Some jobs are just obviously dangerous — construction workers fall from high places, farmers deal with dangerous machinery, and fishers drown. But what are the biggest risks for all the other workers sitting behind desks or ringing up groceries or waiting tables?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics actually answers these questions in its Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. We've used that data to create one big, simple, morbid chart that shows how American workers meet their ends on the job.
Below are the types of ways work has killed Americans for the last three years. Darker squares represent higher total deaths, and industries are listed from the most to least deaths:
Construction and manufacturing aside, the biggest risks to most workers are motor vehicles and homicides. Which makes sense when you think about it — vehicles are integral to many jobs, whether it's policing, delivering mail, or driving a semi. Meanwhile, it may not be immediately apparent why homicide plays such a large role in some of these sectors — retail and food service jobs, for example, might seem pretty safe from murder. But workers who take money from the public are also susceptible to robberies, as we wrote earlier this month.
Construction and manufacturing are outliers because of the unique risks those jobs pose. Slips and trips on construction sites, for example, are far more deadly than a fall at almost any other job. And manufacturing workers likewise die most often by "contact with objects," which includes being struck by an object or being hurt by a piece of machinery — the risks of which are of course pronounced in a factory.
Take a look at the chart and maybe feel grateful that you've managed to survive your job this long (or, conversely, check out the rates of death by hours worked, and relax a little — in most industries, on-the-job deaths are truly rare). For a deeper look at the numbers, check out the Labor Department's full 2013 dataset on fatal occupational injuries.