More than 2.6 million private-sector workers experienced work injuries and illnesses in 2021, 5,190 of them fatal, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of fatalities represents an 8.9% increase over 2020 and the highest annual rate since 2016.
It goes without saying that some jobs are more dangerous than others. To present the top 15, GOBankingRates looked at BLS data for fatal injury rates per 100,000 workers, as compiled by USA Today. This roundup also includes salary information for each job so that you can decide for yourself whether the reward justifies the risk.
1. Construction Laborers
Construction laborers are the men and women responsible for helping with all phases of building construction. Despite a relatively low salary, they often work in dangerous environments and with dangerous equipment such as jackhammers and boring machines.
- Danger: 26.32
- Salary: $37,520
2. Painters (Construction and Maintenance)
Construction and maintenance painters put finishing touches on building interiors and exteriors as well as on machinery, bridges and other structures. Working in awkward positions, on ladders and sometimes at extreme heights, puts these painters at high risk of suffering a fatal injury.
- Danger: 27.08
- Salary: $45,590
3. Audiovisual Equipment Installers and Repairers
Jobs in this occupation run the gamut from electronic technician to television repair to satellite installer. While danger levels also span a wide range, this is a risky career choice overall.
- Danger: 27.86
- Salary: $44,790
4. First-Line Supervisors of Landscaping, Lawn Service and Groundskeeping Workers
You might think the individuals who supervise landscapers and lawn and grounds workers would have a pretty safe job. Not so, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Keep in mind that while some engaged in this line of work service the area around buildings and structures, others work in highway, street and bridge construction, which is potentially more dangerous.
- Danger: 35.23
- Salary: $55,770
5. Sailors and Marine Oilers
Sailors and marine oilers have varied duties that include ensuring their ships steer clear of obstructions and shallow water. They also operate cargo-handling, rigging and running equipment, maintain the ship and respond to emergencies — all of which make this a risky profession.
Danger: 37.58Salary: $53,350
6. Underground Mining Maching Operator
Mining is one of the most dangerous industries in America, and the men and women who operate underground mining machines have one of the most dangerous jobs. On any given day, they might be exposed to cave-ins, toxic air and dust and extreme temperatures, plus the dangers inherent in operating heavy equipment.
- Danger: 41.32
- Salary: $61.260
7. Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Drivers
Deaths in the transportation and materials-moving industry reached a record high in 2021, due mostly to a 16.3% increase in deaths among drivers and sales workers. Most at risk are the drivers who navigate heavy trucks and tractor trailers along America’s roadways.
Danger: 45.92Salary: $53,090
8. Agricultural Equipment Operators
Modern agriculture equipment has made farming easier and more efficient, but it hasn’t eliminated the risk of injuries to the farmers who operate it. Their job ranks high among the most dangerous — and low in terms of salary.
- Danger: 49.66
- Salary: $39,750
9. First-Line Supervisors of Farming, Fishing and Forestry Workers
First-line supervisors of farming, fishing and forestry workers oversee workers engaged in crop and animal farming, logging, milling and other risky activities. This dangerous profession pays well but has a high rate of fatal injuries.
- Danger: 62.09
- Salary: $58,820
Building, repairing and replacing roofs requires lots of heavy lifting, climbing and working on slanted surfaces where it’s easy to lose your footing. As a result, roofers have one of the highest rates of fatal injuries at work.
- Danger: 88.54
- Salary: $47,110
12. Logging Workers
Logging workers have a highly physical job that comes with a high risk of fatal injury. While enclosed equipment has made it somewhat safer, loggers remain vulnerable to falls, equipment accidents and injury from falling trees and limbs.
- Danger: 119.35
- Salary: $46,330
13. Farmworkers (Farm, Ranch and Aquacultural Animals)
Farming is a labor of love with a level of danger that’s disportionate to earnings. But it’s not crop farmers who have the riskiest jobs. Those who raise, breed and care for farm, ranch or aquacultural animals face a significantly higher rate of fatal injuries.
- Danger: 134.74
- Salary: $36,290
14. Commercial Pilot
Fatal injuries among drivers spurred an industry-wide increase in the fatal injury rate. However, commercial pilots still have the most dangerous transportation job and the second-most dangerous job overall. They’re also the highest paid among the top 15.
- Danger: 137.95
- Salary: $123,250
15. Tree Trimmers and Pruners
Tree trimmers and pruners maintain trees around buildings and keep them from interfering with power and utility infrastructure. Working high up in canopies to cut away dead and excess branches puts these workers at serious risk of a fatal injury and drives their occupation to the top of the list of most-dangerous jobs..
- Danger: 186.07
- Salary: $49,820
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