Occupations With The Highest Risk Of Fatal Injury

unconscious employee on the floor with yellow hat thrown off

Injuries on the job happen. For some occupations, though, injuries have a tendency to be severe to the point of fatality. Here’s the breakdown on which jobs present the highest risks of injury.

Going By The Numbers

We’ll start with a quick overview of some numbers. Data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics shows that in 2018, there were 5,250 work-related deaths in the United States. This represents an increase of 2 percent over 2017, when 5,147 workers were killed on the job. Those deaths weren’t distributed evenly over, mind you, but the BLS also tracks the distribution of fatalities by occupation. Their National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries reveals some interesting info about work-related fatalities:

  • The most common fatal workplace events fall under the umbrella of “transportation incident,” with 2,080 (about 40 percent) of these occurring in 2018.
  • Surprisingly, violence and “other injuries” is on the rise. BLS believes this is due to an 11 percent increase in work-related suicides. The number rose to 304 from 275 the previous year.
  • Unintentional overdoses on the job also increased 12 percent, up to 305 deaths in 2018 from 272 deaths in 2017.
  • Grisly machinery-related deaths (getting caught in machinery) and being struck with heavy objects on the job also rose by 13 percent, up to 786 from 695 the previous year. 
  • Falls, slips and trips — once a more lethal workplace factor — claimed 791 in 2018, a decrease of 11 percent compared to 2017.

As for which jobs were the most fatal, BLS tracks that in different ways. If you’re asking about the general grouping of jobs with the most fatalities, then drivers/truck drivers had the most fatalities (966) out of all other broad occupation grouping. The specific, detailed occupational title with the most fatalities was tractor-trailer truck drivers, who had 831 deaths in 2018. These are total numbers, however, and when it comes to fatality rates, the number of deaths per 100,000 employees, the list would breaks down like so:

  1. Logging Workers
  2. Fishers
  3. Aircraft Pilots
  4. Roofers
  5. Refuse/Recyclables Collectors
  6. Truck Drivers
  7. Farmers
  8. Iron & Steel Workers
  9. Construction Workers
  10. Landscapers

BLS keeps tables with the detailed numbers of total fatalities and fatality rates by occupation, which might be worth checking out if you want to learn more.

Dealing With These Avoidable Tragedies

Clearly, many of these on-the-job deaths were preventable, and their effects, that ripple out into the community, are profound. For families of those killed on the job, it’s natural to want to find both closure and some kind of recompense for loss but it’s important to speak with experts on both matters (you’ll need a personal injury attorney if you want to sue for wrongful death in Redondo Beach, CA, for instance). Be sure to learn the laws in your state, and seek professional advice to help navigate the complex world following an occupational fatality.