Work Is Killing You: 10 of America’s Deadliest Jobs

Johnny Knoxville, experimenting in one of America's most deadliest jobs, is struck by a cow.
Johnny Knoxville, experimenting in one of America’s most deadliest jobs, pays the price for messing around with livestock. | MTV

There are dirty jobs. There are dangerous jobs. And there are deadly jobs. Sometimes, they are one in the same. Sometimes, these positions, despite the inherent element of danger, can be particularly attractive to some job seekers. They often tend to pay better than other gigs, for one. And competition can be low, too.
But the fact remains: If you sign up for a dangerous job, there’s a good chance you could be horribly injured or killed. This not only can stymie your ability to earn a living in the future, but it can put the kibosh on all of your plans if you do end up dying on the job.
Even so, the odds you’ll be killed at work are relatively small. Even among the most dangerous jobs, fatality rates aren’t frighteningly high. It’s just that you’re far more likely to meet a gruesome end on a dude ranch than you are in a cubicle.
To figure out which jobs are the most deadly, we dug through data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Department of Labor. Annual numbers relating to workplace injuries and fatalities (there were 4,836 in 2015) are released by the government. And by using those numbers, we can piece together a list of the deadliest jobs. Here are the top 10.

10. Landscaping and lawn care

A sprinkler in a well-manicured lawn
A sprinkler in a well-manicured lawn |

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, looking at data from 2015, shows occupations related to lawn care and landscaping as the 10th deadliest industry in America. The fatal work injury rate, which looks at the number of fatal accidents per 100,000 workers, is 18.1 for the landscaping industry. Although it seems fairly innocuous, there are a lot of blades, chemicals, and heavy machinery that can cause disastrous outcomes in this industry.

9. Linemen

power lines
Working on power lines like these is among America’s deadliest jobs. |

“Linemen” is a term commonly used to describe utility workers — specifically, those who work on power lines. The Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers refer to this occupation as “power-line installers and repairers.” And these are the men and women you see in cherry-pickers working on power lines. It’s obvious this job is inherently dangerous when you’re working with heights, heavy machinery, and a shocking amount of electricity.

8. Farmers

A farmer shows off his butternut squash
A farmer shows off his butternut squash. | Fred Tanneau/AFP/Getty Images

The fatal work injury rate among farmers and ranchers is 22 per 100,000 workers. So, fatal accidents aren’t incredibly common, but the odds are higher than in most occupations. And again, this is a job that puts you into close contact with all sorts of potentially dangerous things. Large machinery, chemicals, and live animals can all present potential disasters, for example.

7. Truck drivers

A truck driver rocking the classic trucker look
A truck driver rocking the classic trucker look. |

With a fatal work injury rate of 24.3 per 100,000, drivers (including truck drivers) are the seventh-deadliest job in America. There are millions of people who make a living through driving. Whether they’re delivering goods or giving people rides, this is an incredibly popular profession. And it’s one that is evidently very dangerous. And let’s not forget it’s one that might disappear altogether in the near future.

6. Iron and steelworkers

Man communicating near steel beam in a shipping yard
Man communicating near steel beam in a shipping yard. | Roger Ball/Worldsteel via Getty Images

Iron and steel workers have a long and storied history in parts of the country. They’ve also seen their industry decline with increased globalization. It’s a dangerous gig, too, and other countries don’t have safety standards that are as stringent as ours. Even so, there’s a high rate of deadly accidents among iron and steel workers. The fatal work injury rate among these workers is just under 30 per 100,000.

5. Garbage collectors

A French garbage truck collects refuse
A French garbage truck collects refuse. | Geoffroy Van der Hasselt/AFP/Getty Images

Emilio Estevez made the garbage man job look kind of fun. Perhaps it is — just imagine all of the fun and fantastic treasures you could find. Regardless of the fun, it’s dangerous. Chalk it up to long hours on the road, dodging cars and traffic, and dealing with hazardous and toxic refuse. The fatal work injury rate among these employees is 38.8 per 100,000.

4. Roofers

A roofer roofing
A roofer works. |

Roofing is a tough gig. You’re out in the elements (usually under a burning, unforgiving sun) all day, and one wrong move can send you plummeting the ground. You’re also dealing with tools and machines, all of which can hack off a limb. For these reasons, roofing is a dangerous and deadly job. The fatal work injury rate among roofers is 39.7 per 100,000.

3. Pilots

Tom Cruise as a fighter pilot in "Top Gun"
Tom Cruise as a fighter pilot in Top Gun | Paramount Pictures

Pilots and flight engineers are high on the list — surprisingly so. Although we all know airplanes crash on occasion, it’s not like there are huge disasters on a daily basis. Evidently, though, many pilots and engineers are killed while on the job. The fatal work injury rate among this group of people is 40.4 per 100,000, good enough for a spot among the top three deadliest jobs.

2. Fisherman

Fishing boats
Fishing boats in Portland, Maine |

This one should come as no surprise. There are even TV shows — most notably, Deadliest Catch — that chronicle just how dangerous and deadly the lives of fishermen can be. And it’s no joke. Folks working in this notoriously tough industry do die on the job at an alarming rate. The fatal work injury rate for those working in fishing and related industries is 54.8 per 100,000.

1. Loggers

Lumberjack with axe
Lumberjack works one of the deadliest and most dangerous jobs in America. |

Stars of another reality series, Ax Men, work in the nation’s deadliest occupation: logging. Loggers are killed on the job more often than any other worker. Falling trees, heavy machinery, exposure to the elements — there’s no lack of danger in the forest. And the number of workers killed annually is way higher than any other job on this list. The fatal work injury rate for loggers is a whopping 132.7 per 100,000.