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The 7 most dangerous jobs in technology

Employees who risk their lives and mental health

You may not think working in technology could be dangerous, but you'd be wrong. Some professions are particularly perilous, and could even involve you risking your own life. We've rounded up a list of the seven most dangerous jobs in technology.

3. Fixing undersea internet cables

Cables that span the oceans keep people connected online across continents. Contrary to popular belief, it's hard connections such as these - not satellites in space - that provide more than 99 percent of the world's internet connectivity. Someone has to lay and fix those cables when an undersea earthquake or errant anchor cuts off the data flow.

The crew of the vessel 'Pacific Guardian' recovers a cable for repair to restore telecom links across the Atlantic. Credit: Global Marine Systems

About 70 vessels around the world are tasked with fibre-optics installation and repairs. Some are on call around the clock. Each has a crew of about 50 people, including cable-installation engineers and controllers of remote-operated vehicles, who spend weeks or months at sea.

Robots rather than human divers lay and bury cables in the seabed as deep as 16,000 feet below the water's surface, but it takes the human hands on deck to haul in, repair, and drop heavy cables. Though they wear rubber gloves, in a worst-case scenario a cable operating with 10,000 volts could become energised. And looking straight into the lasers of a sliced cable can burn out your retinas in a matter of seconds.

As with fishing - perhaps the deadliest profession - this job carries the risk of encountering 'acts of God' on the sea. Members of the crew are also prone to slips, trips, and falls on wet decks.

Elaborate layers of safeguards on the vessels reflect the dangerous nature of the work, says John Davies, managing director for Global Marine Systems, the largest company that handles submarine internet cables.

4. Communications-tower climbing

Close to 11,000 people install and fix the communications towers that keep mobile calls connected in the US. In 2006, 18 of them died on the job. The head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in 2008 called mobile-phone-tower climbing the most dangerous work in America.

"Clearly it was the most dangerous job if you looked at a niche industry," says Craig Lekutis, president of the news portal WirelessEstimator.com.

Communications towers can reach 2,000 feet high. The industry has made improvements, but any work at extreme heights involves the risk of a fall. Fatalities tend to happen when workers don't use the right safety gear, or when they disconnect just for a moment. When a person is positioned 30 to 2000 feet in the air, such shortcuts can make routine tasks - such as testing an antenna - deadly. Accidents can happen even when the employee takes precautions; a tower can weaken at its base and fall, for instance, or a lanyard can break from a safety harness.

Amid a construction boom to make way for 3G and 4G wireless networks, Lekutis estimates, a quarter of a million communications towers - and rising - could be in need of installation or repair, in the US alone.

NEXT PAGE: Unregulated e-waste recycling

  1. These employees risk their lives
  2. Fixing undersea internet cables
  3. Unregulated e-waste recycling
  4. Infrastructure work in war zones

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