Most Dangerous Jobs in the U.S.

Ask people on the street what they think is the most dangerous job in the United States, and many will mention the fishermen of the Northeast, the oil rig workers in the Gulf of Mexico, or the miners in West Virginia or Utah. But Chicago workers labor daily in many of our country’s most dangerous jobs. Is one of them yours?

Unlike a century ago, millions of Americans go to work and return home uninjured at the end of the day. Increased government regulations, identified safety hazards, and implementation of safety procedures and equipment have all helped reduce workplace fatalities and injuries from their frightening highs at the beginning of the 1900s.

Some Jobs Are Unavoidably Dangerous

Despite the advances in health and safety regulations and equipment, in 2006, workplace injuries still claimed the lives of 5,703 people. An additional 4.3 million Americans suffered nonfatal, work-related injuries and illnesses that, for many, resulted in lost work days, job transfers, or restricted duties.

Many of the Top 10 Hazardous Jobs have several underlying dangers in common: weather, exposure to caustic substances or toxic chemicals, and/or extreme heights.


Throughout history, fishermen have been admired for bravely facing choppy waters, inclimate weather, slippery decks, and falls overboard with no help nearby. The fatal accidents and injuries that plagued fishermen three hundred years ago still, to a great extent, haunt today’s fishermen. Many fatal injuries to loggers, agricultural laborers, refuse & recycling workers, truckers, and power line workers are caused in part by poor weather, including high winds, extreme temperatures, and driving rain or snow.

Caustic Substances & Hazardous Chemicals

While it remains true that flying is safer than driving, crop duster pilots are at high risk of diseases caused by exposure to chemical toxins. Agricultural workers, factory and manufacturing plant employees, fire fighters, construction workers, and many others are at increased risk for fatal exposure to caustic or allergenic substances. Accidental inhalation or prolonged exposure to these substances accounted for 153 deaths in 2006.

High Wire Acts

Working at any height can be dangerous. Most deaths from work falls occur from roofs, followed by those from ladders, scaffolding, and girders and affect all types of construction workers, glaziers, roofers, window washers, commercial painters, and rescue workers.

America’s Top 10 Dangerous Jobs

  1. Fishermen
  2. Logging Workers
  3. Airplane Pilots & Flight Engineers
  4. Farmers & Ranchers
  5. Mining Machine Operators
  6. Roofers
  7. Sanitation Workers
  8. Truck Drivers & Delivery Workers
  9. Industrial Machine Workers
  10. Police Officers
  11. Source: Risk Management Monitor
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