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World's Most Dangerous Jobs

Rachel Zupek, Writer

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Millions of people in the world risk their lives everyday protecting us, fighting for us and helping us when we’re hurt.

They’re not the only ones endangering their own lives to do so.

In August 2007, national disasters like the Crandall Canyon and Sago Mine cave-ins, and the collapse of a highly-trafficked Minnesota bridge, reminded Americans that miners, construction crews and rescue workers face the daily risk of injury and death as they work to improve our agriculture and highways.

Coal mining industry fatalities more than doubled in 2006 and fatal highway incidents remained the most frequent type of fatal work-related event.

It’s these folks, among others like farmers, pilots and truck drivers, who are dying to work – literally.

The chance of an average worker sustaining a fatal work injury is slim – there were just 3.9 fatal occupational injuries per 100,000 workers in the United States in 2006, according to the most recent figures from the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). There were 5,703 overall work-related fatalities in 2006.

For workers in industries like mining, construction and agriculture, the odds weren’t quite as good – agriculture workers saw 29.6 fatalities per 100,000 workers in 2006, while miners saw 27.8 fatalities per 100,000. Additionally, construction and extraction occupations and transportation and material moving occupations accounted for nearly half (48 percent) of all fatal work injuries in 2006.

Most perilous jobs

According to the BLS, the following jobs had the highest fatality rates for 2006:

Fishers and related fishing workers
Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 141.7
Number of fatalities: 51
Average salary: $19,104

Aircraft pilots and flight engineers
Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 87.8
Number of fatalities: 101
Average salary: $129,250

Logging workers
Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 82.1
Number of fatalities: 64
Average salary: $22,320

Structural iron and steel workers
Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 61.0
Number of fatalities: 36
Average salary: $39,168

Refuse and recyclable material collectors
Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 41.8
Number of fatalities: 38
Average salary: $23,770

Farmers and ranchers
Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 37.1
Number of fatalities: 291
Average salary: $15,603

Electrical power-line installers and repairers
Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 34.9
Number of fatalities: 38
Average salary: $45,331

Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 33.9
Number of fatalities: 82
Average salary: $28,474

Driver/sales workers and truck drivers
Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 27.1
Number of fatalities: 940
Average salary: $30,931 (for heavy or tractor-trailer drivers)

Miscellaneous agricultural workers
Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 21.7
Number of fatalities: 158
Average salary: $24,140

Harmful work environments

Some fatal workplace injuries occurred not because of a bad fall or contact with objects or equipment, but were inflicted by workers themselves, other people or harmful environmental exposure.

A total of 516 workplace homicides were recorded in 2006, which included 417 shootings and 38 stabbings in the workplace. Workplace suicides caused another 199 fatalities.

Fifty-three workers died after exposure to temperature extremes; 153 fatalities were the result of inhalation of caustic, noxious or allergenic substances and contributed to a 12 percent increase in fatal work injuries.

Dangerous industries

Of the 5,703 total fatal work injuries in 2006, 5,202 (or 91 percent) occurred in private industry. Service-providing industries (including, but not limited to trade, transportation and utilities) accounted for 47 percent of fatal injuries, while goods-producing industries (including, but not limited to natural resources and mining, construction and manufacturing) comprised 44 percent. Government workers made up another 9 percent.

The top five most threatening industries based on fatality rates, according to the BLS, are:

Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting
Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 29.6
Number of fatalities: 646

Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 27.8
Number of fatalities: 190

Transportation and warehousing
Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 16.3
Number of fatalities: 832

Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 10.8
Number of fatalities: 1,226

Fatality rate (per 100,000 workers): 6.2
Number of fatalities: 52

Rachel Zupek is a writer and blogger for She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.

Last Updated: 17/12/2007 - 5:13 PM

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