Many individuals perform jobs that have a much higher risk of workplace fatalities than others. For those of us with little to no risk of a workplace injury, let alone death on the job, it’s easy to forget the lower level of occupational safety that many workers in America have to deal with. The reality is that thousands of on-the-job deaths occur every year.
Occupations that have higher worker deaths tend to be in the private sector, have lower pay, and higher workers compensation insurance premiums
In recent years, researchers have observed an alarming trend of increasing fatal injury rates in workplaces. According to data collected in the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Department of Labor, on-the-job deaths increased by 9% from 2014 to 2018. In 2019 there was a worker death every 99 minutes from a work-related injury and Latino workers made up 20% of all fatal occupational injuries. They also found that occupations that have higher worker deaths tend to be in the private sector, have lower pay, and higher workers compensation insurance premiums than most other occupations.
The Most Dangerous Jobs
Certain occupations suffer a much higher rate of fatal work injuries than others. Here are the top 10 most dangerous occupations as of 2019:
Note: The number of fatalities is measured per 100k full-time equivalent workers.
1. Fishing and hunting workers
Fatality rate: 145.0
While an occupation such as fishing may not be your first guess for one of the most dangerous jobs, it’s an extremely hazardous occupation. Working frequently in large bodies of water poses a daily risk to worker safety. The majority of commercial fishing workers deaths are caused by accidents like drowning, malfunctioning fishing gear, getting caught in fishing nets, slip and falls on decks, or waves washing over the deck. Collisions and shipwrecks also contribute to workplace fatalities.
2. Logging workers
Fatality rate: 68.9
Logging is an extremely dangerous job where workers spend the majority of their time outdoors operating heavy machinery. The possibility of being struck by either machinery or logs accounts for the high fatality rate in this profession.
3. Aircraft pilots and flight engineers
Fatality rate: 61.8
This includes pilots who operate airplanes, helicopters, and any other aircraft. Fatalities occur more often when private jets and helicopters crash, as opposed to commercial airplanes.
Fatality rate: 54.0
Roofers perform dangerous work that involves climbing ladders and working on roofs for long periods of time. Due to the height they conduct the majority of their work from, it’s unsurprising that falls from roofs and ladders are the leading cause of workplace fatalities for roofers.
5. Construction helpers
Fatality rate: 40.0
This category is made up of construction workers who help trade workers with their building projects on construction sites. Construction sites are some of the most dangerous workplace environments out there and so, similarly to roofers, construction helpers also die from falls or trips while on constructions sites.
6. Garbage collectors
Fatality rate: 35.2
Recorded by the BLS as refuse and recyclable material collectors, these workers load our garbage and recycle bins either by hand or with mechanical lifters. Transportation incidents cause the majority of their workplace deaths, either from being struck by a garbage truck or another vehicle.
7. Delivery drivers
Fatality rate: 26.8
This category is composed of not only delivery drivers, but also sales workers, and truck drivers. Since transportation incidents were the leading cause of workplace deaths in 2019, it’s not wonder that workers in this industry are impacted. Traffic collisions are the cause of workplace deaths for these workers.
In the case of truck drivers, trucking companies tend to push drivers to drive more hours than federal regulations permit, causing fatigued driving. If you want to know more about the leading causes of truck driver deaths, check out Truck Driver Deaths: The Unfortunate Facts.
8. Iron and Steel workers
Fatality rate: 26.3
Structural iron and steel workers install these materials on buildings, roads, and bridges. In order to do that, workers often climb tall structures while operating equipment. Since dangerous heights are also a factor with this occupation, most fatal incidents are slip and falls.
Fatality rate: 23.2
This might be a surprising one, since most people don’t think of farming as a particularly dangerous occupation. However, farmers often have to operate large farming equipment in order to produce goods, so incidents like tractor crashes are often the cause of workplace deaths.
10. Grounds maintenance workers
Fatality rate: 19.8
Grounds maintenance workers care for the lawns and other ground areas of parks, businesses, and residences. Because they have to travel to and from their worksites so frequently, and often visit more than one site in a day, auto crashes are the most common cause of workplace fatalities.
Leading causes of on-the-job deaths
Which workplace incidents cause the most fatal job injuries?
Fatal injuries in 2019: 2,122
Workers most impacted: Aircraft pilots and flight engineers, garbage collectors, delivery drivers, farmers, and grounds maintenance workers.
Includes: Aircraft incidents, rail vehicle incidents, pedestrian vehicular incidents, water vehicle incidents. The most deaths in this category are unsurprisingly caused by roadway incidents involving motor vehicles.
Falls, slips, and trips
Fatal injuries in 2019: 880
Workers most impacted: Roofers, iron and steel workers, construction helpers
Includes: A fall on the same level, falling from a collapsing structure or equipment, and falling through a surface or existing opening.
Violence and other injuries by persons or animals
Fatal injuries in 2019: 841
Workers most impacted: Workplace violence is not necessarily correlated with jobs that also have the highest rates of on-the-job deaths, since they can occur in nearly any occupation. In fact, healthcare workers make up the majority of victims in workplace violence incidents. Mental health professionals also deal with a high risk of being subjected to workplace violence.
Includes: Intentional injury by another person, with the majority of the incidents being homicides by shooting another person, or suicides.
Notable: Workplace violence deaths saw the largest increase over the course of 5 years out of the other causes of on-the-job deaths on this list. Between 2015 and 2019, workplace violence fatalities increased from 703 to 841.
Contact with objects and equipment
Fatal injuries in 2019: 732
Workers most impacted: Logging workers
Includes: Being struck by objects or equipment such as vehicles or falling objects, being caught in equipment, and being struck, caught, or crushed in a collapsing structure, equipment, or material.
Exposure to harmful substances or environments
Fatal injuries in 2019: 642
Workers most impacted: Power linemen (electrical power-line installers and repairers).
Includes: Exposure to electricity (electrocution), exposure to temperature extremes, and inhalation of harmful substances.
Why the increase in work-related deaths?
They found that OSHA lacks the resources needed to protect worker safety, citing a shortage of inspectors and low penalties
Unfortunately, dangerous jobs do come with risks and will always have higher rates of on-the-job deaths. However, it’s clear that the enforcement of safety standards could improve job safety for a lot of workers, especially in the case of construction workers.
A Death on the Job Review was conducted by the AFL-CIO, an organization comprised of American labor unions. They found that OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) lacks the resources needed to protect worker safety, citing a shortage of inspectors and low penalties that don’t pose a threat to employers. Since many of these jobs are in the private industry, this lack of federal OSHA enforcement often allows employers to maintain negligent standards of workplace safety for in high-risk occupations.
When to Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer
If your loved one died in an work-related fatality, there are various State of Illinois laws that can help you receive compensation. Please contact the law firm of Palermo Law Group at (630) 684-2332 for a free consultation with nationally recognized wrongful death lawyer, Mario Palermo, regarding the best approach to the legal issue of obtaining compensation for your loss.