What are California’s most deadly occupations?

Work-related fatalities in the United States dropped slightly in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics – but even so, on-the-job deaths remained high with 4,383 lives lost, or 3.2 fatalities per 100,000 full-time workers. While nearly any job comes with some risk of work-related injuries, certain jobs are much more hazardous than others.

The BLS recently released a report on the top 10 deadly occupations in the United States, many of which employ large numbers of people in California:


Loggers, also known as lumberjacks, had the highest fatality rate of any U.S. occupation in 2012. With 62 on-the-job logging deaths last year, lumberjacks lost their lives at a rate of 127.8 per 100,000 full-time workers – about 40 times the average across all industries. Loggers face numerous on-the-job safety hazards, including falls, difficult terrain and dangerous equipment.


Until recently, fishing was considered the most deadly industry in the United States, but it is now ranked in second place. In 2012, there were 32 work-related fatalities among fishing professionals, giving the industry a fatality rate of 117 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers. Many fishermen and fisherwomen are injured or killed as a result of drowning, severe weather and equipment accidents.

Other hazardous jobs in California

Nationwide, roofing is fourth on the list of deadly occupations with 70 roofer fatalities in 2012, or 40.5 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers. Structural iron and steel workers were close behind in fifth place, while garbage and recycling collectors were ranked six-most deadly. Pilots, electrical workers, truck drivers, farmers and construction workers were also listed among the top ten in the BLS report.

Common causes of workplace fatalities

The biggest single cause of occupational fatalities in 2012 was transportation-related incidents, such as car crashes, plane crashes and overturned vehicles, which accounted for 41 percent of workplace deaths. Although often overlooked as a workplace hazard, violence and assault were the second-leading cause of death for workers nationwide in 2012, causing 18 percent of worker deaths that year. Slips, trips and falls were the third-most common cause of workplace fatalities, making up 15 percent of on-the-job deaths.

Low-risk jobs have hazards, too

At the other end of the spectrum, California also employs many workers in some of the nation’s safest jobs, such as computer workers, legal professionals and mathematical workers; each of these occupations had fewer than 10 work-related deaths in 2012.

However, while these and other office jobs may not be particularly deadly, they nonetheless involve certain safety hazards for workers. In fact, carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive strain injuries – which frequently affect office professionals – are among the fastest growing and most common sources of workers’ compensation claims in the United States.

California workers’ compensation

In many cases, people who have been injured or lost a family member due to a work-related injury in California are able to receive monetary benefits through the California workers’ compensation system. To learn more, contact an attorney with broad experience in workers’ compensation claims.