6 of the Most Dangerous Jobs in the United States

 Although more of us than ever work relatively safe desk jobs, there are still plenty of dangerous jobs to be had.

Most Dangerous Jobs in the United States

What is Considered a Dangerous Job? 

A job is considered “safe” or “dangerous” based on several factors. So what are the most dangerous versus the safest jobs in the U.S.?

How Risk is Assessed

The amount of risk posed by a job can be calculated in a number of ways. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has a Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries that is based on a study involving jobs with at least 50,000 people in that field. 

The types of injuries are often categorized as follows:

  • Violence/Injury inflicted by persons or animals

  • Transportation incidents

  • Fires and explosions

  • Falls, slips, trips

  • Exposure to harmful substances or environments

  • Contact with objects and equipment

  • Undisclosed


According to Industrial Safety & Hygiene News, logging is the most dangerous job in the U.S. It’s rated 33x more dangerous than the average job, due to the logging machines or the logs themselves. The fatality rate in logging is 111 per 100,000 workers. These stats easily show why this job is often referred to as a “widowmaker.” 

The logging industry in the U.S. is primarily located in Oregon. Following close behind is Washington state, and then you jump across the nation to Georgia and Alabama. This physically demanding job doesn’t require higher education and offers on-the-job training for harvesting trees to be used for consumer and industrial products. Trends for employment opportunities have gone up and down over the years, but there’s usually availability if being a lumberjack is on your radar.


Speaking of radar, you might be surprised that ranked second on the list of dangerous jobs is pilots and flight engineers. Although the likelihood of being in a fatal, commercial airplane crash as a passenger is 1 in 188,364 (vs 1 in 103 for fatal automobile crashes), the fatality rate for those employed in this field is greater. Since a pilot can be involved in private flight, military flight, or commercial flight, the risks are increased. The fatality rate is 53 per 100,000 workers for pilots and flight engineers, which is significantly lower than in the logging industry. However, it’s still important to undergo rigorous training to work in aerospace and aviation.


You may only think about your roof every 20 years when it needs replacing, but roofers always have it top-of-mind. Their job involves minimal high-tech equipment, but a lot of potential risks. Even if the roof itself isn’t too steep, hauling materials up and down ladders is no easy feat. Roofers find themselves facing an on-the-job fatality rate of  41 per 100,000 workers, putting them high on the list of dangerous jobs.

Garbage Collectors

This one might be even more surprising than anything else considered on our list-- garbage collectors have a fatality rate of 34 per 100,000 workers. For those who routinely exit their vehicles to collect garbage bins, the most common cause of death is being struck by other vehicles. 

The fatality rate is lower for municipalities whose sanitation workers stay in their trucks and use robotics to empty curbside trash cans and dumpsters.


Also referred to as ‘steel monkeys’ for their ability to navigate the structural beams they scale daily, ironwork is still a top-ranking, dangerous job. With a fatality rate of 29 per 100,000 workers, the most common cause of fatal injury is falling off the buildings or bridges they’re constructing. 

Steel production gained popularity in the United States in the late 1800s, and Pennsylvania was the #2 produce of the product in the early 1900s. While the industry now produces most of its iron in Gary, Indiana, the United States is still known as the fourth-largest steel manufacturer worldwide. 

Window Washer

In 2014, two New York City window cleaners found themselves stuck 70 stories above the ground when their scaffold rig failed. Stranded, they were hanging vertically instead of horizontally outside a wall of glass. They were rescued when fire crews cut through a window from the inside out on the 68th floor of 1 World Trade Center, which allowed the crew to help the washers crawl through to firmer footing.

There is technology now capable of washing windows of skyscrapers, but many believe doing it with old-fashioned elbow grease gets better results. Thanks to safety measures such as hydraulicly controlled scaffolding and harnesses, the fatality rate of window washing has declined significantly over the last 100 years. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that over a 15-year period, 62 out of 88 window washing accidents were fatal. Still, this is an improvement over the 1 in 200 deaths annually in New York City alone back in the 1930s. Being a largely unregulated job, the statistics aren’t as readily available as they are for other industries, giving window washing the appearance of being a safe occupation.

Safest Jobs in the United States

In contrast, there are a lot of supposedly safe jobs you can hold in the U.S. One might argue that the hazards of a desk job aren’t on the same level as those found hanging from buildings, but they can still have risks.

The following jobs don’t pose the same occupational hazards as a physically demanding job, but the risks are still there. With more workplaces becoming targets for violence, the threat of personal injury and death is present, just in a different form. 

  • Information Technology - 0.24 fatal injuries per 100,000 workers

  • Education/Library Occupations - 0.34 fatal injuries per 100,000 workers

  • Registered Nurse - 0.44 fatal injuries per 100,000 workers

  • Firefighters - 3.36 fatal injuries per 100,000 workers

  • Lineworkers (telecommunications installation) - 4.64 fatal injuries per 100,000 workers

  • Painters/Construction/Maintenance  - 5.29 fatal injuries per 100,000 workers

Whether you’re a thrill-seeker or not, it’s important not to be complacent n the workplace. Lack of awareness often leads to injury or death, even in the “safest” of environments.

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