The 10 Most Dangerous Jobs for Older Workers


People across the United States are living longer and choosing to remain in the workforce, sometimes well past retirement age. In fact, the number of American workers aged 55 and older more than doubled from 1997 to 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While older workers experience the same types of on-the-job injuries as their younger counterparts, these injuries are more likely to be severe for workers who are at least 55 years old. Older workers usually need additional time away from work, and they have a higher fatality rate for occupational injuries.

According to a January 2020 BLS report, Fatal occupational injuries to older workers, although there was a 17% decrease in fatal occupational injuries for all workers from 1992 to 2017, workers aged 55 and older saw a 56% increase. Workers aged 65 and older saw a 66% increase in fatal occupational injuries.

Older workers also experienced higher fatality rates in 2017 than their younger counterparts:

  • The fatal injury rate for all workers was 3.5 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers.
  • The fatal injury rate for workers aged 55 to 64 was 4.6 per 100,000 full-time workers.
  • The fatal injury rate for workers aged 65 and up was 10.3 per 100,000 full-time workers.

While an increase in the number of occupational fatalities for older workers is to be expected because there are more workers aged 55 and up on the workforce, the fatality rates show that they are also at an increased risk of harm in on-the-job accidents.

The Most Dangerous Jobs for Workers Aged 55 & Up

To determine which occupations are most dangerous for older workers, the BLS compares the fatality rate for workers aged 55 and up to the fatality rate for workers under the age of 55. The following figures represent the “propensity ratio” for occupational fatalities for older workers, which is essentially a comparison of two percentages: the percentage of younger workers killed in that occupation versus the percentage of older workers killed in that occupation.

Statistically, the top 2 most dangerous occupations for older workers are:

  • Farmers. A total of 3,217 farmers aged 55 and older suffered fatal occupational injuries from 2003 to 2017. Farmers accounted for 14% of fatalities among older workers, but only 2% of fatalities among workers under the age of 55, generating a propensity ratio of 6.3 for this occupation—showing how much more dangerous it is for older workers.
  • Heavy truck and tractor-trailer drivers. 3,772 truck drivers aged 55 and older suffered fatal on-the-job injuries from 2003 to 2017. More older truck drivers lost their lives during this time, but the propensity ratio was 1.2. Heavy truck and tractor-trailer drivers accounted for 16% of occupational fatalities among older workers and 14% of fatalities among younger workers.

The following is a list of the top 10 most dangerous jobs for older workers, based on propensity rates (comparisons of percentages of older worker fatalities to younger worker fatalities):

  • Farmers (6.3)
  • Commercial pilots (1.6)
  • Construction managers (1.5)
  • First-line supervisors of retail sales workers (1.4)
  • Maintenance and repair workers (1.4)
  • First-line supervisors of construction and extraction workers (1.3)
  • Taxi drivers and chauffeurs (1.3)
  • Janitors and cleaners (1.2)
  • Heavy truck and tractor-trailer drivers (1.2)
  • Light truck and delivery drivers (1.1)

Helping Pennsylvania Workers Who Have Been Injured on the Job

Even the most experienced worker may be at risk of injury if a piece of equipment malfunctions, an employer does not implement proper safety standards, or another employee makes a mistake. When this happens, older workers are at a higher risk of suffering catastrophic harm or even losing their lives. At Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLC, we believe in representing workers of all ages who have been injured on the job. We can help with workers’ compensation claims and third-party personal injury lawsuits to maximize recovery and help our clients rebuild their lives.

To find out more, call (888) 498-3023. You need to report your injury to your employer, seek medical attention, and talk to a Pennsylvania work injury lawyer about your rights and options. Your consultation is free!

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