What Are the Most Dangerous Jobs in America?

By Jake SchroederLast Updated Apr 18, 2020 9:53:49 PM ET
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Sadly, a lot of people out there downright hate their jobs. Maybe they dislike being cooped up in an office all day, or maybe they have to deal with a difficult boss. The list of possible reasons is endless.

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If you’re tired of the mundane and want a little adventure in your life, you could consider a new career that spices things up with a little danger. If you're curious about the most dangerous jobs in America, we've got you covered. You may be surprised at some of the jobs that made the list and the reasons they are so dangerous. Take a look!

Farmers

While life on the farm sounds peaceful and serene to some, the reality is a lot of accidents can happen on a farm. Both animals and the equipment farmers operate can cause bodily harm. Usually, machine-related accidents are the biggest culprits when farmers get hurt.

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Some accidents have even resulted in deaths of these workers. As many as 200 farmers died in 2011 due to accidents that occurred while they were on the job. That may change the number of people who view this career choice as appealing.

Landscapers

For the most part, landscaping work doesn’t seem like it would be dangerous, but close proximity to the road, occasional use of chainsaws to trim trees and frequent driving have turned this job into one of the most dangerous in the United States.

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Landscapers tend to spend a lot of time driving to and from multiple locations to do their jobs every day. This puts them on the road more than people in other careers. The number of accidents on the road have made this job a surprisingly dangerous career choice.

Truck Drivers

Any job that puts you on the road a lot automatically comes with some added danger. There are a lot of vehicle-related accidents every day, some of which cause fatalities. Truck drivers have a higher risk of accidents simply from being on the road more than other jobs.

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Not too surprisingly, back in 2018, truck drivers had the highest fatalities of all workplace fatalities. Lots of accidents can happen when you’re traveling. They have to deal with vehicle collisions, harsh weather conditions, detours, road hazards and more. Even mechanical issues can lead to accidents for truck drivers.

Garbage Collectors

Garbage collectors encounter a lot of risk while on the job. Most of the time, they are driving or riding exposed on the back of a truck, which comes with a lot of danger. Additionally, they collect hazardous materials and could come into contact with numerous items that could cause injury.

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Most of the dangers that garbage collectors face are transportation-related accidents. They are also expected to work every day of the year, despite the weather conditions. A lot can happen on the road, especially when there's bad weather.

Roofers

Anytime you spend your days in a high location far above the ground, you are at greater risk of getting injured in an accident. Roofers spend their time on actual roofs, often multiple stories above the ground. Falls and slips are more common than you might think.

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Those slips and falls can actually turn deadly, especially if they occur when the roofer is more than one story up. Other injuries can occur because it's such a physical job. Heavy lifting and climbing can cause a plethora of muscle-related injuries, making this one of the most dangerous jobs in the U.S.

Fishermen

All you have to do is look to find all kinds of television shows about fishermen. Most of those shows shine a light on the dangers of the job. They use potentially dangerous equipment like traps and nets, and they spend their days on the water where a lot of accidents can happen.

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Many of the dangers of being a fisherman involve falling off the boat itself. Their work is also very physical in nature and can cause injuries. In one recent year, as many as 30 fatal injuries occurred in this occupation.

Loggers

If you have ever researched anything about dangerous jobs, you have likely heard that loggers have one of the most dangerous jobs. They harvest trees for the wood used in construction and consumer goods , so their biggest risk is being hit with huge falling objects.

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Statistically, those working in the logging industry have a 28 times higher risk of fatal injury as compared to other full-time workers in other professions. Needless to say, their job is very risky overall, but like with most jobs, somebody has to do it, so we applaud them for their choice!

Electricians

You may think that the major danger of being an electrician would involve electrical-related accidents, but that isn't the case. Shockingly — pun completely intended — the biggest risk that electricians face has nothing to do with being electrocuted.

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Even though they spend their days installing power and repairing it, their biggest danger is slipping and falling. Numerous fatal accidents have occurred due to severe falls that electricians have had on the job. Only about 1% of the injuries they sustain are fatal, but the danger is still very real. Consequently, they have a higher risk of accidents than many other jobs.

Firefighters

It's not surprising that the job of a firefighter comes with many dangers. They run into buildings that are on fire to help people, and then they have to deal with putting those fires out. Surprisingly, many of these brave men and women are only working on a volunteer basis!

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Being a firefighter puts you at risk of burns and other injuries, including smoke inhalation. Back in 2017, 34 firemen suffered fatal injuries on the job. We can't help but appreciate the risk they take every single day to keep others safe, despite all the dangers they know they will face.

Painters

A lot of the time, being a painter involves the use of ladders, and anytime you're using a ladder, there are risks. Painters also apply stain and other coatings that can expose them to potentially harmful chemicals, adding more danger to the job.

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While the chemicals can be a danger, most of the injuries that painters suffer on the job are accidents from falling or slipping. These accidents become even more dangerous when the worker was in an elevated location when it happened. Multiple fatalities have occurred this past year due to those types of accidents while painting.

Athletes and Related Jobs

Athletes, coaches, umpires and all other athletic-related jobs come with their own dangers as well. The athletes themselves face injuries that occur while playing their chosen sport, but those who travel with them face a danger of their own.

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Surprisingly, the highest number of fatalities in this career field involve transportation-related accidents. Anybody who spends time traveling from place to place is going to face dangers on the job. Those who work in this field travel quite often for games. Umpires and coaches also face potential injuries while on the field.

Taxi Drivers and Chauffeurs

Transportation-related injuries are one of the biggest risk factors for many of the most dangerous jobs. Taxi drivers and chauffeurs spend their days on the roads, transporting others from point A to point B. There are bound to be dangers in that sort of job.

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Vehicle accidents account for most of the fatalities and injuries in this field, and that's no surprise. However, a large share of the danger has to do with violence from others. About 35% of all fatalities among taxi drivers are due to violent acts from other people.

Construction Equipment Operators

A lot of dangers are faced by those who work in the construction field. Specifically, those who operate construction equipment are at high risk of suffering work-related injuries. Not only do they face danger going to and from the equipment they operate while on a construction project, but they also must be extremely careful while operating the machines.

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At the very least, they can suffer damage to their bodies due to the vibrations of the machine. They can also sustain other more serious types of injuries while on the job, making this a pretty dangerous gig.

Police Officers

Police officers take a huge risk when they sign up for the job. They deal with violence from other people, dangerous animal encounters and other injuries. Their job is incredibly high risk. Not surprisingly, workplace fatalities are usually due to violence from other people and animals.

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Additionally, police officers are at risk of being involved in a transportation-related accident. We need people out there keeping us safe, so we’re grateful these brave men and women signed up for such a dangerous job and take the risk daily.

Mechanics

Mechanics spend their days around a lot of potentially dangerous items. Sometimes, they have to get underneath the cars they are working on using jacks that can sometimes accidentally fail. This poses a pretty big risk to the mechanics underneath them.

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Some mechanics work in more dangerous conditions than others, upping their risk of workplace-related injuries. Those who work in more dangerous conditions are paid more, but they are accepting a much higher risk of injury. A lot can go wrong while working on trucks and vehicles, but they are mostly non-fatal injuries.

Mining Machine Operators

Mining, in general, is a dangerous job. Those who operate mining machines have to do so underground in unstable conditions where many accidents have been known to happen. Extra challenges include decreased visibility and air quality issues.

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While it is safer now to work in the mining industry than in the past, there are still many risks. It may surprise you that mining machine operators face a fatality rate that is more than three times the national rate when compared to other professions. It's a dangerous job, but by all reports, it actually pays quite well.

Construction Workers

There are a lot of potentially dangerous jobs in the construction industry. Construction workers, in general, are at a high risk of workplace accidents and injuries. A variety of accidents can happen; slips, trips and falls are the most common, and some can have devastating consequences, depending on where they take place.

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In 2017, there were more than 200 deaths among construction workers. Heights, machinery and risky conditions all contribute to workplace injuries in this field. Many non-fatal injuries happen every day. To put it bluntly, a lot can go wrong when it comes to working in these conditions.

Groundskeepers

Physically, being a groundskeeper can take a toll. They work outside in all conditions, often lifting heavy items and operating potentially dangerous equipment. The main cause of fatalities on this job has to do with the type of equipment they use.

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Otherwise, common injuries suffered by groundskeepers are caused by slipping, falling and other accidents. They rank about 15th among the highest fatality rate of all occupations in America. It seems like a very demanding job that would require a lot of commitment and focus. Dealing with harsh weather conditions can also be very difficult.

Department Store Worker

You probably read this heading and immediately frowned with confusion. Regardless of your disbelief, department store workers face a specific type of threat that is more common than the general public may think. They have a higher risk of encountering violence than most other workers.

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In 2018, 13 fatalities were recorded for department store workers on the job. Half of those deaths were due to violence from either a person or an animal while they were working. The other fatalities were due to slips and falls. Surprisingly, the job is much more dangerous than most people realize. Who knew?

HVAC Technicians

Technicians who specialize in heating, air conditioning and refrigeration face similar risks as their car mechanic counterparts. Not only do they normally work in uncomfortable surroundings, but they also have to deal with heavy, dangerous equipment on a daily basis.

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In 2018, there were 40 workplace fatalities for these types of repairmen. Most were due to accidents related to falls. This profession also has a large number of non-fatal injuries in the workplace. The workers tend to overexert themselves while working, causing other types of injuries that ultimately make their jobs pretty dangerous.

Rail Track Workers

Maintenance equipment operators and those who work laying track for railroads face a variety of risks while on the job. They spend their days keeping America’s railroads in good working order by laying track, making sure the signals are up to par and welding sections in need of repair.

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The machinery they use can be dangerous, potentially causing injury. Most of the fatalities in this field are due to common accidents like slipping and falling. They do make a decent salary that somewhat represents the risks they take, so that's a positive.

Sewer Pipe Cleaners and Septic Tank Servicers

The objects and equipment used by those who have this job can pose a danger to the user. Workers clean septic tanks and sewer lines and are also in charge of repairs. Slips and falls happen in this job, but the main cause of fatalities and injuries is misuse (or malfunctions) of dangerous equipment.

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While there aren't many fatalities in this job field, they do occur. That contributes to making this job one of the most dangerous in the United States. Workers can sustain a variety of injuries while working on this job, but the majority of the injuries are not fatal.

Woodworking Machine Operators

Carpenters and woodworkers operate sharp equipment used to cut and process different types of wood. Some of the machines they use include sanders, drill presses, saws and routers. There have been fatalities in this field, but the loss of limbs (without total loss of lie) is more common for obvious reasons.

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Working with machines with sharp blades means workers have to be incredibly careful every single time they start working. That's a lot of pressure, considering the high risk of injury if a wrong move is made. In 2017, at least six people died while on the job.

Paving and Surfacing Operators

Work on roads, parking lots, sidewalks and driveways is always in demand. (We all know this kind of work never seems to be complete.) These workers spread asphalt, repair roads and ensure the surfaces are completely even. They use a lot of machinery to do this, and all those machines can make this job dangerous.

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There were as many as 12 deaths in 2017 in this occupation. Most of the danger involved in this job is due to collisions with equipment and crashes with other vehicles that are on the road. Transportation fatalities are also an issue, as they spend a lot of time traveling to and from job sites.

Sailors and Marine Oilers

Marine oilers and sailors spend most of their workday at sea, where there are always a lot of dangers. Their job consists of navigating marine vessels, maintaining ship equipment and many other tasks related to operating boats and ships.

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They have to do their job, even when the weather is bad, which adds another element of danger to their everyday life. They also generally spend long amounts of time at sea. The job comes with the danger of water-related accidents as well as machine accidents. Drowning is the main cause of death for these workers.

Flight Engineers and Aircraft Pilots

The air travel industry includes a number of occupations where transportation-related injuries are the main cause of death or injury. After all, a lot can go wrong up in the air, especially if you’re overworked and overscheduled, which seems to happen a lot in this career field.

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There were at least 59 fatal injuries back in 2017 in this occupation and more than 600 injuries. In fact, they rate very high when it comes to injuries as opposed to other occupations. They do make good money, however, with an average salary of more than $100,000 yearly.

Structural Steel and Iron Workers

Structural steel and ironworkers can suffer a variety of injuries on the job. They work at great heights, installing and repairing the steel and iron on buildings, bridges and roads. Slips, falls and trips put these workers at a higher risk of death simply because they are usually very high above the ground.

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Surprisingly, the amount of fatalities per injury is only slightly more than 1%, but many injuries occur on this job. They take a great risk every time they climb up to repair one of these structures, but as with many other occupations on this list, they are critical employees in modern society.

Electrical Power Line Installers

Those who install power lines also have a pretty dangerous job. There were 26 fatal injuries that happened in 2017. A lineman’s work is physically demanding, and the workers deal with high-voltage power lines daily. They are at increased risk both because of the heights they work at and the electrical wires surrounding them.

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The most common injuries are a result of exposure to harmful substances and falls. The risk is rewarded, however, as the common salary runs about $69,000. Either way, this is one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States.

Construction Helpers

We talked about the dangers faced by construction workers in general, but their site helpers also face the same types of risk. In fact, construction work of any kind ranks high on the list of most dangerous jobs in the country. The helpers face the same risk of accidents, falls, trips and slips, and those accidents account for most of the fatalities and injuries.

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However, among the helpers, there were only about 11 fatal injuries back in 2017. That’s out of a whopping injury count of more than 2,000 injuries. Construction sites are definitely dangerous places to earn a living.

General Maintenance and Repair Workers

Maintenance and repair workers often have to work on multiple projects each day. They fix everything from mechanical equipment to flooring to plumbing to electrical issues. This variety puts them at risk of a lot of different types of injuries that could take place at work.

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Cuts, falls, shocks and other injuries are common. Slips and falls account for most of the fatal injuries in this occupation. However, non-fatal injuries are quite common in this field. About 23,000 injuries occur yearly among these types of workers. They deal with injuries on a more common basis than other workers.