These Are the Most Dangerous Jobs in America

If you want to be totally safe, avoid construction and transportation work.

A truck driver at the Minnesota Truck and Step Van Driving Championships Saturday, June 8, 2013. 
National Journal
Matt Berman
Aug. 22, 2013, 7:47 a.m.

Great news! The United States had about 300 few­er fatal work in­jur­ies in 2012 than in 2011, ac­cord­ing to new data from the Bur­eau of Labor Stat­ist­ics. But, still, a pre­lim­in­ary total of 4,383 Amer­ic­ans died from in­jur­ies on the job last year.

What are the most dan­ger­ous in­dus­tries to work in?

Con­struc­tion is one place to start. In 2012, 775 people suffered fatal in­jur­ies in the private con­struc­tion sec­tor, up 5 per­cent from 2011. Con­struc­tion and ex­trac­tion oc­cu­pa­tions made up 19 per­cent of the total fatal oc­cu­pa­tion­al in­jur­ies, with 838 fatal­it­ies. Work­ers in the con­struc­tion trades alone made up 13 per­cent of the total. 

The num­ber of con­struc­tion and ex­trac­tion deaths far out­paced the num­ber of law-en­force­ment fatal­it­ies (119) or fire­fight­ing and pre­ven­tion deaths (18). On the whole, there were just 116 on-the-job deaths due to fires and ex­plo­sions. Which sounds like good news, com­pared with 144 fire and ex­plo­sions deaths in 2011.

But, by far, the most leth­al jobs in Amer­ica are in the trans­port­a­tion and ma­ter­i­al-mov­ing sec­tor. There were 1,150 deaths in those jobs in 2012, ac­count­ing for 26 per­cent of all oc­cu­pa­tion­al fatal­it­ies. The bulk of those fatal­it­ies (817) were mo­tor-vehicle op­er­at­ors. Trans­port­a­tion is dan­ger­ous for all work­ers, however: Last year racked up 1,789 oc­cu­pa­tion­al fatal­it­ies in “trans­port­a­tion in­cid­ents.”

Then there are on-the-job hom­icides. At 463 deaths (in­clud­ing 375 in­ten­tion­al shoot­ings), hom­icides ac­coun­ted for 11 per­cent of all oc­cu­pa­tion­al fatal­it­ies, just edged out by the 12 per­cent of fatal­it­ies caused by be­ing “struck by an ob­ject or equip­ment.” There were 767 oc­cu­pa­tion­al deaths due to vi­ol­ence by people or an­im­als, in­clud­ing 225 in­ten­tion­al self-in­flic­ted in­jur­ies. The num­ber of work-re­lated sui­cides did drop by 10 per­cent, however, from 2011.

The best way to avoid oc­cu­pa­tion­al fatal­it­ies? Work­ing for your­self could help: Fatal in­jur­ies among self-em­ployed Amer­ic­ans made up just 23 per­cent of the total. Or you can work in the leg­al field, which coun­ted only 8 deaths last year. You can also try be­ing age 20-24, as fatal in­jur­ies in that group ac­coun­ted for just 6 per­cent of all work-re­lated deaths. But the sure­fire way to boost your odds of sur­viv­al? Be a wo­man. Wo­men ac­coun­ted for only 8 per­cent of all oc­cu­pa­tion­al fatal­it­ies in 2012.

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