The 8 Most Dangerous Industries
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has released 2020’s workplace fatality data and the 8 most dangerous industries can teach us a lot about dangerous environments. 2021 data is still yet to release so this is the most current and comprehensive North American data set we can consider in 2022.
The data is based on the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Fatal work injury rates per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers so it can properly reflect the risk of each job as opposed to other figures that can be inflated by the frequency of job type.
These numbers conclude some of the oldest professions—that have been harming us for centuries—are still among the most dangerous and unpredictable. Despite modern controls and procedures and a sharp decline in incidents, we still have many tragic injuries in these fields. So today we’d like to discuss those industries and what the responsible professionals are doing to limit risks.
Trucking is still extremely dangerous and although it is the eighth least dangerous on our list it is still a profession that requires discipline, control, and skill to perform safely. Even perfection in ability can still end in disaster due to the unpredictable nature of our modern roads.
In 2020, there were 25 recorded fatalities per 100 000 truckers and 805 deaths in total. The professionals in this field can do everything required of them and still be dealt a deadly wildcard. When you think of the amount of shipping bustling through our continent, this number seems low. But it is saddening, nonetheless.
Many professions in the trucking industry promote mandatory training and licensing, plus zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol. There is also a growing trend favoring more training than the average licensing requires. Some of these training curriculums include defensive driving courses and emergency protocols.
#7 Iron Working
Ironworkers build our homes, offices, and bridges. Not only that but they build scaffolding for other workers to make their jobs safer. This industry has become safer due to better fall arrest PPE and clever procedures the Ironworkers implement daily.
However, things still go wrong. In 2020 fatal accidents in this industry reached 32 per 100,000 specialists. This is up eight deaths relative to 2019.
Ironworkers have been perfecting their trade for over a century. In North America, Ironworkers have incredible methods to mitigate injuries. Modern building erection generally includes tie-off points engineered into I-beams before the specialists climb the heights. Thanks to Ironworkers’ knowledge and experience we now build buildings with every step in mind, including the duties the specialist will perform in every task. The Ironworkers curriculum is also growing with more procedures being taught before they encounter the risks.
#6 Recycling Collection
Recyclers and refuse collectors are at risk every day trying to make our world a cleaner place. In 2020 there were 33 recorded fatalities per 100,000 employees. These numbers are slightly down from 2019 which was 35.
Waste management has many different tasks and duties. It’s difficult to teach your staff everything they will encounter in this field however the companies are trying. Many waste management organizations are implementing more training and courses to keep their staff aware of all the risks. This is an endless task due to the constantly changing technology, but it is far from fruitless.
#5 Air Transportation
Aircraft Pilots and flight engineers had half as many deaths (34) per 100,000 employees in 2020 relative to 2019 (61 deaths). We know there was less air travel due to the global pandemic, but when using ‘per 100,000 employees’, the sheer amount of travel shouldn’t affect the numbers.
The pandemic allowed some airlines to redesign the way they did things, perhaps this and less stressful workloads contributed to fewer accidents. Not to mention, fewer airplanes in the sky makes the whole occupation less perilous.
Naturally, there is a lot of schooling required to become a pilot, but the way they mix in practical experience is what gives us the skilled pilots who take us places today.
Construction workers are also exposed to an extreme number of hazardous variables. In 2020 the per hundred thousand fatality toll reached 43. This sadly places it as the 4th most dangerous job in the United States.
Many companies around the world are implementing a variety of controls where they can. There is now more required PPE, but the best results have been seen in increasing awareness. Toolbox talks are a fantastic way to pass on the experience to the younger generations, and have proven effective in curbing avoidable incidents.
Roofers are exposed to extreme heat and heights—a deadly combination. Although the fatalities per 100,000 dropped by 7 (47 deaths 2020) relative to 2019 (54 deaths), roofers still have the third highest number of tragic incidents.
Heat and heights make this job very dangerous and after complacency mixes in it becomes worse. This is another industry where toolbox talks and constant reminders of risk have cut incidents down. But the specialists must remain vigilant and respect their surroundings, hence why many techniques to stay safe and aware are implemented at once.
Sadly, logging saw a rise in fatalities, there were 91 deaths per 100,000 employees in 2020. In 2019 the toll was 68. This job’s risks are as ancient as recorded history and we’ve made great strides in reducing them. But it is still the second most dangerous job in North America. As much as we know about trees, there are many factors that can change our predictions in a heartbeat.
Professionals use learning courses and media mixed with practice to train staff for logging hazards. Cutting branches is especially risky due to the heights and fall arrest equipment and naturally requires experience. Many companies use online tests to make sure their staff is aware of everything that can affect their tasks, like wildlife, weather, and even tree types themselves.
#1 Fishing and Hunting
The fishing and hunting industry is by far the most dangerous recorded in 2020. With 132 deaths per 100,000 employees, its clear natures powerful forces are still fatally volatile. The sea and woods can be unpredictable, and conditions can change in a heartbeat. One of the factors that makes fishing so dangerous is when a boat capsizes, it could be impossible to rescue the crew in certain weather conditions. This forces captains and crew to keep a constant watch on weather, seas, and horizons. In many conditions, they are effectively alone in their plight and could be stranded in an emergency. Fishing is not for the timid.
Luckily numbers subsided relative to 2019. And all these numbers are a fraction of what they’ve been in the past before the wide use of weather monitoring equipment and GPSs for recovery.
Modern fishing and hunting specialists use a variety of equipment, intelligence, and wisdom to safely perform their job. The jobs require constant learning and refreshers whether through toolbox talks, on-job training, or courses, professionals know they need to train every member of their team as opposed to a supervisory reactionary strategy.
Hazardous Job Resources and Accredited Courses
- National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries In 2020 – PDF
- Defensive Driving for CMV Drivers: Look – Accredited Course
- Walking and Working Surfaces in Construction Environments – Accredited Course
- OSHA 10 Equivalent – Construction – Accredited Course
- Biosafety Hazardous Waste Handling and Disposal (US) – Accredited Course
- OSHA 10 Equivalent – General Industry – Accredited Course
- Logging and Chainsaw Safety – Accredited Course
- Toolbox Talks Work | 6 Tips to Improve Toolbox Talks – Safety Article