Obviously there are some pretty dangerous sectors out there in the work force. There are a large number of jobs where risk to life and limb are almost inherent in the industry. It comes as no surprise that a utility worker that is working on power lines a hundred feet up in the air is at risk of electrocution, falling, or both. On the other side of the coin, it isn’t surprising that someone working as an Office Administrator is pretty safe from deadly on the job accidents. Even with a number of safety precautions and inspectors that make sure even the most dangerous jobs are safe, a high risk factor is a high risk factor and accidents will always happen.
Every year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases a census report on fatal on the job injuries and fatalities. Some of work industries with a notable fatality rate aren’t always what you’d think at first glance. Once you look a little deeper and consider what actually goes on behind the scenes of seemingly safe jobs, the risk to life does begin make a little more sense.
Let’s take a look at the deadliest work industries as ranked by the BLS 2013 census report.
Note: Police work and military work were not included in the census.
In 2013, the utilities industry saw 23 deaths that year. The most surprising part about this statistic is you think it would be closer to the number one spot on the list. It’s hard to imagine that someone working in a water purification plant or working on electrical lines in a bucket elevated a good way up from the ground has less of a chance of dying on the job than say, someone working in the hospitality or leisure industries. You would think possible electrocution would be a much more real danger than working in a restaurant or hotel. Apparently, the utilities industry has their safety precautions in order.
It should come as no surprise that line workers in specific are the workers that make up almost all of the deaths in the sector.
There were 39 reported deaths reported in the year of 2013. When people think of work in the Information sector, they often think of someone who doesn’t do much more than sit behind a computer screen for the majority of the day. In reality, there are a lot of hands on workers in this industry that face a number of dangers involving electricity. Some jobs in this sector involve programming and fixing robotic machines and large equipment. If the proper safety precautions are not taken beforehand or if the worker is working a little bit carelessly, the possibility of a fatal injury begins to become much more of a reality. A large chunk of deaths in the sector were from fatal trips and falls. Even more were on the road since a lot of travel is required.
12. Financial Activites
It’s very surprising to think anyone in banking or finance faces even the smallest possibility of a fatal injury on the job. What’s even more surprising is they aren’t at the smallest amount of risk than the other occupational sectors out there.
When we think of someone dying in a job related accident, we generally think of someone slipping and falling or getting maimed by a machine. We don’t always consider other work related fatalities like high suicide rates, homicides, or simple vehicle accidents that happen during on the job travel. There were 84 deaths in the industry, most of which were homicides and on the road accidents.
11. Education and Health Services
Once again we see a field that doesn’t seem to be all that deadly when taken at face value. The sector saw 131 deaths in 2013, the glaring majority being in the Health industry specifically. 100 of these deaths were in the health sector, with only 31 fatal injuries happening to workers in educational services. Most of the fatal injuries occurred about equally in a few categories; those being homicides, fatalities on the road, and falls. There was a slight spike in health services for road injuries considering those in education aren’t usually traveling for the job, but rather to the job. Neither industry sees a single incident of fatal injury due to equipment or machinery, which is understandable.
10. Mining, Quarrying, and Natural Gas Extraction
In mining and quarrying, it’s pretty easy to imagine that a number of fatal injuries can occur, and it’s pretty easy to figure out what they might be. In a lot of the fields we looked at before, most of the fatal injuries were a result of homicide or transportation related injuries. In this area of work there are a lot of fatal injuries that occur while in transit, but there are zero homicides. We also start to see a new category pop up. A lot of the fatal injuries in this particular line of work are the result of being struck by objects or heavy machinery.
One surprising fact about the mining and quarrying of natural resources is that it doesn’t see many more deaths per year than health and education. 154 deaths per year seems like a surprisingly low statistic for this line of work.
9. Wholesale Trade
In the industry of wholesale trade, we see 190 deaths per year, which sounds crazy considering that mining seems like it would be a much more dangerous line of work. When you start to look at the how the fatal injuries occur, the statistic becomes a little clearer. A huge part of the industry involves shipping so the bulk of the fatal injuries occur on the road. There are also a lot of deaths that result from being struck by equipment or objects, which generally occur in the stockrooms where large numbers of wholesale items are stored and moved in the process of shipping the goods out to retailers. The idea of a heavy object on a high shelf falling on someone is a very real danger.
8. Leisure and Hospitality
Leisure and hospitality seems like a strange field to see any deaths, let alone this high on the list. The industry sees 202 deaths pure year. Generally when one thinks of the field, they picture movie theater attendants, maids, or a hotel concierge. You don’t see many fatal injuries on the arts and entertainment end of the job spectrum in this industry. The glaring majority seems to occur on the accommodation and food service end of the spectrum. An alarming majority of these deaths are homicides. Homicides in the service industry alone make up just over a quarter of all deaths in the field.
7. Retail Trade
In retail trade we see a lot of the same injuries as in wholesale trade. There are a lot of slips and falls, road deaths in the shipping process, and the idea of being struck by objects or machinery is still present since a lot of heavy objects are stored on high shelving. The reason we see more deaths in retail than in wholesale is because the number of homicides go from about 7 industry-wide in wholesale to 70 homicides per year in retail sale. Most of these homicides in retail occur in food and beverage stores. This is where we start getting into liquor store and convenience store robberies. These robberies are all too common and generally involve guns.
In total, 253 work-related deaths occurred in 2013.
Manufacturing is another industry that isn’t surprising when you think of jobs with high risks of fatal work-related injuries. The first thing that probably comes to mind is a worker in a fabricated metal manufacturing job getting struck by a large metal beam, or injuring themselves with a piece of heavy equipment. That idea is correct considering that most of the 304 work-related deaths in the industry are the result of being struck by objects or equipment in metal fabrication. Surprisingly, an extremely close second is roadway accidents in the manufacturing of food products. It’s safe to say that most people would be surprised by that statistic.
5. Professional and Business Services
The first thing most people think of when they see the words “professional” and “business” is a well groomed individual in a business attire, sitting behind a desk, and signing their name to something while shouting into a phone. The idea of 408 deaths per here happening in this section of the workforce is pretty surprising. What many forget that professional services cover a lot of different careers, many of them labor driven. Since the industry is so broad, the fatal injuries cross the entire board. However, the most work-related deaths in these fields are due to slips and falls or being struck by equipment and other objects in waste services.
In government we see a whopping 476 deaths per year as a result of work related injuries. When you think of deaths in government, the first thing you might think of is the assassination of a politician. This does not happen very often, and not every job in government is that of an elected official. In government, we see yet another field where the bulk of the injuries are seen while in transportation for whatever job the specific job may be. Slips and falls occur about as often as homicides, and very few of the work-related injuries are the result of being struck by objects or machinery.
3. Agriculture, Foresting, Fishing, and Hunting
Here we see an industry where a lot of very large and extremely dangerous equipment is used on a regular basis. We see very few homicides. In some areas of the industry we don’t see a single homicide a year. Most of the fatal injuries are exactly what you’d expect – being struck by objects or accidents involving heavy machinery. The largest percentage of these equipment related injuries are seen in the logging and forestry jobs specifically. 479 deaths occurred in these work areas in 2013, and 63 of them were equipment related in logging and forestry.
An interesting factoid: Some of these homicides weren’t committed exclusively by humans. These include deaths at the hands of animals as well.
In transportation and warehousing we see a spike in work related deaths of over 200. This is the biggest spike we’ve seen so far. 683 fatal injuries occurred in these areas in 2013. Most of these deaths occurred under the exact circumstances one would expect – roadway accidents since transporting people and goods along roadways is inherent in the name. One surprising statistic is that 44 of these deaths were homicides, specifically in public transportation vehicles. Like in food and beverage retail, what we are seeing are robberies with deadly weapons that escalated to an unfortunate degree. Unfortunately, homicides are more frequent in jobs that deal more directly with the general public.
1. Construction Work
Here we are. The deadliest field of work comes as no surprise. In the field of construction work we saw 796 deaths in the year of 2013. Homicides were obviously very low. Less than one percent of work related deaths were due to homicide.
We don’t see a lot of deaths on roadways. Even though construction workers use a number of large vehicles, most of these stay on site and aren’t traveling large distances. Vehicles in these jobs are essentially big pieces of equipment that can also move. An almost equal number of work related deaths are a result of being struck by equipment or machinery. This is surprising since these types of fatal injuries are probably what people would immediately assume.
The bulk of work related deaths in construction are due to slips, trips, and falls. When you think of how many construction jobs involve working at great heights, like scaffolding and roofing, the statistic makes more sense. Almost a third of work related fatal injuries are for these reason.
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