According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, deep sea fishermen have the most dangerous job in the United States. Every year, more than 1 in 1,000 fishermen lose their lives on the job. The BLS measures the fatality rate for loggers, truck drivers and firemen too, each of which are occupations that also pose significant risk to those who undertake them. The BLS, however, doesn’t keep track of every job. Some, such as those you see below, are exceptions and the men and women who do them are exceptionally daring. These are the most extreme jobs.
Transmission Tower Climber
You’ve seen the wireless provider maps where every inch of the country is covered in cell phone reception, right? The reason you can talk to mom from the middle of nowhere: there’s a transmission tower somewhere along your line of sight. It is tall, very tall, maybe even taller than the tallest building in the United States. That’s the case for the 1,768-foot tall transmission tower seen in the video above. When that tower breaks, someone has to fix it. Call in the brave workmen who call themselves transmission tower repairmen. These guys have a crazy job. It’s daring no matter how you cut it, but it’s especially crazy when you consider that many of these workers don’t tie down when they climb to the top. They “free climb” to conserve energy and save time. Because you know what they say in the working world: time is money.
Launching into space is so very spectacular and rare, with only about 450 humans ever strapping into a ship bound for the cosmos. Of those 450, 22 have lost their lives while in a spacecraft. The scary math: historically, about 5% of astronauts die on the job. That fatality rate is higher than virtually any other gig on earth, making spaceflight the most dangerous job in the galaxy, at least by one measure (certain underpaid and overburdened developing world workers might object). Of course, traveling in space poses more dangers than just death. Astronauts are exposed to high levels of radiation and low levels of gravity, both of which can cause long-term effects that are still somewhat misunderstood by science. They are effects we will have to better understand as spaceflight more and more moves into the professional mainstream.
Construction is a dangerous job, killing more people than any other industry in the United States. As you might imagine, construction underwater is even more dangerous. There are several types of commercial divers: from oil rig divers to those who inspect hydroelectric dams. All are exposed to claustrophobic and dangerous conditions, with underwater workers susceptible to at least two major threats: dive injuries, such as the “bends,” and machine related injuries such as those that occur while welding in the murky depths beneath a Gulf of Mexico oil rig. HAZMAT divers, who may be contracted to submerge in chemical sludge or raw sewage, can face even more dangerous conditions.
Despite the proliferation of computer generated graphics, humans still put themselves in danger on the set so the masses can enjoy staring at a screen. Nobody really knows how many stuntmen get injured every year; stats aren’t kept for stuntman injuries and fatalities that occur abroad, where many action flicks are filmed. Reducing the fatality figures further, stuntmen are notoriously tough, keeping injuries unreported so their reputations remain intact. You’d want to get hired too when Part Deux gets green lit. If you are as hardcore as most stuntmen, that’s true even if you lost a limb during part one.
In the 50s, one test pilot was killed every week flying experimental US aircraft. Back then, you had to have a death wish to apply at the US Air Force Test Pilot School. To be accepted, you had to have serious skills. Today, thanks to a better understanding of aeronautics and computerized simulation, testing experimental aircraft is considerably more safe, with almost no US flight test deaths in the recent years. Still, earning the opportunity to fly aircraft of the future is harder than ever, with the Mojave-based school only accepting pilots with 1 year experience commanding a top-tier fighter jet in addition to 750 hours of instruction experience. It’s a lot to ask of a pilot, but not too much considering the unreliable, misunderstood missiles they are paid to ride.