An hours-based rate measures the risk of fatality per standardized length of exposure; an employment-based rate measures the risk for those employed during a given period of time. 

An employment-based fatality rate measures the incidence of a fatal injury for all workers in a group, regardless of exposure time. It does not account for fewer fatalities among part-time workers than for full-time workers because of their reduced hours exposed to the work environment. An hour-based fatality rate accounts for different exposure durations among workers. Hours-based measurements are especially useful in industry and occupational comparisons in which the number of workers at risk can vary among industry or occupational groups for a particular period. Fatality counts from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries can be combined with information on employment or hours at work to produce a fatal work injury rate. Because neither hours at work nor number of persons employed are collected in the BLS census, the fatality rates in this report were calculated using the employment estimates from the Current Population Survey (CPS)-a household survey. The CPS annual average employment estimates are based on the number of workers employed during the week of the 12th each month.

3 Report on the American Workforce, U.S. Department of Labor, 1994, pp. 95-138. 

Most Dangerous Jobs

Which jobs result in the most fatalities? How do they compare to the average job? (Click for 2002 update, here for 2004 update, here for 2007 update.)


Relative Risk*

Leading Fatal Event

Average All Jobs


Homicide and Accidents




Timber Cutters


Struck by Object

Airplane Pilots


Airplane Crashes

Structural Metal Workers



Taxi Cab Drivers



Construction Workers


Vehicular, Falls




Electric Power Installers/Repairers



Truck Driver


Highway Crashes

Farm Occupations



Police, Detectives, Supervisors


Homicide, Highway Crashes

Nonconstruction Laborers






Welders and Cutters


Falls, fires




Groundkeepers and Gardeners






Auto Mechanics


Highway Crashes, Homicide

Supervisors, Proprietors, Sales






SOURCE: Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics - Compensation and Working Conditions Online

* Relative Risk Rate is the fatality rate for a given group divided by the fatality rate for all workers. A rate of 2.0 means the worker is twice as likely as the average worker to die on the job.

Source: www.governmentguide.com/issues/govsite.adp?bread=*Main*benefits_and_assistance*Benefits%20&%20Assistance*job.adp*Jobs*dangerjob.adp*Dangerous%20Jobs*&url=http%3A//stats.bls.gov/opub/cwc/1997/Summer/brief3.htm

America's most dangerous jobs - 2007

America's most dangerous jobs
Fishing, flying and logging were the three most dangerous jobs in America in 2007. These occupations reported higher death rates than any others, according to a report out Wednesday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Total workplace fatalities were actually down 6% in the United States during 2007. More troubling is the fact that the number of murders in the workplace jumped substantially.

Some 5,488 people died from injuries on the job last year, or 3.7 out of every 100,000 workers, according to the report. That's the fewest job fatalities recorded since the Bureau began collecting these statistics in 1992, and a 6% drop from the 5,840 in 2006.

But there were 13% more workplace homicides last year than in 2006, according to the BLS's latest Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. The increase brought the number to 610 from 540 in 2006. Still, that's a big improvement over the 1,080 murders recorded in 1994, the peak year on record for workplace homicides.

Open water

Fishing was the most dangerous occupation for the third year in a row. There were 111.8 fatalities for every 100,000 fishermen during the year. Fishermen labor in all sorts of weather, often in small boats on the open water where they can be swept overboard and drown. And they also handle heavy power equipment, such as winches and hoists, that can inflict terrible injuries.

But one of the most feared dangers for fishermen in northern states is ice, according to Tom Rudolph, spokesman for the Cape Cod Hook Commercial Fishermen's Association.

"When ice forms in the (ship's) rigging and above the water line it can have a dramatic and dangerous effect," he said. "The boat can roll."

At the same time, fishing has become a less profitable endeavor, as fish stock grow depleted and fuel costs skyrocket.

"Times are tough," said Rudolph. "Not many young people are going into fishing. Some days it's tough to find a crew. Some fishermen are going out what they call 'single-dory' - working alone."

When they're 100 miles out to sea with no one else aboard, there's no one to help should they get in trouble.

'They call them widow-makers'

The second most dangerous occupation is logging, where 86.4 workers per 100,000 died. That was an increase from 2006 when there were 82.3 fatal logging injuries for every 100,000 workers, but down from four years ago when, with more than 92 deaths per 100,000, logging led the nation in deaths on the job.

"Logging has become less dangerous because of mechanization," said Eric Johnson, editor of the Northern Logging & Timber Processing magazine. Instead of working with chain saws on the ground, loggers now often sit in the steel enclosed cabs of big machines. The loggers work the controls that send chain saws out into the trunk of a tree from a safer distance.

Still, there are many ways to get hurt. Loggers working outside can get crushed when trees fall in the wrong direction. And big broken branches snagged high up in the treetops often drop unexpectedly as the trees come down.

"They call them widow-makers," said Johnson.

Once logs are cut up, they have to be hauled to trucks. Loggers have big tractors with power winches attached to chains, which skid the logs through the forest. Get in the way and you can be hurt. Sometimes a big piece of wood can splinter off and hit someone.

And when there is a logging injury, help is often far away. Cell phones may not work in a forest, and helicopters can't land, which means that workers who could be saved, lose their race with time.

Commercial pilots also had a bad year, with 66.7 workers out of every 100,000. Still, that was an improvement from 2006, when commercial pilot was the second most dangerous job in America.

Small scale operations, such as bush pilots in Alaska ferrying fishermen and hunters into wilderness areas, account for many pilot fatalities. These flyers may be inexperienced, and their planes often aren't well maintained. Those new to an area sometimes get lost in unfamiliar territory or due to low visibility.

Construction is also a dangerous job. One category of construction jobs, structural iron and steel workers, incurred 45.9 fatal injuries last year for every 100,000 workers, down from 61 in 2006.

Job fatality figures released for each state revealed that Texas had the highest number of deaths - 527, up nearly 8% from 2006. That accounted for nearly 10% of the U.S. total. Rhode Island, with just 5 on the job deaths, had the fewest.

All the numbers released Wednesday were preliminary figures with final results due out in April, 2009
Soource: jobs.aol.com/article/_a/americas-most-dangerous-jobs/20080821085009990001?icid=200100397x1207741039x1200448734

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