Which do you think are the most hazardous American jobs? If you guessed police and fire fighter, you are not even close. Though those occupations are doubtless extremely dangerous, they are not the most lethal of U.S. jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Though BLS data shows that, overall, the number of fatal injuries has been decreasing since 1992 , the most deadly occupations are still in the categories of construction, transportation and warehousing, and the sector that encompasses agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting.
Construction: a true danger zone
The construction industry has a fatal injury rate of only 9.5%, much lower than that for agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, which sports the highest rate of 21.2%. But a total of 775 construction workers lost their lives in 2012 – which rises to 845 when roofers, a subset of the construction sector, are added in. Out of the total 4,383 work-related deaths for 2012, construction and roofers account for an astounding 19.3% of fatalities.
Transportation and Warehousing
Fatal work injuries for this job sector numbered 677 in 2012, and a fatal work injury rate of 13.3%. According to BLS, transportation incidents leading to fatalities made up 41%of the total 4383 deaths in 2012.
When transportation and material moving occupations were combined, the total number of fatalities jumped to 1,150 down 7% from the year prior. Within this group, truck drivers and drivers/sales workers had the highest number of fatal injuries, with 741 deaths recorded. Driving, it appears, is an especially perilous occupation, and may be worse than depicted here: BLS notes that updated transportation information will be released sometime this spring, and the numbers presented will very likely rise.
Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting
This sector, with the highest rate of fatal injuries, produced 475 deaths in 2012. This was quite an improvement from 2011, when 566 fatalities occurred. Within this sector is the ultra-hazardous occupation of logging, which had a fatal injury rate of nearly 128 per 100,000 workers in 2012.
Also extremely hazardous is fishing – and fishers and other workers lost their lives at the rate of 117 per 100,000 workers, as well. Combining logging and fishing accounts for 94 of the 495 sector-related fatalities, a rate of 19.8%.
Can these fatalities be prevented?
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration notes that the construction industry, in particular, is bedeviled by the Fatal Four: falls, being struck by objects, electrocution, and being caught-in/between. Almost 56% of fatalities in construction were attributable to these calamitous incidents in 2012. Falls, not surprisingly, made up 36% of the total fatal outcomes.
Part of the problem appears to be on-the-job adherence to safety laws. Of the 10 most often violated OSHA standards, fall protection ranks first, with scaffolding issues coming in third. Electrical and hazardous energy issues loom large, as well.
While most people probably don't think about how dangerous a particular occupation can be when deciding on a profession, these examples show that job-related safety issues certainly should be a career consideration for everyone.