Top 10 Most Dangerous Jobs of 2021

Feb. 25, 2021
A look at the most dangerous occupations in the U.S. (pre-COVID), as measured by fatal work injury rate.

If you’re wondering if this list of the United States’ “most dangerous jobs” includes occupations directly affected by COVID-19, the answer is no, it does not. This list is based on workplace fatality data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and their data lags the current year by two years. Since the most current stats reflect workplace data from 2019, the impact of COVID-19 is not reflected at all in these numbers. We’ll have to wait another year to see exactly which jobs ended up being the most dangerous during the pandemic.

Keeping that disclaimer in mind, this “most dangerous jobs” ranking is based on fatal work injury rate, which is calculated per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers. While the BLS also tracks total number of workplace deaths (as in previous years, truck drivers had the most fatalities—according to BLS, drivers account for nearly 20% of all fatal work injuries), the fatal work injury rate focuses on the relative danger inherent in a job. Since there are far more truck drivers employed than many of the other occupations on the list, the Top 10 list offers a closer look at exactly how often a worker dies while employed in a specific industry.

In comparing the current list to the previous one, there was some shifting among the rankings, although the same 10 occupations remained on the list. The top two switched positions (a similar switch occurred the previous year), and the biggest change within the list was construction workers moving up from 9 to 5. In fact, fatalities within the construction industry overall were up 5% from the previous year. Farmers and ranchers, meanwhile, dropped a couple spots on the list. No other occupations moved move than a single slot either up or down.

Tellingly, 2019 was not a very safe year when you consider that the total number of deaths on the job (5,333) was the most since 2007. According to BLS calculations, “A worker died every 99 minutes from a work-related injury in 2019.” Also, workplace deaths due to suicides and unintentional overdoses were up slightly in 2019.

Click on the links below to see statistics from previous years:

Top 10 Most Dangerous Jobs of 2020

Top 10 Most Dangerous Jobs of 2019

Top 10 Most Dangerous Jobs of 2018

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