The 10 Most Deadly Jobs in 2020

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Almost everyone complains about their job on occasion. But if you’re a logger, groundskeeper or truck driver, you might have greater concerns than most.

These are among the most dangerous jobs in America, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest annual report on fatal occupational injuries.

In total, there were 5,250 work-related deaths recorded in 2018 — an increase of 2% from the prior year.

Transportation incidents account for 40% of occupational deaths. These were, by far, the most frequent fatal events.

Other causes for work-related deaths include getting caught in operating equipment or machinery and being struck by falling objects or equipment.

Following are the jobs that are most risky based on their fatal work injury rates.

10. First-line supervisors of landscaping, lawn service and groundskeeping workers

Robert Hale /

Fatal injury rate: 20.2 deaths per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers

When you think of a landscaper, your mind goes straight to someone mowing a lawn, just taking a leisurely walk as the machine does the work.

In reality, grounds maintenance is a hazardous occupation in which workers saw a total of 225 fatal work-related injuries in 2018.

9. First-line supervisors of construction trades and extraction workers

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Fatal injury rate: 21 deaths per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers

This job entails directly supervising and coordinating activities of construction workers and extraction workers. That includes workers ranging from carpenters and electricians to building inspectors and construction equipment operators.

The pay is decent, if you don’t mind the relatively high risk of a fatal work injury. The average annual wage for first-line supervisors of construction trades and extraction workers was $70,540 as of May 2018.

8. Structural iron and steel workers

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Fatal injury rate: 23.6 deaths per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers

You’ve probably seen the iconic image of New York City ironworkers, casually sitting on a steel beam 850 feet above the city’s streets. It vividly illustrates the job’s serious risks. One wrong move could lead to a fatal fall.

Despite its dangers, though, more people want to become ironworkers. The BLS says:

“Overall employment of ironworkers is projected to grow 11 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations.”

7. Farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers

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Fatal injury rate: 24.7 deaths per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers

You might have a new appreciation for your food knowing that people who grow and harvest it are putting their lives at risk.

Most farmers, ranchers and agricultural managers work from sunrise to sunset during the growing season. The work is physically demanding, especially when the weather doesn’t cooperate.

These workers typically handle chemicals, work with machinery and oversee equipment maintenance.

According to the BLS report, contact with objects and equipment is a particular danger to many workers, including being caught in running equipment or machinery.

6. Driver/sales workers and truck drivers

Chris Curtis /

Fatal injury rate: 26 deaths per 100,000 full-time equivalent worker

As of May 2018, the median annual wage for driver/sales workers was $24,700. It was $32,810 for delivery service drivers. Those salaries are below the median income for all occupations, which was $38,640.

Surprisingly, road rage and heavy traffic are not their only hazards. These drivers also deal with the stress of delivery times, heavy lifting and nontraditional work schedules.

5. Refuse and recyclable material collectors

Trash collectors and truck.
Kzenon /

Fatal injury rate: 44.3 deaths per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers

Picking up trash may be the least glamorous job on the list — and it’s the fifth-most dangerous job in America.

Even the pay tends to stink. See for yourself, in “Here’s How Much Trash and Recycling Collectors Earn in Every State.”

4. Roofers

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Fatal injury rate: 51.5 deaths per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers

Roofers can’t let a fear of heights get in the way of their work. They do, however, need to be on alert. In residential construction, more than one-third of deaths from falling are caused by falls from roofs.

Falling isn’t the only threat, though. Roofers also have one of the highest rates of nonfatal injuries and illnesses due to the materials they work with and the weather they endure. They lift, climb, kneel and bend and may do most of their work on scaffolds, ladders and roofs.

It’s not uncommon for roofers to be burned by the hot bitumen they use to bond shingles to the rooftop. There’s also the increased chance of heat-related illness, since roofers work without shelter through the hot summer months.

3. Aircraft pilots and flight engineers

Angelo Giampiccolo /

Fatal injury rate: 58.9 deaths per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers

Flying may be the safest safe way to travel, but it’s the third-most dangerous way to make a living.

Commercial pilots and their flight engineers, crew members responsible for the engines and other systems during flight, often find themselves fighting the effects of jetlag and irregular schedules.

Some aircraft operators face extreme challenges. For example, BLS notes:

“Aerial applicators, also known as crop dusters, may be exposed to toxic chemicals, typically use unimproved landing strips, such as grass, dirt, or gravel surface, and may be at risk of collision with power lines. Helicopter pilots involved in rescue operations may fly at low levels during bad weather or at night, and land in areas surrounded by power lines, highways, and other obstacles.”

2. Fishers and related fishing workers

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Fatal injury rate: 77.4 deaths per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers

If the thought of fishing for a living sounds too good to be true, this report might put things in perspective. Fishers and related workers have the second-most dangerous job in the country.

Most fatalities in this occupation result from drowning, the BLS says. Malfunctioning gear, getting entangled in nets, collisions, shipwrecks and storms are just a few of the other dangers of working at sea. There is also the risk of injury from slippery decks, ice and big waves washing over the deck.

1. Logging workers

Solis Images /

Fatal injury rate: 97.6 deaths per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers

Between being exposed to inclement weather, working in isolated areas and handling heavy-duty power tools, it’s no surprise that logging ranks high on the list. There’s also, of course, the danger that comes with handling the logs themselves.

The BLS points out: “Most fatalities occur through contact with a machine or an object, such as a log.”

For this reason, the industry has put a major focus on proper safety measures and equipment such as hardhats, hearing protection devices and enclosed machinery to make logging safer.

Have you or a family member worked at one of these dangerous jobs? Tell us about it in a comment below or at Money Talks News’ Facebook page.

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