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Hunting and fishing for a living might sound like a dream job for a lot of people, but when it comes to getting life insurance, it’s not ideal.

Hunting and fishing happen to be among the most dangerous occupations when it comes to fatality rates across the U.S., according to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics. Along with loggers, roofers and aircraft pilots and flight engineers, they are deemed to be the riskiest occupations.

Not surprisingly, industry fatality rates and accidents play a big factor in the rates life insurance companies charge for monthly premiums. If you have a comfortable job sitting behind a desk, insurance companies calculate that the odds of you dying on the job are quite low. On the other hand, if you spend most of the day behind the steering wheel of a transport truck or delivery vehicle, the odds are much greater that you could be hurt or fatally injured on the job.

“Insurance companies are very good at looking at all the risk factors in your work and lifestyle and factoring that into your insurance premiums,” says Kevin Lynch, an assistant professor of insurance at The American College of Financial Services in Bryn Mawr, Penn. “They then plug you into a rating category, which determines your premiums. The higher your rating category, the higher the premium you’ll pay.”

How life insurance companies size you up

Life insurance rates are generally based on the policyholder’s life expectancy. Insurers will take into account numerous variables to predict your lifespan, including your health history, age, gender, and whether you smoke and drink alcohol — then they look at additional factors such as your occupation and hobbies.

Insurers will plug people in risky occupations into higher rated policy categories and the higher the category, the greater the risk they deem you to be. 

“Each risk category tends to be a multiple of the standard rate,” says Lynch.  “It varies, but each rating category could be an increase of 50% or more above the standard rate.”

It isn’t just your occupation that insurers will consider. They also take a look at the hobbies you might be taking part in. If you are a scuba diving enthusiast, love driving race cars on the weekends, or get your private pilot’s license and fly regularly, they might require an addendum to your policy.

But there’s good news — not all insurance companies calculate insurance premiums in the same way or go into the same lengths to detail your hobbies and interests. While one might specifically ask whether you scuba dive, another might not ask for that information. The same goes for occupations. One insurer might consider being a delivery driver a high-risk occupation, while another might rate it much lower or not at all. So even if one company charges you very high premiums, another might give you the most affordable premiums possible. 

Lynch says if you do get rated higher by one company, it might pay to shop around to see if you can get a more standardized rate with another.

What are the riskiest occupations?

The National Bureau of Labor Statistics (NBLS) annually publishes the fatality rates in occupations across a wide list of job titles. Everything from farmers and ranchers, through to railway workers, mechanics and taxi drivers. It calculates fatality rates based on the number of deaths reported annually per 100,000 workers in that field.

Here are the riskiest occupations based on data from 2021, the most recent year reported:

1. Logger

Falling trees, gusting winds, buzzing chain saws, unpredictable terrain and sometimes hostile wildlife are just some of the factors a logger deals with on a daily basis. Not surprisingly, the profession has a higher than average accident and fatality rate than most. In 2021, the fatality rate was 82.2 deaths per 100,000 workers. For reference, the national average fatality rate for U.S. workers is 3.6 per 100,000 workers.

Unfortunately, loggers often rank at the top of the NBLS’ annual report.

2. Fishing, hunting and trapping

Some people fish and hunt in their free time for sport,, but if you do it for a living you know it’s hard, demanding work. Harsh weather, heaving equipment, unrelenting sun exposure, sharp tools and the odd prey that fights back, are among the hazards to be faced. The fatality rate for this category of workers was 75.2 per 100,000 workers in 2021, making it the second riskiest job category.

3. Roofers

Roofers might be surprised to learn that their occupation is considered to be the third riskiest job category, but dealing with ladders and sometimes steeply pitched roofs comes with inherent dangers. Falls continue to be the primary cause of death among roofers, with a fatality rate of 59.0 per 100,000 workers.



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4. Aircraft pilots and flight engineers

Before you panic and start getting ready to cancel your next airline reservation, this job category takes into account a much bigger umbrella than major airline carriers.  In fact, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) says the commercial airline industry’s fatality risk is only 0.11. That means that on average, a person would need to take a flight every day for 25,214 years to experience a 100% fatal accident.

However, this category takes into account pilots in a much bigger sphere, from smaller single engine planes to crop dusting, search and rescue, flight training and even aircraft testing. As such, there are some areas of the profession that carry a greater risk. The fatality rate for pilots and flight engineers in 2021 was 48.1 per 100,000 workers.

5. Structural iron and steel workers

When your job is lifting immensely heavy iron or steel girders into place on bridges or towering skyscrapers, it helps to have nerves of steel as well. Of course, heavy equipment is used to do most of the lifting but anytime you’re dealing with columns and girders that weigh a ton, you need to be constantly on your toes. The fatality rate for this job category in 2021 was 36.1, rounding out the top 5.

6. Drivers/sales workers and truck drivers

Spending eight hours a day or more behind the wheel of a big transport truck or delivery van, means you will encounter more than your fair share of roadway accidents. Add in congested city highways, rush hours and the odd distracted driver and the risks are many.

In fact, more people are killed in this category of occupation than any other, but when factored over the large number of workers employed in the sector, its fatality rate is not at the top of the list. Still with a fatality rate of 28.8 per 100,000 workers in 2021, it’s in the top 10.

7. Garbage and recyclable material workers

Garbage workers have difficult and sometimes dangerous jobs, working with heavy, potentially hazardous equipment, jumping on and off moving vehicles and exposure to chemicals.

In 2021, this job’s fatality rate was 27.9. That rate has been falling in recent years and perhaps as more automated collection systems are rolled out, the profession might one day exit the top 10.

8. Underground mining machine operators

News reports of mining tragedies conjure up horrifying images of workers trapped for days waiting to be rescued with food and air running out. While those types of accidents are relatively rare, the fact that underground miners are working with heavy equipment and machines design to chip and blast away rock, greatly increases the risk profile. The fatality rate for this job group was 26.7 in 2021.

9. Laborers in construction trades

The construction sector in general has higher fatality rates than most, but one that might come as a surprise is general laborers in construction trades. But when you consider some of the tasks they’re typically assigned, you begin to understand the dangers. Construction trade laborers are tasked with such duties as loading and unloading construction materials, erecting and dismantling concrete forms, scaffolding, ramps, catwalks, shoring up ditches and barricades.

The fatality rate in this job category was 22.9, cracking the top 10.

10. Electric power line installer/repairer

Working with high voltage is dangerous enough, but when you have to sometimes do it from heights at night and on sweltering days or in nasty weather (think ice storms in winter), it can be downright scary. Not surprising then, that this category of workers usually cracks the top 10 in fatality rates most years.

In 2021, the fatality rate was 22.0 per 100,000 workers.

How to get life insurance if you have a dangerous job

Workers in dangerous professions can usually obtain life insurance, although it does come at a cost. Insurers are very good at calculating the inherent risks in just about any occupation and can even break it down by age and gender. 

One of the best ways for high-risk workers to find the most affordable life insurance quotes is to be diligent and shop around. As Lynch noted, not all insurers calculate risks the same way and some may not place your job category in as high a rated category as another might.

Another strategy Lynch advises to use is to see if your trade group or employer has a discounted insurance offering from a carrier. It’s quite common for various industry trades to work out some kind of discount with a carrier to help assist their memberships.

There are also fraternal organizations, such as Knights of Columbus or Rotary International, which have discount arrangements, as well as college and university alumni associations.

Your job may be risky but your profile may help

Krystalynn M. Schelgel of M.G. Schelgel & Associates Inc., an estate business planning brokerage in Novato, California, says providing an insurance company with more details about personal details can also be helpful to lower your rates.

“Oftentimes, if I have a client with a high-risk profession, I will write a cover letter to the insurer explaining the specifics, supplying credit reports, driving records and personal details such as if they go to church, or if they have kids,” she says. “That helps [the underwriters] understand them better.

Also, don’t forget that if you’re in a high-risk job when you obtain your life insurance policy, but change to a safer profession later on, tell your insurance carrier about it. If they refuse to lower your rates, start shopping around.

It’s the same thing as a person who stops smoking. If you let your insurer know, it’s quite likely they will lower your life insurance rates. They might want you to be smoke-free for two years, but it should result in a break.

Additional reporting by Nancy Durham

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Mel Duvall
Contributing Researcher


Mel Duvall is an award-winning senior business writer and communications professional. Mel also served a three-year term on the Mount Royal University Journalism Committee.