The 5 Most Dangerous Jobs in America

By Meredith Berg , last updated January 20, 2012

While 2010 was one of the safest years that America has had since labor-related deaths began to be professionally tracked, there are still quite a few fatal accidents that can happen if you have one of the most dangerous jobs in America. Here is an overview of the most dangerous jobs, and what the rewards are for the risk.


Unfortunately, while the guys who inspire shows like “Deadliest Catch” have very exciting jobs, the reward, on average, is not great. With the high death rate of 116 workers per every 100,000 employed, fishing is the most dangerous job in America. Most of the deaths are a result of extreme weather that can sink a boat or toss a fisherman off his ship, but there are also dangers when using the machinery and deadly tools. Fisherman must be satisfied with racing the rush of adrenaline that comes with the job, because while there can be the rare lucrative haul, on average a fisherman makes only $27,880 a year in exchange for risking his life.


Hot on the heels of fishermen in job-related fatalities are the loggers. Unpredictable materials in trees can lead to equipment malfunction, and when said equipment is a chainsaw a little surprise can cause deadly results. Tumbling branches can also fall in unexpected directions, killing a logger or tossing him to his death. 92 men in 100,000 do not live to collect the average wage of $38,660 a year.


While commercial airlines rarely go down, there are plenty of dangerous flying jobs. Test pilots clearly understand the risk they are taking to experiment with the latest flight technology. Helicopter pilots are often summoned for risky rescues. And crop dusting pilots lead surprisingly dangerous lives because of their exposure to toxins and the lack of a reliable runway. While the salaries of these pilots can range widely, typically a pilot makes $115,300 year, and 71 in every 100,000 die in crashes.

Farmer and Rancher

Working on solid ground may seem much safer than the sea, the treetops, or mid-air, but farming and ranching is the fourth deadliest job in America. 41 men out of 100,000 die a year as a result of accidents with heavy machinery. Unfortunately, one of the most common causes of death is avoidable. Tractor rollovers can surprise and kill a farmer, especially if he doesn’t have a tractor with rollover protection. In Scandinavia all tractors have this protection and the rollover death rate is far lower. While new safety requirements are being pursued, this remains a hazardous job. One of the scariest deaths for a farmer is a simple mistake. When filling silos and grain bins with grain, a farmer will sometimes get close to kick any grain encrusting out of the way. One wrong step and he falls into the grain, sifting right through to the bottom and asphyxiating. The average salary is $65,960.

Miner, Roofer and Steel Worker

The fifth most dangerous job in America rotates between three hazardous jobs. Miners sometimes enjoy several years of low death rates, but every so often a catastrophe occurs and shoots the death rate up. On calm mining years, roofers and steel workers fill this fifth slot, with a majority of deaths related to falls from high places. Miners make $39,950 a year, while roofers make $37,880.
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