According to data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, on-the-job deaths are on the rise and currently at highs not seen in years. In fact, the BLS states that there were more than 5,000 fatal work injuries in the United States in 2021, which is nearly a 9 percent increase from the 4,764 on-the-job deaths recorded a year earlier in 2020.
This translates to roughly 3.6 fatalities per 100,000 full-time workers, which is up from 3.4 per 100,000 in 2020 and 3.5 per 100,000 in 2019. It should go without saying that it should be the goal of any employer to ensure that its workers leave each day in the same condition that they arrived in.
However, various professions face more of a challenge to this goal than others. In this post, we'll cover the top 10 most dangerous jobs in the United States and the importance of wearing PPE and following established safety guidelines.
The Most At-Risk Occupations in the United States
It's estimated that one worker died about every 100 minutes from an on-the-job injury in 2021 per data accumulated by the BLS and published in ISHN Magazine. Some of the leading causes of death include exposure to harmful substances; falls, slips and trips; being struck by an object; and transportation-related accidents.
Noting this, let's take a closer look at the 10 most dangerous jobs in America and how workers can stay safe:
According to data from the BLS, logging is the most at-risk profession in the United States. In fact, the fatality rate is more than 82 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers (as mentioned, the fatal injury rate for all occupations combined is 3.6 per 100,000). That's a fatal accident rate that's more than 20 times the national average.
Loggers work with heavy machinery and timber in forests to source raw materials needed to create everyday products like paper. These forests are largely remote and isolated, which presents challenges in receiving prompt and potentially life-saving treatment in the event of an emergency. The most common cause of injury or death among loggers is being struck by logs or contact with heavy equipment. Struck by accidents is one of OSHA's "Fatal Four" as it pertains to the top four causes of fatalities.
Farming, Fishing, and Forestry
The farming and fishing industry is key to putting food on American dining room tables every night. It also happens to be one of the most dangerous professions in the nation. According to BLS data, the fatality rate is more than 75 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers and this occupation typically experiences more than 20 worker deaths in any given year.
Transportation-related accidents are the most common cause of death in this profession.
Another one of OSHA's "Fatal Four" is falls - and working at heights certainly increases the risk of on-the-job falls. That's the biggest factor that makes roofing one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States, with a fatal injury rate of 59 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers.
OSHA has established fall protection guidelines for both commercial and residential roofing. Safety measures to reduce injury include tying off, using guardrails or safety netting, and more.
Aircraft Pilots and Flight Engineers
Statistically speaking, air travel is still among the safest means of travel. However, there is still a considerable amount of risk associated with the pilot or flight engineer professions. In fact, BLS data lists the fatal injury rate for this profession at more than 48 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers.
Transportation accidents are the leading cause of injury and death in this profession, whether these incidents are due to aircraft malfunction or pilot error.
Structural Iron and Steel Workers
With more than 36 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers, ironwork accounts for one of the most dangerous professions in the nation. Ironwork tends to mix two of OSHA's "Fatal Four" - struck by and falls. Ironworkers typically place steel at significant heights on commercial construction projects, placing them at risk of a fall. They're also handling heavy steel beams, which is where the struck by risk comes into play.
We noted how transportation-related incidents are among the leading causes of on-the-job fatalities. On this note, you're likely not surprised to learn that truck driving has a fatality rate of nearly 29 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers.
While traffic accidents are the leading cause of death, many truck drivers are also responsible for loading and unloading cargo before and after trips. Doing so can also put them at risk of experiencing a struck by injury.
Refuse/Recycle Material Collectors
Perhaps better known as "garbage collectors" or "waste management professionals," these professionals travel through neighborhoods to collect curbside waste and recyclables. And with regular exiting and entering the truck to collect this waste, they're also more likely to be struck by a vehicle. Per BLS data, the fatality injury rate for this profession is nearly 28 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers.
Underground Mining Machine Operators
Loading rock, coal, metals, or other materials onto a conveyor so they can be transported out of a mine isn't easy work. And with a fatality injury rate of 26.7 per 100,000 full-time workers, you can see how it's not just physically demanding - but also dangerous.
Construction Trades Helpers
Any construction-related profession is going to come with its share of risk - and construction trades helpers are no exception. With a fatal injury rate of nearly 23 deaths per 100,000 workers, it is among the ten most dangerous jobs in America. The leading cause of death is falls and trips.
Electrical Power Line Installers and Repairers
Power linemen and women who install, maintain, and restore both overhead and underground power lines, work to supply electricity to homes and businesses throughout the country. As you might expect, the leading cause of death in this profession is electrocution from working with live wires. The fatal injury rate is 22 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers.
The Importance of Wearing PPE
So, how do workers in these fields - and in any other profession - better safeguard themselves against injury? A rigorous safety training program is one thing. And part of any rigorous safety training program is ensuring that workers are armed with the right PPE, or personal protection equipment.
PPE saves lives - and there's industry data to back this claim up. According to OSHA data, hard hats are only worn by about 16 percent of workers who sustain head injuries. Of some 770 workers who suffered facial injuries, only 1 percent were wearing facial protection.
Less than a quarter of workers with foot injuries were wearing the proper work boots. You get the picture - there are a lot of injuries caused by not wearing PPE. In fact, OSHA states that the proper use of PPE can prevent nearly 40 percent of occupational injuries and diseases. About 15 percent of injuries resulting in total disability are caused by failure to wear proper PPE.
The importance of wearing PPE cannot be underestimated. It's never a bad time to review your company's safety plan and ensure that your workers are empowered with the right information and equipment to stay safe on the job.