From "The Deadliest Catch" to "Reno 911," there are plenty of popular representations of Americans doing dangerous work. Yet occupations with the highest risk of death are not always the ones you hear about.


The chart below shows data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the 20 most dangerous occupations, excluding some similar categories. Lumberjacks, fishermen and pilots run the greatest risks at work. In general, people who work with heavy machinery, from hedge trimmers to combines, are in more danger.

Members of different professions run different kinds of risks, though. Transportation accidents account for 40 percent of all deaths on the job. Other major causes are falls (13 percent), being struck by an object or equipment (11 percent) and, disturbingly, homicides (9 percent).

People whose work involves interacting with the public are more likely to be killed by another person while working, possibly for the simple reason that they're more likely to encounter criminals from day to day. Other research has shown that those who work odd hours, who work alone or who handle cash are especially likely to be attacked and killed on the job, even more so if their work takes them to neighborhoods where crime is high.

For these reasons, restaurant managers, taxi drivers and police are especially at risk, shown in the chart below, which includes several occupations noted for their high rates of homicide.


Cabbies are at by far the greatest risk in this category. From 1993 to 2002, an average of 23.7 taxi drivers were killed every year per 100,000 cabbies. Thankfully, that figure has since declined to 8, according to an analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics by The Washington Post. On the other hand, the grim tally for police might be even higher if they weren't so well trained and equipped.

Joel Neuman, who studies aggression in the workplace at the State University of New York at New Paltz, suggested that people in occupations -- besides policing where you're trained to deal with dangerous behavior -- need to be prepared to try to defuse violent situations.

"There are a number of occupations where people find themselves in jeopardy because of the nature of their work," Neuman said. "At least the police are trained and hopefully prepared to deal with these potential conflicts or assaults, and there are a lot of professions were people don't receive that kind of training."