For loggers, fishers and pilots, the risk of life-threatening accidents in remote locations comes with the job. High rates of workplace fatalities kept those occupations atop the latest list of America’s most dangerous jobs, according to the 2016 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, released this week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS).
In all, 5,190 civilian workers died on the job in 2016. That’s an average of 3.6 deaths per 100,000 full-time employees, an increase of nearly 6% since 2015.
For loggers, that rate rises to 135.9 fatal accidents per 100,000 workers. Roofers, truck drivers and farmers are also among the top 10 most dangerous occupations, as seen in the table below.
Transportation accidents were the leading cause of job fatalities, resulting in 40% of all workplace deaths in 2016. That figure includes 632 truck drivers, 116 farmers and 62 groundskeepers who were killed, among others.
In the same year, workplace violence surpassed “falls, trips and slips” to become the second most common danger. That includes homicides at work, which increased by 20%, to 500 cases, the highest figure since 2010.
“When people think workplace homicide, they think disgruntled employee going on a rampage. That’s actually a relatively rare form,” says James Alan Fox, professor of criminology at Northeastern University. “The overwhelming majority of workplace homicides, back in the ’80s and ’90s, as well as today, are basically robberies and assaults by customers — not coworkers.”
Common victims include cab drivers and cops. Fifty-one police officers were killed on the job in 2016, according to BLS (not including traffic deaths). That’s a 50% increase from the 34 police homicides in 2015, but still historically low compared to the early 1990s. The 2016 figure includes five Dallas police officers who were fatally shot that July by a gunman who said he was upset by police shootings of black men.
While women are far less likely than men to die at work, they account for a higher percentage of homicide victims, partly due to domestic violence. Nearly a quarter of the 387 women who died at work in 2016 were homicide victims, compared to 9% of the 4,803 men who died on the job. Women with abusive partners may find a new place to live more quickly than they can change jobs, and many workplaces aren’t secure, Fox says. “Depending on the size of the company and building, not everyone might know to keep this guy out,” he says. “It’s a place where she is oftentimes vulnerable.”
Despite the uptick in 2016, workplace homicides are still much less common than they were a few decades ago, when the U.S. saw more than 1,000 per year, Fox says. He expects the numbers to come back down, in keeping with the larger trend of the past 30 years.
Fatal injury rates exclude workers under the age of 16 years, volunteers and resident military. Additional details can be found here.
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