Menu

US

FAST FACTS: The Deadliest Industries in the U.S.

While the explosion at West Virginia's Big Upper Branch coal mine highlights the dangers of underground mining, the high-risk industry remains near the low end of occupational injuries and deaths in the U.S.

The government tracks every workplace accident from the merest sprain to deadly catastrophes and has found that, on average, about .0036 percent of all workers die from injuries sustained on the job each year.

If you're reading this from behind a desk, you're probably in safe hands. But if you think you're getting worn down by your daily grind, have a look at the worst of the worst, a macabre reminder of the dangers involved in some of the country's most vital industries.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, deep-sea fishermen and loggers engage in the deadliest trades. Fishermen die at 35 times the rate of all workers, and loggers die at 32 times the overall rate. Here are the figures from 2008, the latest available:

2008                                                                          Fatalities  Rate per 100K
Total (all occupations)                                            5,071        3.6
Fishers and related fishing workers                    50              128.9
Logging workers                                                      82             115.7
Aircraft pilots and flight engineers                        90              72.4
Structural iron and steel workers                         36              46.4
Farmers and ranchers                                           317            39.5
Refuse and recyclable material collectors         31             36.8
Roofers                                                                      69             34.4
Electrical power-line installers and repairers    35             29.8
Driver/sales workers and truck drivers                815            22.8
Coal mining                                                              26              21.9
Mining (all)                                                                175            18.0
Construction                                                             966            11.7
Sales and office                                                       354             1.1

Coal miners are about six times as likely to die from workplace accidents as the national average, government figures show. And even without the explosions and cave-ins that rock the coal belt every year, their trade is dangerous, indeed.

Coal miners face severe injuries and are twice as likely to suffer bone fractures, generally spending quadruple the time of the average worker recovering from injuries they sustain below-ground. Like most of the other industries listed above, their use of heavy machinery often puts them at great risk.

In 2008, 26 coal miners were killed by cave-ins and other accidents — a toll nearly matched in a single day at the Big Upper Branch Mine, where 25 were killed Monday night. There was also tragic spike in 2006, in part because of the Sago Mine disaster in central West Virginia. An explosion at a mine trapped 13 workers for two days, claiming the lives of 12. After an all-out rescue attempt, just one miner was pulled out alive.

Here are the government's figures on annual coal mining fatalities since 1992:

2009: Unavailable
2008: 26
2007: 28 
2006: 47 
2005: 22 
2004: 26
2003: 27 
2002: 25
2001: 42
2000: 40
1999: 35
1998: 30
1997: 32
1996: 39
1995: 43
1994: 41
1993: 40
1992: 60

Click here to see a special report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on the dangers of coal mining.