By David Johnson
January 10, 2017

From construction to farming, many jobs in America are dangerous—but one of the groups that’s most at risk may be surprising: senior citizens.

For every 100,000 workers over the age of 65 in 2015, 9.4 died on the job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) recently updated Census of Fatal Occupation Injuries. That death rate is nearly on par with electricians, the 20th most dangerous job in the country.

“The things that wouldn’t kill a younger person, like a fall or slip, can kill an older person,” said Peg Seminario, the safety and health director at AFL-CIO, the union federation. Fatal work injuries have largely held steady over the past six years, but the small uptick that started in 2014 occurred almost entirely in older workers.

Increased life expectancy and financial strains are expanding the older workforce as more Americans need to make ends meet in their later years. In 2010, 19% of workers were over 55; BLS predicts that figure will rise to 24.8% by 2024. “The concern is that people are working longer and longer into their lives,” Seminario said, “raising risks as the workforce ages.”

Older workers are more vulnerable to and take longer to recover from injuries, which makes transportation accidents and falls—the most common causes of death on the job for those over the age of 55—more perilous, causing 722 and 314 deaths respectively.

Overall, loggers, fishers and aircraft pilots had the most dangerous jobs in 2015, consistent with BLS findings from previous years. Loggers, which top the list, saw 132 deaths per 100,000 workers, far above the national average of 3.4 deaths per 100,000 workers. These jobs accounted for some of the hazards that claimed hundreds of lives in 2015, including transportation incidents (2,154 deaths), falling (800 deaths), and being struck by trees, vehicles and machines (722 deaths).

Click or tap the column headers to sort the table by fatality rates, or total deaths.

Most Dangerous Jobs of 2015

Sorting the column by total deaths shows that occupations with bigger workforces, like truck driving and farming, saw the most fatalities in 2015 across all jobs, with 885 and 252 deaths respectively.

In all, there were 4,836 fatal injuries on the job in 2015, up slightly from 2014, but still significantly below numbers in recent decades.

Fatal Work Injuries, 1992–2015

Fatality rates also vary greatly by sex and race: men are more than five times more likely to die at work than women, and Latino deaths rose 12% in 2015 to 903 fatalities. The increased Latino fatality rate—4 deaths per 100,000 workers—is the highest among any racial group tracked, in part due to high representation in high risk sectors like construction and agriculture, says Seminario.

Workplace homicides claimed 417 lives in 2015, including 14 killed in the San Bernardino, Calif. attack on an office holiday party.

The state with the highest on-the-job death rate is Wyoming, at 13.1 deaths per 100,000 workers. Massachusetts has the lowest workplace facility rate with 1.3 deaths for every 100,000.

Methodology

Fatal injury rates exclude workers under the age of 16 years, volunteers and resident military. Read more about the fatal work injury rate methodology here.

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