The Most Dangerous Jobs and States to Work In (and Interesting Injuries)

By David Luther - Jun. 18, 2017

Find a Job You Really Want In

dangerous jobs

This is that time of year when graduates are starting to feel the post-graduation panic sink in. And if you’re like most of us and have ever vented to your friends and family (or pets), then you know that with welcomed words of encouragement come not-so-welcomed unsolicited career advice.

But you know what I mean, bumper-stickery things like:

  • ”Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
  • ”Do what you love, love what you do”
  • ”Work in a poultry processing plant in Arkansas and your fingers will wind up in some child’s fast food”

dangerous jobs

Well, that last one’s from me, but you’re on a career advice website so you should expect some advice — and about that chicken thing, our research shows that some states are significantly more dangerous to work in than others and within those states some careers are physically riskier than others.

Because, after all, you might feel like you’re losing your mind at work — but even if it’s metaphorically the same thing, literally speaking it’s still a step up from losing your head.

So, we searched 19,937 reports since 2015 to determine the most dangerous states to work in. Here’s a map version of the most dangerous job fields in each state, and further down we’ve got some of the more eye-catching injures — literally, in some cases.

dangerous jobs

Scroll to the bottom to look at your state’s most dangerous job and how it fairs in each “danger category” — and here are the ten most dangerous industries overall:

  1. Roofing and Construction Contractors
  2. General Medical and Surgical Hospitals
  3. Oil and Gas Operations
  4. Postal Service
  5. Grocery Stores
  6. Electrical Contractors
  7. Road Workers
  8. Plumbing, Heating and Air
  9. Warehouse Workers
  10. Poultry Processing

How we determined the most dangerous jobs and states to work in

To determine the likelihood of being seriously injured in each state, we divided the number of Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OHSA) “injury reports by the number of employed people in each state — this includes any incidents that require hospitalization or loss of a body part.

We took it a step further by factoring in each state’s rate of on-the-job fatalities from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and weighting them as their own factor, since there’s a pretty significant difference between losing the tip of a finger and losing your life.

And we can’t forget the potential for catastrophe during the 26 minutes (on average) we spend commuting to work each way, which employers don’t have to report to the regulatory bodies. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety data gave us the number of accidents resulting in injury for every mile driven in each state — but like your payroll department, we think it’s not actually part of your job, so it got less weight.

But if you happen to fall in the parking lot, like 245 reported in 2015, then that’s another story — so northern states got a danger bump there.

A bit of schadenfreude

Pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune.

Of course, no one’s suffering is funny, especially given that these all resulted in some type of hospitalization.

That said, these injury reports stand out:

  • Because monkeys are funny — An employee was taking a Rhesus monkey out of the rig. She was unfastening the last head post when the monkey bit her right small finger.
  • With a what? — A customer assaulted the employee with a window squeegee and fist and then ran away.
  • Remember this at your next goofy team meeting — During a sales blitz activity, an employee participated in one of the ‘minute to win it’ games. The game involves a small Kleenex box with balls in it and a ribbon that goes around the waist, and the player has to twist their waist to get the balls to come out. As the employee twisted her waist, she injured her knee.
  • Because… um… — An employee injured his scrotum when he fell approximately six feet off a ladder
  • That’s what you get for scaring people — An employee was exiting a room and tripped over a broom handle. The employee screamed causing another employee to throw her keys. The keys struck the injured employee in the eye.
  • The rise of the robots! — A maintenance employee entered a robot cell to determine why the robot stopped working. He either fell off of the work platform or was struck by the work platform or robot, sustaining a compound fracture to his right leg and significant soft tissue damage to his right shoulder. He was hospitalized.
  • Hungry, hungry, hippo — An employee was collecting saliva from a hippo when the hippo’s mouth closed and caught the employee’s left pinky finger tip, amputating it.
  • Slipped on the paint? — An employee was cleaning after the Blue Man Show when she slipped and fell on her wrist. She was transported to the hospital and admitted for surgery.
  • Don’t mess with panda babies — An employee was bitten on the left forearm by a giant mother panda while swapping twin baby pandas.
  • Eh, not really a surprise — An employee’s legs were burned while putting gasoline on a pile of wood that was on fire. He was hospitalized.
  • Sometimes, the horse breaks back — An employee was breaking a horse when the horse ran into the metal railing of the pen, fracturing the employee’s knee.
  • The HR guy writing the report must have disliked him — An employee tripped over his own feet and fell, fracturing his hip and requiring hospitalization.
  • Horse play is actually an OSHA category — An employee was burned on the upper right and left buttocks as a result of employee horse play.

Eh, well, some suffering is kind of funny.

Why this study on dangerous jobs carries weight (and lifts with the legs to avoid injury)

Studies have been done like this before, but they were limited in because they largely depend upon two factors: Social Security Disability claims and days on leave, which are treated differently from state to state.

But beginning in January 2015, OSHA requires employers to report all work-related fatalities, hospitalizations, amputations and losses of an eye to OSHA, even employers who are exempt from routinely keeping OSHA injury and illness records due to company size or industry — that’s significant, because until then they only reported fatalities and hospitalizations of three or more people.

The most dangerous industries in each state

State Overall “Most Dangerous Rank” State’S Most Dangerous Industry Injury Rate Rank Death Rate Rank Commuting Danger Rank
Montana 1 Sawmills 21 3 1
South Dakota 2 Frozen Food Manufacturing 7 12 6
Wyoming 3 US Park Services 30 1 4
Louisiana 4 Oil and Gas Support 13 7 15
Texas 5 Oil and Gas Support 11 14 10
North Dakota 6 Oil and Gas Support 1 2 33
Oklahoma 7 Oil and Gas Support 14 8 20
Arkansas 8 Poultry Processing 2 5 35
Kansas 9 Slaughterhouse 6 15 22
Alabama 10 Poultry Processing 5 25 14
Mississippi 11 Sawmills 3 4 41
Georgia 12 Poultry Processing 15 19 17
New Mexico 13 US Border Patrol 32 16 8
Missouri 14 US Postal Service 19 18 21
Idaho 15 Logging 35 9 19
West Virginia 16 Oil and Gas Support 12 13 36
Nebraska 17 Slaughterhouse 4 11 46
New Hampshire 18 Ski Lift Operation 23 37 3
Illinois 19 Hospitals 20 34 9
Wisconsin 20 Construction 8 24 34
Utah 21 Military Contractor 39 30 2
Florida 22 Roofing 16 28 24
Pennsylvania 23 Hospitals 10 31 26
Hawaii 24 Cargo Handling 29 35 7
North Carolina 25 US Postal Service 45 26 5
South Carolina 26 US Postal Service 42 6 32
Ohio 27 Plastic Manufacturing 9 23 42
Alaska 28 Waste Collection 33 17 29
Kentucky 29 Ship Repair 34 10 37
Indiana 30 US Postal Service 49 22 12
Iowa 31 US Postal Service 47 20 16
Virginia 32 Ship Repair 31 36 23
Delaware 33 Poultry Processing 22 49 18
Tennessee 34 US Postal Service 36 21 38
Connecticut 35 Hospitals 27 38 28
Minnesota 36 US Postal Service 46 40 11
Colorado 37 Oil and Gas Support 17 32 47
California 38 US Postal Service 44 46 13
Massachusetts 39 Hospitals 25 48 27
New York 40 Hospitals 28 42 31
Maine 41 Sawmills 18 43 44
Washington 42 US Postal Service 38 47 25
Oregon 43 US Forest Service 37 44 30
Michigan 44 US Postal Service 48 29 39
Vermont 45 US Postal Service 43 33 40
Nevada 46 US Forest Service 50 27 45
New Jersey 47 Hospitals 26 45 49
Arizona 48 US Border Patrol 41 39 43
Rhode Island 49 Hospitals 24 50 48
Maryland 50 Research and Development 40 41 50

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David Luther

David Luther was the Content Marketing Editor for the Zippia Advice blog. He developed partnerships with external reporting agencies in addition to generating original research and reporting for the Zippia Career Advice blog. David obtained his BA from UNC Chapel Hill.

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