The most dangerous job in the world

Hey Thoughty2 here. The Roman Colosseum is one of the Earth’s greatest monuments to humanity’s long and rugged history. From Verona to Pompeii and even in Africa, amphitheatres were erected by the Roman Empire to entertain the public in the most inhumane ways possible. Ferocious beasts such as lions, tigers, elephants and bears would have to fight for their lives against gladiators, who were usually slaves and criminals. Sometimes the animals would be made to fight each other and of course there were the public executions, a spectacle where criminals would be tied up like meat and an array of wild animals would feed upon them. Out of these horrors grew a great need for captured wild beasts and so was born one of the most dangerous jobs mankind has ever performed, “The Beast Hunters”. A group of pioneering entrepreneurs who risked their lives to hunt down and capture wild beasts then brought them back to amphitheatres all over the empire for use in the games. Tigers came from Armenia. Elephants, giraffes, ostriches, leopards and hippos from Africa. And bears came from Northern Europe. Records show of a man who specialised in the capture of wild bears whose name was “Ursarius” literally translated as “bear-hunter”. The hunters couldn’t use bows or spears because of the risk of inflicting a wound on the animal that would become infected. The animal needed to be in good health, ready to fight its opponents when it arrived at the amphitheatre. Tranquiliser darts didn’t exist then so these beast hunters had to be creative to catch their unfortunate prey. One popular method was to dig a large pit in the ground and stick a wooden stake in the center of the pit with a dead lamb on top. The hunters would then hide and patiently wait for a lion or other beast to come and investigate the bait. As soon as the lion jumps in the pit the hunter would lower a cage from above, trapping it. Another, more obnoxious method was for several hunters to ride horses around the animal whilst banging on drums. The creature would chase the various horses and eventually fall over due to exhaustion, and so it could be safely captured. Of course when dealing with such dangerous predators in close confines, that haven’t been sedated, accidents do happen and many a beast hunter lost their life whilst trying to catch lions and bears or whilst transporting them back to Italy. Surely workplaces have become more regulated now since the days of the Roman Empire? Deaths must be far less common? Well that’s true except for a few extremely high-risk jobs, one of which is one of the deadliest jobs in the World today… Welcome to the treacherous ship yards of Chittagong. It’s a hive of industry and it generates massive wealth for a few rich families, but its also one of the most dangerous places to earn a living in the world. It’s a dark industry called “ship breaking”. When their time roaming the seas is over, ships from all over the world, oil tankers, cruise ships, cargo ships etc. are brought to the very tip of the Bay of Bengal, to their final resting place at Chittagong, Bangladesh. This is where ships come to die and so do people. Ships have a typical lifespan of 25-30 years before corrosion takes over and makes maintenance too difficult or expensive. Now considering each ship costs roughly $1 billion to build, and they have to be replaced every 25 years, that makes it an expensive and very lucrative business. Of course, when there’s hundreds of millions of dollar’s worth of valuable steel and other metals within the vessel’s framework you don’t just want to let it sink to the bottom of the ocean and slowly degrade. So companies that own ships that have reached the end of their useful life, send the dying vessel off to a ship-breaking yard where it is painstakingly dismantled, entirely by hand. The salvaged raw materials, usually hundreds of thousands of tons worth, are then sent back to the owner of the ship so they can sell it to all sorts of different construction and recycling companies, making back a portion of the cost of building the ship in the first place. And the ship breaking yard is paid for their services. That all sounds very well. But the process of dismantling a vessel so huge and dealing with such large, heavy pieces of metals at great heights on a daily basis is not only extremely perilous but often life-threatening. In fact, ship breaking is so darn dangerous that the whole industry was banned entirely in the Western world by the 1980s. Of course that left a huge gap in the market, a gap worth billions. One country where it still isn’t banned to this day came flying into the market and thus become one of the world’s largest players in the ship breaking industry, Bangladesh. Since then other Eastern countries have bitten off a chunk of the market, such as India, China, Pakistan and Turkey. Today India is the world’s largest ship breaker, followed closely by Bangladesh. Yet despite the competition, the city of Chittagong in Indonesia is world famous for its ship breaking yard, but for all the wrong reasons. It’s one of the most un-regulated and dangerous ship-breaking yards out there. Along with the deadly Alang ship breaking yard in India, which happens to be the world’s largest. But why is ship breaking so unforgivingly dangerous? One of the biggest threats is falling metal. Huge metal sheets are constantly breaking off and tumbling down the sides of these gigantic metal structures, many workers are killed after being hit in the head or completely crushed by pieces of falling metal. There’s also a major risk of asbestos, lead or heavy metals poisoning. Asbestos in particular is an extremely common construction material in older vessels and workers commonly develop fatal cancers and other illnesses due to the many toxins they’re exposed to on a daily basis. Some ship components are filled with deadly gasses that can escape when dismantled, instantly poisoning or suffocating all surrounding workers, this has happened on multiple occasions. And then there are the fires and explosions, using power tools and blowtorches on a vessel that likely contains a myriad of flammable fuels, gasses and materials causes frequent fires and sometimes devastating explosions. If all that isn’t bad enough, many workers are killed by simply plummeting to their death after taking a wrong step atop of the vessel. And for risking their lives, ship breaking yard workers are paid a measly $3 per day. But the West is not without its perilous professions. One of the deadliest jobs you can do is lumberjacking also known as logging. America was built by lumberjacks, they felled the trees that created the first houses and the first towns. Despite all the technology available to us, the humble art of felling trees is still a commonly practiced profession, especially in North America. However, in a recent study it was revealed that lumberjacking or logging has the most injuries and fatalities per 100,000 workers than any other profession, except one, but I’ll talk about that in a minute. It was followed closely by fishermen. Loggers are 40 times more likely to die at work than any other profession. So what makes chopping down a bunch of trees so damn dangerous? Well a good place to start is the 100 metre plus, tall trees that are plummeting down right next to you several times per hour. All it takes is the slightest error in the incision for the tree to fall in the wrong direction, trees can easily kickback, launching themselves right at you and barks can split and splinter which can be deadly. 84% of deaths in logging are due to falling trees or rolling logs. Surprisingly only 16% are due to machinery. Yet when chainsaw accidents do happen they are often gruesome and fatal. This x-ray of a tree-surgeon whose chainsaw slipped and went into his chest tells a thousand words. But things have definitely improved from the pioneering days of the early logging industry. Before the widespread of electricity, sawmills were powered by steam which meant they needed a constant supply of water. Thus they were often positioned down river whereas trees would be felled further up the river. There were no vehicles up to this job, so how do you transport extremely heavy and cumbersome logs to the sawmill, for processing into more manageable planks? Why send them floating down the river of course. Ingenious yet simple, this was known as “log driving”. But logs would often get stuck causing a large pile-up, so specialist water runners known as “water rats” would rapidly hop from one slippery, wet, rolling log to another and hunt for the log causing the jam so they could free it up. As you can imagine fatalities were frequent among these “water rats”. The current is ferociously strong and all it takes is one wrong step to be swept under. Whilst all of these jobs are inherently dangerous, non more so than the statistically most dangerous job in the world. With more deaths per head than any other profession on Earth. What if I told you that there’s a job that has an 18% fatality rate, compared to loggers with a fatality rate of 0.13% and fishermen with a rate of 0.12%? That job is president of the United States, out of the 44 previous presidents 8 have died whilst in office, a staggering fatality rate of 18%. Four of whom were assassinated, meaning 9% of US presidents have been killed whilst in office. And some people spend millions of dollars and dedicate their lives to achieve this prestigious yet frightfully dangerous job. Proving once and for all that the bigger they come, the harder they fall. Thanks for watching.

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