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America's most dangerous jobs
Survey: Loggers and fisherman still take the most risk; roofers record sharp increase in fatalities.
September 23, 2005: 2:08 PM EDT
By Les Christie, CNN/Money staff writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - There's a memorial in Gloucester, Massachusetts that stands at the city's harbor edge. It's a fisherman leaning into the wind and peering out to the open sea as if searching for a safe route home -- or perhaps a lost companion.

A semicircle of bronze tablets containing the names of more than 10,000 Gloucestermen lost in fishing accidents over the years lies at his feet, a monument to one of America's most dangerous occupations.

In some occupations, danger comes with job. That's seen in the latest national census of fatal occupational injuries from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, released Friday.

The good news is that 2004 was one of the safest years on record -- only 5,703 fatal injuries occurred on the job. Still, that was up slightly from the year before when 5,575 died, and there were categories of fatal injuries that had risen more substantially.

Hispanic workers, for example, died at a rate 11 percent higher than 2004. Older worker deaths were up 10 percent.

Fatal injuries from being struck by objects jumped 12 percent...that is now the third most common fatal event, surpassing homicide on the job, which dropped 9 percent to 551. That continued a steep decline from a peak of 1,080 on-the-job murders in 1994.

Highway accidents on the job were the No. 1 killer -- 1,374 died last year, 21 more than the year before.

By occupation

Nearly half of all fatal work injuries occurred among workers who drive or move material around for a living. Truck drivers, forklift operators, trash collectors, and cabbies are all part of this group.

Construction workers had 9 percent more fatalities. Of these, roofers recorded 94 deaths, a sharp increase from the 55 they incurred the year before.

The highest rates of fatal injuries -- the most per worker employed -- occurred among loggers, pilots, and fishermen.

Loggers recorded 85 fatalities in 2004, a rate of 92.4 deaths for every 100,000 workers, more than 22 times the rate among all workers. Loggers deal with tremendous weights when they fell trees and it's not always possible to know exactly where a tree will fall or when. Too, they often work on steep hillsides, in poor weather, and in a hurry.

Aircraft pilots matched that death rate of 92.4 and 109 of them died on the job. Many of these were in the general aviation category, small aircraft manned by bush pilots, air-taxi pilots, and crop-dusters. Their equipment can be old and the maintenance less stringent than among the big airlines, adding to the danger.

The fishing industry is a perennial leader as measured by death rate and 2004 was no different; 38 fishermen died, a rate of 86.4 per 100,000. Drowning is the most common cause of death in this industry, but fishermen also suffer from fatal accidents in handling some of the heavy equipment that the modern fisheries employ.

The 10 most dangerous jobs by fatality rate are:  Top of page

Rank Occupation Death rate/100,000 Total deaths
1 Logging workers
92.4
85
2 Aircraft pilots
92.4
109
3 Fishers and fishing workers
86.4
38
4 Structural iron and steel workers
47.0
31
5 Refuse and recyclable material collectors
43.2
35
6 Farmers and ranchers
37.5
307
7 Roofers
34.9
94
8 Electrical power line installers/repairers
30.0
36
9 Driver/sales workers and truck drivers
27.6
905
10 Taxi drivers and chauffeurs
24.2
67
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