World’s Most Dangerous Cleaning Jobs


We’ve taken a look at some of the world’s most dangerous cleaning jobs. From scaling buildings to swimming with sharks; these cleaners certainly have guts!

High Rise Window Cleaner

According to, ‘Window cleaning is the most dangerous job in the UK, while being a vicar is one of the safest. The threat of falling off a ladder was given as the main reason for ranking the job so highly in a league table of risky professions.’

Some high rise window cleaning companies that work for hospitals are now surprising patients in the children’s wings of the hospital by dressing up as superheroes.

As reported by the, ‘Window cleaners at Chicago’s Lurie Children’s Hospital this week continued what is fast becoming a popular tradition to help put a smile on the faces of sick children. Window-washing crews in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Alabama, California and elsewhere have all joined the fun.’

‘While Lurie neuro-oncologist Dr. Stewart Goldman told the Tribune he has no scientific research to back it up, he feels the “Superhero Day” event and the positive feelings it inspires can help the hospital’s young patients heal.’

Shark Tank Cleaner

In an article published by the Mail, divers at the Blue Planet Aquarium revealed what life was like as a shark tank cleaner. ‘With just a wet suit and a brush, shark tank cleaners bravely spend up to seven hours a day in the depths of the tank which is home to an array of shark species including nurse, zebra, bamboo and six deadly sand tiger sharks.’

One diver said:

‘It can be potentially quite dangerous but if it is done properly it’s actually a pretty safe job. It’s all about recognising the behaviour of the sharks and knowing how to dive safely. The divers always have a safety diver with them and a dive supervisor at the top of the tank, as well as intercom to talk to each other.’

‘The times when the sharks can be potentially disruptive to our dives is during mating season, that’s when there is a lot of sexual energy around and they can be unpredictable.’

Cobra Snake Pit Cleaner

As reported in the Mail, one of the least desirable cleaning jobs is sure to belong to this snake handler in a Southeast Asian Zoo.

‘Trapped in a tiny concrete pit surrounded by hundreds of deadly snakes, this snake handler regularly cleans out the cobra pit wearing flip-flops, armed with only a broom.’

Cobras are venomous snakes that when disturbed can rear up and spread their neck in a characteristic threat display.

‘With the enormous pile of snakes cleared away, he is able to sweep away eggs, leaves, dried skin and excrement.’

Sewage Workers

Copious dangerous substances are transported by our sewage systems daily. And it’s not just the human waste you would expect; many households across the UK dispose of products unsuitable to our drainage system.

For example, as reported by the Mail:

‘In 2010, a team of ‘flushers’ equipped with full breathing apparatus and armed with shovels had to be drafted to the sewers under London’s Leicester Square in order to dig out an estimated 1,000 tonnes of clogged up fat. That’s enough fat to fill nine double-decker buses!’

Decaying animals, hand grenades, drugs and sharp waste has also been found by workers. Such materials leave sewage workers open to a multitude of health risks.
As noted by, ‘The majority of illnesses are relatively mild cases of gastroenteritis, but potentially fatal diseases, such as leptospirosis (Weil’s disease) and hepatitis, are also reported to HSE. However, there could well be significant under-reporting of cases because there is often failure to recognise the link between illness and work.’

Exposure to sewage or its products may result in a number of illnesses. These include:

• Gastroenteritis, characterised by cramping stomach pains, diarrhoea and vomiting

• Weil’s disease, a flu-like illness with persistent and severe headache, transmitted by rat urine.

• Damage to liver, kidneys and blood may occur and the condition can be fatal

• Hepatitis, characterised by inflammation of the liver, and jaundice

• Occupational asthma, resulting in attacks of breathlessness, chest tightness and wheezing, and produced by the inhalation of living or dead organisms

• Infection of skin or eyes and / or allergic alveolitis (inflammation of the lung) with fever, breathlessness, dry cough, and aching muscles and joints.

Medical Waste Disposal and Collection

Medical waste can carry a whole host of health risks, which is why the laws detailing how the materials can be disposed of are so stringent.

As noted on, ‘Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 it is unlawful to deposit, recover or dispose of controlled (including clinical) waste without a waste management licence, contrary to the conditions of a licence or the terms of an exemption, or in a way which causes pollution of the environment or harm to human health.’

The World Health Organisation notes that medical waste may include, but not be limited to:

• Used needles and syringes
• Soiled dressings
• Body parts
• Diagnostic samples
• Blood
• Chemicals
• Pharmaceuticals
• Medical devices
• Radioactive materials.

Hazardous Waste

Similarly, those who are employed to remove hazardous waste also face a host of risks. notes:

Waste is generally considered hazardous if it (or the material or substances it contains) are harmful to humans or the environment. Examples of hazardous waste include:
• Asbestos
• Chemicals, e.g. brake fluid or print toner
• Batteries
• Solvents
• Pesticides
• Oils (except edible ones), e.g. car oil
• Equipment containing ozone depleting substances, e.g. fridges
• Hazardous waste containers

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