The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has released its latest survey on the deadliest jobs in America, ranking logging and fishing as the riskiest professions. The BLS is an agency in the Department of Labor that is responsible for compiling and analyzing the myriad of data collected by the U.S. government, non-profit partners, and industry. The single most effective way to design safer programs, invent safer technologies, and ultimately save lives is to know what precisely is going on in the American workplace. The only way to know what goes on is through rigorous statistical analysis.
The BLS fulfills that role in the government by publishing numerous surveys and studies every year which Congress and the President can use to craft new policies and laws. The deadliest jobs in America are part of the Census of Fatal Occupation Injuries.
The Basics of the Census
Measuring workplace injuries isn't as simple as counting the number of deaths, although that is a crucial step. Rather, the BLS calculates the number of workplace fatalities and their causes. It then compares those numbers against the total number of workers in that particular industry. The resulting average is reported as the number of people injured for every 100,000 workers.
For instance, if 50 nurses were killed on the job in a given year and there are 100,000 total nurses, that arrives at 50 fatalities for every 100,000 workers result. Similarly, if 100 engineers die in the same period but there are 200,000 engineers, the result is still 50 fatalities for every 100,000 workers. The absolute numbers differ, but the rate at which they occur remains constant.
Total Deaths at Work
In 2015, the BLS tracked 4,836 fatalities in the workplace. That represents the highest figure since 2008, when 5,214 workers lost their lives. The overall fatality rate is 3.38 per 100,000 workers. The BLS cautions that a rise in worker fatalities is not necessarily reflective of less safe workplace; rather, it is likely attributable to increased economic output. Simply put, more people are going back to work in industries hard struck by the recession (such as construction). Therefore, more people are going to be injured or killed on the job.
The Top Five Deadliest Jobs
The BLS found that logging is once again the most dangerous profession in America. Preliminary 2015 figures estimate that 67 died on the job, resulting in a fatality rate of 132.7 (per 100,000). The BLS points to numerous dangerous features associated with the job. For instance, loggers often work in remote environments far from hospitals, for long hours (12 hour days are typical), with heavy equipment, and at high altitudes - which all combine to create a deadly working environment.
Fishing-related occupations take second place. In 2015, 23 workers were killed on the job for a fatality rate of 54.8 per 100,000. The BLS cited dangerous equipment that is prone to malfunctions due to the wet, salty conditions under which it operates, long hours, and the remote working environment as causes of the high fatality rate.
Flight crew, such as pilots and engineers, are the third deadliest occupation. In 2015, 57 pilots died for a fatality rate of 40.4 per 100,000. The BLS notes that great strides have been made in aviation safety; however, if something goes wrong while in flight, there is little that anyone can do to prevent a fatal accident.
Roofers slide into fourth place for a fatality rate of 47.4 based on 83 total deaths. The BLS notes that the biggest culprit for severe and fatal injuries among roofers is falling. The BLS determined that increased use of safety harnesses and restraints may prevent additional deaths. However, roofing companies vary in size, so adoption of safer protocols is complex and subject to variation.
Recycling and Refuse Collectors
Recycling and refuse collectors round out the top five deadliest jobs. The BLS ascertained that 27 deaths occurred, which resulted in a rate of 35.8 per 100,000. The BLS believes that the frequent use of heavy equipment, worker fatigue, and long hours are likely culprits in the high fatality rate.
Next Five Deadliest Jobs
The next five deadliest jobs are:
- Farming accounted for 270 total deaths at a rate of 26.7 per 100,000.
- Iron and steel workers suffered 15 fatalities at a rate of 25.2.
- Truck drivers suffered among the highest total number of deaths, 880. However, their fatality rate is 24.7 because commercial driving is a large industry that employs millions of workers.
- 25 electrical installers and repairers were killed on the job for a rate of 19.2.
- Finally, taxi drivers and chauffeurs were killed at a rate of 18 based on a total of 68 deaths last year.