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Deadliest jobs

As 33 miners are found alive trapped in a mine in Chile, Kipp takes a look at some of the world’s most dangerous careers.

August 24, 2010 4:26 by

  • If any career has the potential for fatalities, it’s this one. Think about it – all the ingredients are there: Heavy machinery? Check. Dangerous machinery? Check. Confined spaces? Check. Hard to reach location (in case of emergency)? Check. Poor visibility? Check. Stifling working conditions? Check. Deadly tools? Check (in this case, explosives). Couple all this to the fact that much mining takes place in the developing world, with poorly trained, ill-equipped labour, and you have a recipe for disaster. This career hit the headlines this week when 33 miners in Chile who had been presumed dead following a mine collapse were discovered alive more than 2,200 feet underground. The men remain trapped, and it may be months before they are freed – they are already some of the longest trapped surviving miners in the history books.

  • If you’ve never seen the TV shows “Deadliest Catch” or “Trawlermen” you may be surprised to see this profession on our list. But make no mistake: fishing is a deadly business, possibly the only one that could be called more dangerous than mining. For the most extreme fishermen the job entails risking life and limb for the catch. Fishermen are totally exposed to the elements – the weather and the ocean, often in some of the world’s most unforgiving environments. Ice, rain, hail, winds, waves, combined with heavy machinery (lifting heavy nets and cages out of the water on ropes) in small boats mean the risk of injury or drowning is severe. Tack on the fact that you are potentially hundreds of miles from help, and you have a merciless occupation.

  • Loggers cut wood. You cut wood with a saw or blade. Loggers cut very large pieces of wood very fast, meaning very large saws and blades moving very fast. Couple that with extremely heavy logs, which can roll, fall or slide with irresistible momentum in rough terrain exposed to the elements, and you have one of the most dangerous work environments imaginable. And, a bit like fishing, it often takes place in remote wildernesses where medical treatment is far away.

  • On one website Kipp saw on diving as a career it said of deep sea operatives: “These divers have an alarmingly low life-expectancy.” Yowser. Of course, we’re not talking about dive instructors or underwater photographers here – we mean the undersea engineers working on pipes and drills for the oil and gas industries. The name of the game here is make a lot of money and get out fast, as the debilitating effects of deep sea diving can be cumulative. Long term risks include disabling condition of the joints, but that’s nothing to the more immediate risks of equipment failure (that will almost certainly kill you), hypothermia, drowning, decompression sickness, and psychological problems.

  • Obviously, there must be some mistake. How can truck driving be ranked up there with mining or diving? The answer is simple: there a lot more truck drivers than you realize, and many of them face some pretty challenging conditions. Besides which, it involves hurtling around in a very heavy vehicle with lots of moving parts. Imagine the risks you take every time you drive somewhere – from mechanical failure, from other road users, from hazards – and consider that truck drivers face those same risks all day every day. It dramatically increases their chances of encountering a problem. Add to that weather conditions, dangerous routes, and all the logistics operations operating in dangerous areas – war zones, for instance – and you have a difficult, dangerous job.

  • Crocodile= large aquatic reptile that is so perfect at what it does (killing and eating) that it has barely needed to evolve in millions of years. Human=not so large piece of relatively defenseless meat and bone. You do the mathematics. Crocodile wrangler is not generally considered when you talk about dangerous careers, but that’s probably because there are so few of them in the world. And the ones that do exist are obviously good enough to stay safe, keeping the statistics relatively agreeable. Because the bottom line is, if you’re no good, you won’t become a wrangler. You’ll become dead.

  • Kipp is pretty sure they call them clowns for a reason: They are idiots. Why else would you want the job of distracting the bull after a cowboy gets thrown off at the rodeo? Essentially, your job is to make the bull want to gorge you instead of the cowboy. This really is no laughing matter – a clown needs to be fast, smart and agile. And even that won’t protect you forever – according to one careers site we found, “No matter how good a rodeo clown you are, eventually you will wake up in the hospital with broken bones, concussions, or dislocations. This job can certainly be fatal, but clowns do it for the rush.”

  • In this town, how could we leave it out? Construction worker could mean anything from drilling and concreting foundations to roofing and electronics. Then there’s heavy machinery operation (trucks, drills, cranes), and a host of other disciplines. All of this, all happening, all the time. The nature of the tools and materials gives every aspect a high risk factor. In countries with clearly defined health and safety laws and rigorously enforced codes and conduct, it is dangerous. In the Gulf, where codes can be confusing, laws badly implemented, and conduct poor, it is too often fatal.


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