Skip to main content

How deadly is your job? The most dangerous professions in the world

While the causes of death in the work place can be varied — from mechanical failures to animal-related accidents — stress and exhaustion are a common root cause.

If you sit at a desk all day, stress and exhaustion shouldn’t be underestimated. And, the roles and statistics below highlight the importance of mental well-being in the work place and the role of employees in ensuring it. At Aetna International, we can support members through prevention, as well as treatment and long-term condition management, and certain plans help members with mental health symptoms.  

Climbing the career ladder can be a dangerous business, or so it would seem.

Managers are more likely to suffer a fatal accident at work than their junior colleagues, if the latest official statistics issued by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics are to be believed,

“Managers are nearly twice as likely to die at work than architects or engineers

How about private sector versus public sector? According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the death-at-work rate in the private sector in the United States runs at 3.6 per 100,000 people across all industries. In the public sector — federal, state and local government in the United States, for example — the figure is 1.9 per 100,000 people.

And if forewarned is fore-armed, there are six primary causes of death at work you might want to keep in mind:

1.     Transport accidents
2.     Falls, slips, trips
3.     Contact with objects/equipment/machinery
4.     Violence from other people or animals
5.     Exposure to hazardous substances or environments
6.     Fires and explosions

You would be right to expect that certain professions carry more threat to human life than others. Obviously, there are jobs where people willingly put themselves in harm’s way: the military, emergency services or even medics and researchers dealing with contagious diseases.

But outside of those professions, what other jobs pose risks to employees’ health and well-being?

10 of the most dangerous jobs in the world

As a selection of the world’s most hazardous professions, this is not a top 10, but shows the breadth of dangerous jobs amongst the planet’s most deadly in 2015. These are supported by statistics taken from a U.S. pool to show the incident prevalence in specific industries.

1. Lumberjack 
Forget the bearded, plaid shirt-wearing stereotype. Logging has the highest casualty rate of any industry.

Why is it dangerous? 
Long hours, remote locations, heavy machinery, falling timber.

137.2 deaths per 100,000 workers annually [source].

2. Fisherman 
No, we are not talking about a peaceful Sunday morning on a riverbank. Ocean-faring fishermen face nature’s hazards at their most extreme and unpredictable.

Why is it dangerous? 
Long hours, remote locations, heavy machinery, extreme weather.

54.8 deaths per 100,000 workers annually [source].

3. Pilot or flight engineers 
Air travel is one of the safest forms of transport, right? But not if you are doing it every day in all weather conditions. Even in the era of auto-pilots, flying a plane is still a hazardous business, from commercial airline pilots to light aircraft pilots and crop dusters.

Why is it dangerous? 
Long hours, potential for mechanical failure, air accident and adverse weather.

40.4 deaths per 100,000 workers annually [source].

4. Refuse collector 
There’s a difference between collecting paper and cans for recycling and disposing of hazardous waste. On the spectrum of dangerous trades, disposing of what no-one wants can be a risky business.

Why is it dangerous? 
Exposure to potentially hazardous materials, road accidents, heavy machinery accidents.

38.8 deaths per 100,000 workers annually [source].

5. Farmer 
Forget the idea of living out a peaceful life on an idyllic rural ranch, agriculture is one of the world’s most dangerous industries. Tractor crashes and animal attacks are more common than you’d think.

Why is it dangerous? 
Tractor crashes, animal attacks and machinery accidents. Anti-social hours.

25.3 deaths per 100,000 workers annually [source].

6. Truck driver 
It can be a lonely life out on the road for those in the long-distance haulage trade. But spending your working life on the road increases your risk of death or injury — with transport accidents being the single biggest cause of fatalities at work.

Why is it dangerous? 
Long hours, risk of road accidents.

25.2 deaths per 100,000 workers annually [source].

7. Travelling sales rep 
Another “life-on-the-road” job. And if you’re on the road, you are increasing your risk of suffering an accident. Forty-two per cent of work-related fatalities were caused by motoring incidents in 2015.

Why is it dangerous? 
Long hours, risk of road accidents.

24.3 deaths per 100,000 workers annually [source].

8. Utilities engineer 
Whether you are in a cherry-picker trying to reach an overhead power line, or digging down to repair an underground cable, utilities engineers put their body on the line to keep the lights on.

Why is it dangerous? 
Working at height, depth or in confined places. Exposure to high voltages, machinery and potentially dangerous materials.

20.5 deaths per 100,000 workers annually [source].

9. Groundsman 
Have you ever dreamt of exchanging an office-job for a career in the great outdoors: landscaping, laying a new lawn, breathing new life into a neglected plot of land? The official statistics suggest there are hidden perils to the life of groundsman or gardener.

Why is it dangerous? 
Exposure to potentially hazardous chemicals, machinery accidents.

18.1 deaths per 100,000 workers annually [source].

10. Performer, entertainer or sports professional 
From circus trapeze acts to sports stars to media personalities, keeping the public entertained while living in the public eye can be a high-octane, high-risk business — at least compared to most white-collar jobs.

Why is it dangerous? 
Pace of work, long hours, “always on”.

2.4 deaths per 100,000 workers annually [source].

Every day, men and women leave their homes and head to work in every expectation that they’ll head safely home maybe seven, 10 or 12 hours later.

But by one estimate, every 15 seconds a worker dies because of a work-related illness or accident somewhere around the world. It is a sobering statistic.

The challenge for employers and employees is to understand the risks and take sensible precautions while the job gets done.

While you may not be a trapeze artist or a refuse collector, your job will come with its own set of health care issues. Employees who benefit from a corporate Aetna International private medical insurance plan, and are suffering with stress, work-related conditions such as low-back pain, or other health issues can contact the Care and Response Excellence (CARE) team for support, or access Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

While many of the most dangerous jobs involve the physical dangers of heavy machinery, most jobs contain a degree of stress. Just as the captains of industry install measures to protect workers from physical harm, so office-based businesses have an obligation for the mental and physical wellbeing of their employees.

Aetna International works across a number of industries, and understands the health risks and challenges associated with jobs ranging from IT to the oil and energy industry. Whether you’re at a desk or a coal face, Aetna International understands the needs of both employers and employees.

So how dangerous is your job — and how does it compare to our list?

Aetna® is a trademark of Aetna Inc. and is protected throughout the world by trademark registrations and treaties.

We use cookies to give you the best possible online experience. See our cookie policy for more information on how we use cookies and how you can manage them. If you continue to use this website, you are consenting to our policy and for your web browser to receive cookies from our website.