Most dangerous jobs? When you think of danger, several activities likely come to mind, such as skydiving, swimming with sharks, bull riding, heli-skiing, mountain climbing and even driving. Chances are that you do not think about activities that people get paid for or actual JOBS. Yet, some of the most dangerous activities in America are certified jobs that come with all the works, including retirement, benefits, paid vacation and all.
Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie who’s looking for a thrill on a nine to five basis or just want to know that some people have it worse than you, this guide reveals the top deadliest jobs in America. It also reveals the average wage for such positions, the average number of fatalities on an annual basis and factors that make the position so deadly in the first place. So, without further ado, here are the top 30 most dangerous jobs in the U.S.
10 of the Least Most Dangerous of the 30 Most Dangerous Professions
Electricians, with 10.0 deaths per 100,000 workers
Industrial workers, with 9.3 deaths per 100,000 workers
Painting, construction, and maintenance, with 8.6 deaths per 100,000 workers
Heating, air conditioning, and refrigerator mechanics, with 8.4 deaths per 100,000 workers
Mechanics and their supervisors, with 7.4 deaths per 100,000 workers
Firefighters, with 6.2 deaths per 100,000 workers
Janitors and pest control specialists, with 5.8 deaths per 100,000 workers
Manufacturing and production workers, with 3.0 deaths per 100,000 workers
Arts, design and entertainment workers, with 2.4 deaths per 100,000 workers
Architects, with 1.2 deaths per 100,000 workers
Most Dangerous Jobs in America to Date
20. Engineer and Construction Equipment Operators
One might think that engineers and equipment operators would be safe from the dangers typical of the construction industry, but that person would be wrong. Though heavy equipment operators have a lower fatality rate than those who work on the ground, they’re still prone to life-taking events and injuries.
Fatality Rate: 10.6 per 100,000 workers
Pay: Median annual salary of $45,890
19. Miners and Mining Foreman
The mining profession used to be in the top five most dangerous professions, but thanks to advances in technology and stricter safety measures, it has since moved down in the ranks to number 19. That said, the profession is still extremely dangerous, as no amount of technological advances or safety measures can prevent collapses, rockslides and machinery accidents.
Fatality rate aside, the pay for underground miners is relatively high. In fact, it is the second highest on this list and 36 percent above the national average, so there’s that.
Fatality Rate: 11.4 deaths per 100,000 individuals
Pay: Average annual salary of $92,894
18. Athletes, Coaches, Umpires and Sports Workers
Injuries are not all that uncommon in the sports sector, a fact that many non-athletes are well aware of. However, a fact that may surprise you is that many deaths are the result of fatal injuries. Athletes, coaches, and umpires are at a greater risk of fatal injuries than any other profession in the United States. It’s not fast pitches to the head that are doing athletes in either or extreme tackles. Rather, it’s off-road vehicles. Extreme sporting events that involve off-road vehicles account for 40 percent of sports-related deaths in 2016.
Fatality Rate: 11.7 deaths per 100,000 workers
Pay: Median annual salary of $31,440
17. Telecommunications Lines Installers and Repairers
Telecommunications lines installers are those individuals whom you see in small boxes hanging at the end of a shaky looking hook wearing hard hats and messing with live wires. If you’ve ever thought that such a job looked dangerous, you thought right. Telecommunications lines installers and repairers work at great heights and with dangerous equipment. However, while you might assume that electrocutions or falls would be the number one cause of death in the industry, you’d be wrong. The number one cause of death for these individuals is car accidents, which account for 43 percent of all fatalities in the profession.
Fatality Rate: 12.1 deaths per 100,000 workers
Pay: Median annual salary of $52,590
16. General Maintenance and Repair Workers
Depending on the nature of a repairperson’s work, he or she is susceptible to a number of accidents on a daily basis. From working with live wires to working on wet floors, and from to work at great heights to working beneath heavy, insecure objects, a repairperson’s job is fraught with dangers most of us have the luxury to not even have to think about. Moreover, repairers often work in uncomfortable, cramped positions, squeeze themselves into tight spaces and deal with shocks, cuts, falls and bruises on a daily basis. While many repair people get up and walk away from their accidents, a few unfortunate workers don’t.
Fatality Rate: 13.4 deaths per 100,000 workers
Pay: Median annual salary of $36,940
15. Police Officers and Sheriffs
Sadly, it seems that life is becoming increasingly dangerous for law enforcement officers. Police officers sign up for the job knowing that there is the very real possibility that they will get killed in the line of duty, but that doesn’t make an officer’s death any easier to bear. Between January and May of 2018, 66 officers had died in the line of duty. The number reflects the annual average, however, which remains fairly consistent due to intentional shootings and car accidents, both of which claimed an almost equal amount of lives.
Fatality Rate: 14.6 deaths per 100,000 officers
Pay: Median annual salary of $56,980
14. Construction Workers
If you took OSHA’s word for it, the construction industry is the number one most dangerous industry to work in. According to several studies, however, it’s not even in the top 10. That said, construction work is still extremely dangerous, claiming between 200 and 300 deaths per year. Construction workers are exposed to a number of risks on an annual basis, including but not limited to heavy equipment, sharp objects, falling objects, heights and bad drivers. In 2016, the number one cause of construction workers deaths was unintentional contact with equipment.
Fatality Rate: 15.1 deaths per 100,000 workers
Pay: Average annual salary of $34,170, with some workers earning as much as $51,320 per year
13. First-Line Supervisors
Usually, individuals are appointed as supervisors because of their skill, attention to detail, adherence to protocol and leadership qualities. Unfortunately, their skill sets don’t do much to protect them from danger. First-line supervisors of mechanics, installers, and repairers are susceptible to a range of dangers, including falling and heavy equipment. The number one cause of death for these workers in 2016, however, was either aggressive animals or aggressive humans, both of which claimed the lives of 16 out of every 44 individuals in 2016. Talk about scary!
Fatality Rate: 15.7 deaths per 100,000 workers
Pay: Median annual salary of $63,540
12. Maintenance Workers
In general, grounds keeping is a physically demanding job, but ask anyone on the street and they’d be hard-pressed to say that grounds work is dangerous. Yet, according to the stats, it’s both physically demanding and dangerous work. Who knew? Groundskeepers are susceptible to fatal slip and fall accidents, flying objects and unintentional contact with equipment. They are also forced to work in all weather conditions, which is hard on the immune system.
Fatality Rate: 17.4 deaths per 100,000 workers
Pay: Median annual salary of $26,830
11. Line Workers
Considering the amount of dangers line installers are exposed to, one might think that the profession would be closer to the end of this list. Line workers are at risk of falling from great heights, being electrocuted, being struck by lightning or all three on a weekly basis. To really put things into perspective, line workers are the brave men and women that go out in thunderstorms to restore downed lines while you’re safe, dry and warm in your home.
Fatality Rate: 18 deaths per 100,000 workers
Pay: Average annual salary of $40,000 to $60,000, depending on experience
10. Tree Trimmers
Tree trimmers may not work with live wires, but they are forced to work at great heights in shady equipment and with sharp power tools. Moreover, they’re asked to trim large branches—which oftentimes weigh more than them—and hope that said branches don’t come crashing down on them while they’re yielding a power tool way up in the air.
Though tree trimmers don’t work with live wires, they are subject to the dangers of live wires. Oftentimes, trimmers are asked to trim the branches around power lines so as to prevent danger to those below. That very chore can put the workers themselves at risk, which, according to the stats, it does.
Fatality Rate: 18.1 deaths per 100,000 workers
Pay: Average annual salary of $31,200
9. Taxi Drivers
If you’ve ever been to New York City and ridden in a taxi cab, you know what fear is. Taxi drivers are crazy with a capital C, and despite the fact that each one is entrusted with the lives of dozens of people on a daily basis, many drives without any regard for their own lives or the lives of others. It’s their Nascar-driver mindset that gets many killed, but it’s also other negligent drivers on the road, poor road conditions and straight-up criminals.
Fatality Rate: 19.7 deaths per 100,000 drivers
Pay: Median annual salary of $34,447
8. Farmers and Ranch Hands
From angry bulls to untamed horses, and from heavy farming equipment to sharp ranch tools, farmers and ranch hands are exposed to numerous risks throughout the day. According to the CDC, overturned tractors caused the highest number of industry deaths in 2016. If you’ve seen a tractor up close and personal, that fact would put you off the cowboy life, well, for life.
Fatality Rate: 23.1 deaths per 100,000
Pay: Average annual salary of $70,010, with lows of $31,980 some years and highs of $112,150 during the more lucrative years
One might not think of trucking as an exciting career, but in actuality, it’s one of the deadliest jobs a person can do. Truckers aren’t just susceptible to negligent drivers (though bad drivers are a huge factor in trucking death rates), but they are also susceptible to bad weather. Strong winds, heavy rains, ice, snowfall and other acts of Mother Nature can cause a trucker to lose control at the worst possible moment. Then there are bad road conditions to take into consideration, such as potholes, poor road design, lack of signage and the like.
Fatality Rate: 24.7 per 100,000 workers
Pay: The median wage for truckers is $37,930 annually, with top earners making $58,000 per year
6. Iron and Steel Workers
If you’ve ever looked up at a high rise and wondered what feats of technology brought such a monstrosity to life, wonder no more. Iron and steel workers are the very people responsible for modern society’s amazing structural feats. Unfortunately, many steel workers don’t live long enough to see their visions fully realized. Though steel and iron workers are extensively trained in how to maneuver at such great heights as well as in the equipment they work with, many still fall victim to electrocutions and falls from great heights. Though this profession didn’t make the top of the list (or, in this case, the bottom), there is no doubt that poses some of the SCARIEST threats of all professions.
Fatality Rate: 29.8 deaths per 100,000 workers
Pay: Average annual salary is $71,030
5. Trash Collectors
Apparently, waste collectors fall victim to their trucks’ crushing power more often than the average citizen might think. Trash trucks are built to crush, and one wrong move at the wrong moment could mean the end of a worker’s trash-collecting days. Heavy and dangerous equipment aside, trash truck drivers are exposed to bacteria that most people aren’t even aware of. Moreover, impatient drivers do a job on waste collectors, with more trash collectors dying at the hands of swerving cars than anything else.
Fatality Rate: 34.1 per 100,000 workers
Pay: Average annual salary is $35,890
Roofers and trash collectors flip-flop for this spot each year, but as of 2016—the year from which the statistics this post is based on—roofers took the number four spot. The biggest threat to roofers is falling, but some roofers die after being hit in the head with a heavy object or cutting off a limb.
Fatality Rate: 48.6 deaths per 100,000 workers
Pay: Average annual salary is $38,570, but some roofers earn as much as $60,090 per year, while others earn as little as $22,430 per year
3. Pilots and Flight Engineers
Statistics say that aircraft failures are extremely rare and that your chances of dying in a car accident are far greater than those of dying in a plane crash. In fact, when you break the numbers down, your chances of dying in a car accident are one in 5,000, while your chances of dying in a plane crash are one in 11 million. Furthermore, the odds of a plane crashing are one in every 1.2 million flights. With those numbers, you’d think that becoming an airline pilot would be relatively safe.
Apparently not. Pilots and flight engineers are susceptible to failing equipment, falling equipment, and bad weather on a daily basis. That said, the pay is decent, the uniforms are cool and the title is pretty B.A., making the risk worth it…for some.
Fatality Rate: 40.4 deaths per 100,000 workers
Pay: Average annual salary is $121,408 for pilots of large jets and $104,219 for pilots of medium-sized jets
When most people think of fishing, they think of relaxing days on a calm lake, sipping an ice-cold beverage and waiting for the fish to bite. Describe this image to a professional deep-sea fisher and he or she would laugh at you.
Fishermen are exposed to extreme weather, heavy equipment and the possibility of drowning on a daily basis. Even those who are better on their sea legs than they are on their land legs can fall overboard, and despite what the opening scene of Pocahontas would have you believe, those who fall overboard rarely come back up.
Fatality Rate: 54.8 deaths per 100,000 workers
Pay: Average annual salary is $30,220, with a high of $42,410
Of course, logging would make number one on the list, as everything about the job sounds dreadful. First, there are very sharp and very large saws involved. These saws can cut through trees, meaning that they very easily can slice through human bone. Sharp objects aside, the very goal of logging is to knock down trees. Cut the wrong way and those trees can come crashing down on you and anyone else around. There is also the steep and often dangerous terrain to take into consideration, as well as the heavy equipment…Add it all up and logging appears a lot more dangerous than you initially thought it was.
Those who don’t work in the industry might say that there are safety measures in place to prevent such accidents, and while there no doubt ARE safety measures, they have done nothing to reduce the number of deaths that occur in the field each year. With a fatality rate nearly double that of the fishing industry, you would think that loggers would make more, but alas, their yearly salary is just average.
Fatality Rate: 132.7 deaths per 100,000 workers
Pay: $42,610 per year for fallers, $34,670 per year for equipment operators, $33,870 per year for all other logging workers
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