Life Insurance for Hazardous Occupation

Planning for your future | Life Insurance

Hazardous Occupation and Life Insurance

Occasionally, our agency will come across individuals that work in hazardous occupation who are looking for life insurance coverage.  Sometimes, people are surprised to learn that their hazardous occupations can affect their life insurance rates.  Life insurance companies need to evaluate all types of risks that may affect an individual’s mortality.  They will look at risk factors outside of just your health; although, your health still plays a large role in determining your rate.

Our agency welcomes the opportunity to work with the men and women who do the “dirty jobs” that other people may shy away from.  We have experience working with individuals in high-risk occupations and know what life insurance companies will want to see before they will make you an offer.

 
 

What occupations are considered hazardous?

As modern worksite safety protocols have improved and the American economy has shifted increasingly towards an information and services economy, the on-the-job risk of death or injury has substantially declined in recent decades.  However, the risk of an accidental death or injury in a hazardous occupation is not eliminated completely.

According to Forbes, the top ten deadliest jobs in the United States are as follows:

1.   Fishers and Related Fishing Workers

fisherman hazardous occupation

The risk of being a fisherman might not be seem apparent, but it is actually one of the deadliest jobs that an individual can work.  If you have seen the movie “The Perfect Storm”then you have a rough idea of what can go wrong out there on the open seas.

The fishing industry has to contend with catastrophic weather conditions, dangerous heavy machinery, and equipment, as well as the risk of drowning.  Should something go wrong far from land, it could be a long time before emergency responders arrive.  These hazardous conditions earn fishers and related fishing workers a top spot on our list of high-risk jobs that could affect your life insurance rates.

2. Loggers

loggers and hazardous occupation

Logging is one of the jobs that literally built America.  Cutting down and trimming trees for sale and transport is no easy task and can be dangerous. You can bet that life insurance companies will want to know more about your daily activities.  The risk of falling debris, deadly cutting equipment, and navigating hazardous terrain all contribute to logging being a high-risk job and consistently at the top of the list for deadliest jobs in the United States.

 
 

3.   Aircraft Pilots

PILOT hazardous occupation

Aircraft pilots can be a complicated occupation to underwrite.  If you are a pilot, you need to work with a veteran agent who knows the nuances of aviation underwriting.  Obvious risks of flying would be crashes, equipment malfunctioning and emergency response times.  However, not all pilots are viewed equally.

Life Insurance companies will also want to know if your aviation habits are truly an occupation, or are you more of a recreational pilot.  They will look at things like the number of annual hours that you are in the air, the countries that you fly in and out of, and your instrument rating.

Naturally, we would consider someone who pilots a commercial or private airliner an aircraft pilot, but life insurance companies will also be interested in hot air balloon pilots, helicopter pilots, hang gliders, and crop duster pilots as well.  That is why it is crucial that you work with agent who knows exactly what questions to ask to place you with the best company.

4.   Refuse and Recyclable Materials Collectors

recycling hazardous occupation

Trash collecting is a dirty job, but someone has to do it.  In addition to being a dirty job, many are surprised to learn that it is a dangerous job as well.  Sanitation workers have to worry about a number of perils such as heavy equipment, road traffic, and the hauling of potentially hazardous materials.

As far as high-risk occupations go, refuse and recyclable materials collectors are on among the riskier occupations in America. That being said, life insurance companies tend to be more forgiving to the hardworking men and women who collect our trash.  Outside of toxic waste collection, being a refuse and recyclable materials collector does not typically affect an individual’s life insurance rates.

 
 

5.   Roofers

roofers hazardous occupation

Installing or repairing roofs can be a tough job.  The heights and terrain that roofers work on can be an obvious peril, but the summer heat can be dangerous as well.  High temperatures can lead to a number of health risks such as fainting, dehydration, or even heat stroke. Insurance companies will want to know a little more detail on the types of roofs that you work on (commercial vs. residential) and the altitudes that you complete your work.  However, with the right effort behind the scenes from a veteran agent, finding affordable life insurance coverage for roofers should not be incredibly difficult.

6.   Structural Iron and Steel Workers

steel worker hazardous occupation

It takes a special kind of person to be a structural iron and steel worker.  Having to mold, set and otherwise work with metal construction materials is difficult enough, but to work metal multiple stories in the air is taking high-risk jobs to the next level.  The hazards of being a structural iron and steel worker include, falling debris, working in locations high off the ground, dangerous heavy machinery, and heat-related injury from smelting or welding.

Unless you are working on a high rise or smelter, most men and women in the iron and steel industry will often be classified as a lower-risk factory worker or construction worker.  If you do work on a high rise or a smelter, then the life insurance company will want to know more information regarding your duties.  A veteran agent can assist you in selecting the best company for your position.

 
 

7.   Ranchers and Farmers

ranchers hazardous occupation

While many people think of farming as a simple life, it does have its risks.  Certain aspects of the agricultural business can be hazardous.  Working with heavy machinery and with wild animals always comes with a risk.  However, unless you are working in one of those specific high-risk areas of ranching and farming, most life insurance companies will not view you greater than a standard mortality risk.

8.   Driver/sales Workers and Truck Drivers

truck driver hazardous occupation

Being a truck driver is not easy.  Any number of things can go wrong on the road.  Traffic hazards such as weather or car accidents can happen to anyone.  Truck drivers are often on the road for long hours and can face fatigue.  As a result, driver/sales workers and truck drivers consistently make the top list for hazardous occupations in the United States.

However, our agency has had great success finding truck drivers affordable life insurance coverage without any additional cost due to their occupation.  Unless you are ferrying hazardous waste or explosive materials, being a truck driver will not negatively affect your life insurance rates.

9.   Powerline Repairers

Electric Technician Job is hazardous occupation

It is sometimes difficult to predict what activities life insurance companies will shy away from.  Powerline repairers work on the cables or wires used in electrical power of distribution systems.  A powerline repair worker may be called to repair electrical units at dangerous heights and needs to contend with the risk of electrocution.  While this sounds like a job that may make a life insurance company neverous, most powerline repairers have little trouble securing affordable life insurance coverage due to their high-risk occupation.

10. Taxi Drivers, Uber Drivers or Chauffeurs

taxi hazardous occupation

Professional drivers of automobiles, vans, or limousines face similar dangers that truck drivers see out on the road.  Working long hours can cause fatigue, which increases the chance making a mistake in traffic.  In addition to traffic accidents, the threat of violence and robbery for money held by the driver can make driving passengers for money one of the most dangerous jobs in America.  Similar to truck drivers though, life insurance companies are generally willing to take on the risks of a taxi driver with little additional concern for the job’s hazardous reputation.

Special Mention – Police, Fire, and Military Personnel

Notably absent from the top 10 list of deadliest jobs are military personnel, police, and firemen.  We receive numerous calls from the proud men and women who serve in our military, as well as our nation’s fire and police departments, concerned that they will be declined for life insurance due to their occupations.  However, outside of rare circumstances, military personnel; along with police and fire civil servants, can purchase affordable life insurance at top-tier rates if otherwise eligible!

Now don’t panic just yet if your occupation has made the top ten list of most hazardous occupations by Forbes.  We have personally insured a number of occupations on (and off) the top 10 llist with no hassle at all.  Life insurance companies have seen it all from circus trapeze artists to snake milkers.  If you are having trouble finding affordable life insurance due to your high-risk job, request a quote today and one of our veteran agents will review your options.

What will the life insurance company want to know about my job?

The life insurance companies will take a nuanced approach to underwriting your occupation.  For example, a truck driver who delivers non-hazardous materials is less of a risk than a truck driver hauling explosive materials.  The life insurance companies will consider these details in order to determine if you have a truly hazardous occupation that would otherwise affect your life insurance rates.

Most of the of occupational hazards that the life insurance companies are concerned about often (but not always) have some relationship to the following risks.  Please note that the following list is not exclusive:

  • Death falling from high altitudes
  • Death from explosives or electrocution
  • Death from animal attack
  • Death from a mechanical failure or accident
  • Death from drowning
  • Death from aviation accidents
  • Death from toxic materials

Life insurance companies will not only look at your activities on the job, but also any correlations that your occupation may have with other lifestyle impairments.  For example, if you have any prior history of alcohol problems and you work in the bar business, that could be a problem from an underwriting standpoint.

In addition, if your job frequently requires foreign travel into high risk countries or areas, that too can affect your rates.  For example, a defense contractor may be required to reside abroad for long periods of time in high-risk locations, such as Afghanistan.  Even if the contract work is a low-risk activity, such as office work, the location of the job itself may be too risky for life insurance companies to cover.

What happens if the life insurer deems my job as hazardous?

If it is determined that your work is a truly hazardous occupation or your job duties are deemed “high risk,” most life insurance companies will include what is known as a “flat extra” to your rate.

A “flat extra” is calculated based on the underwriter’s determination of the overall risk associated with your job in addition to your current expected mortality.  It is an additional cost that is added onto your rate.  A “flat extra” is usually in dollar multiples per $1,000 of life insurance purchased.  Here is a fictitious example for illustrative purposes to understand how the “flat extra” works.

For example, a pilot who is otherwise healthy gets approved for $100,000 of life insurance coverage at an annual premium of $600 plus a “flat extra” of $2.5 per $1,000 units of life insurance.  The total annual premium due for the pilot would be $850.

A “flat extra” can be added temporarily or it can permanent; for example, five years of a “flat extra” added to the policy premiums.  Since most high-risk occupations are permanently hazardous, most job-related “flat extras” are permanent.  However, there are some scenarios where a temporary “flat extra” may makes sense.

Life insurance companies can also add a death benefit exclusion into their policies that would exclude certain death scenarios, such as deaths from aviation accidents, from triggering the death benefit.  A life insurance company issuing a death benefit exclusion in their policy is rare, but an exclusion can occasionally be included.

Can I remove a life insurance “flat extra” if I change jobs?

A little known fact about life insurance is that you can request an underwriter reevaluate your rate in the future if your health improves or your mortality risk becomes lower.  Most companies will require you wait at least 1-2 years before they will reassess your rate to be sure that this change is truly permanent. It is not guaranteed that the underwriter will remove the “flat extra,” but if you can prove that you no longer are working in a hazardous occupation, you have a good shot.

If the life insurance company that you currently are insured with is not willing to remove the “flat extra” and your health is still in fair condition, then you can always replace your current policy with another life insurance policy instead. In some instances, a full replacement of the life insurance policy may make more sense financially.

What if you are declined for life insurance due to your job?

Sometimes, your occupation may be so hazardous that the life insurance company will decline to make you an offer at all.  This is rarer for occupational risks, but it can happen.  The more likely scenario is that you were approved, but the cost of the “flat extra” makes the policy  unaffordable.  If either of these two scenarios occur, there are still options available.

Supplement with group life insurance coverage

Group life insurance coverage is not an ideal form of life insurance due to its limited death benefit amounts, lack of flexibility, and high costs over time.  For those reasons, we rarely recommend people acquire group life insurance coverage over purchasing an individual life insurance policy on the open market.  However, if securing a private life insurance policy is impossible or unaffordable, something, even if it isn’t ideal, is better than nothing.

Often when clients look into their group life insurance coverage option, they are surprised to learn that the amount of life insurance death benefit that they can purchase is limited to a multiple of their income (usually ranging from 1x-5x their annual salary).  However, when combined with a smaller individual life insurance policy, group life insurance coverage can be a key component in achieving affordable premiums at high death benefit levels.

Combining accidental death insurance with life insurance

Accidental death insurance is a form of life insurance that only pays a death benefit for accidental deaths resulting from a bodily injury.  While accidental death insurance will not cover you for medically-related deaths, such as a heart attack, it still can offer a ton of value for someone working in a hazardous occupation.  For example, if a roofer accidentally falls off a roof and dies from the fall, having a robust accidental death insurance policy would be just as valuable as a traditional life insurance policy would.

You can purchase accidental death insurance either as a stand-alone individual policy, or as a rider to a life insurance policy.  However, it is important to work with a veteran life and health insurance agent who is familiar with the contract language of these types of policies.  Like life insurance policies, not every accidental death policy is created equal.  Different life insurance companies will have different opinions on underwriting, so it is important to work with a veteran life and health insurance agent who understand the nuances of this type of coverage.

Pro Tip – Combining accidental death insurance coverage with life insurance coverage can be a cost-effective way of securing high death benefit amounts in case of a catastrophic event that results in an accidental death while still maintaining an affordable base level of life insurance coverage for medically-related deaths.

 Oftentimes, clients with hazardous occupations like the concept of accidental death insurance because it protects them from work-related (and non-work-related) accidental deaths.  Nevertheless, some clients are concerned that if they die of medical condition, which is not covered by accidental death insurance, that the policy would be a waste of money since the death benefit would not be paid out.

As a response to that concern, the life insurance companies created a return of premium (ROP) rider option.  Every insurance company’s rider functions slightly differently, but the general concept behind the ROP rider is that if your death is not covered by the accidental death policy, then the insurance company would return all or a portion of your premiums paid back to your beneficiary upon your death. This can help ease the concerns of people who feel that accidental death insurance coverage is a use-it-or-lose-it proposition.

Some sample rates for accidental death coverage are located in the charts below:

Accidental Death Insurance for Hazardous Occupation

Accidental Death Insurance for Hazardous Occupation with rider

*The return of premium rider may not be available in certain states or at certain ages.  Please check with your agent regarding your eligibility.

The Last Word

Simply put, life insurance is not a commodity.  Life insurance companies will all have different opinions on underwriting and take different views on an individual’s mortality risk.  If you are working in a hazardous occupation, your life insurance rates could be affected due to the high-risk nature of your job duties.  Working with a veteran life insurance agent who understands how each life insurance company underwrites by occupation will increase your odds at getting a better offer.

Our agency has experience working with men and women just like you in high-risk jobs.  If you are working in a hazardous occupation and think you will have difficulty purchasing affordable life insurance coverage, fill out a quote or give one of our agents a call today!