3 Extreme Careers That Require A Head For Heights

By on June 7, 2013

Did you know that the fear of heights is not called vertigo? It’s actually called acrophobia. According to a 1997 study, acrophobia affects up to 5 per cent of the population.

Those people are unlikely to want a job that involves working at a height,

but others positively relish the chance to expose themselves to jobs that will take them to high places – literally.

If you want to work a little danger into your career, you could try putting recreational skills, such as abseiling or climbing, to good use.

Extreme sports fans can be a valuable asset to any company looking for staff that will go the extra mile – often vertically.
But how can you use these skills?

1. High Rise Window Cleaning

The most common abseiling technique involves descending backwards down a cliff, so abseiling lends itself nicely to window cleaning.

(There are various alternatives used for different purposes; in Australian rappel, the brave participants descend facing the ground).

Not all window cleaning companies employ staff that are qualified to abseil down buildings, simply because it’s such a specialist skill, and many firms rarely deal with skyscrapers.

Those that do will tend to serve city areas with a large number of high-rise buildings.

Abseil window cleaning is only used in areas where other techniques and equipment would be impractical.

The commercial window cleaning company will need to assess the premises for suitable anchor points, and where none exist, abseilers can arrive with their own mobile anchor equipment.

All of this makes abseil window cleaning expensive, but in some situations, it’s the only way the job can be done.

2. Crane Operating

Crane operators obviously deal with heights on a daily basis, and the sight of someone working in a tiny cabin on a crane can strike fear into any acrophobic.

But nothing compares to the extreme challenge of working a crane bolted to the side of a high-rise building.

With the drive for bigger buildings comes the increasing risk associated with crane work.

Dubai is well known for its thirst impressive, ambitious construction projects.

The Burj Khalifa is perhaps the best known. It’s the world’s tallest skyscraper, and it towers 828 metres above ground.

According to rumour, one man, Babu Sassi, worked and lived in a crane balanced on top of the massive building for a year.

Sassi is rumoured to have spent day and night in his crane cabin because the journey up and down was too time consuming.

According to hearsay, he was also paid significantly higher wages to compensate him for the risks he took.

Sassi’s story may or may not be entirely true. But onlookers say that when the work was complete,

the crane he’s said to have operated had to be dismantled using a helicopter because it was completely inaccessible.

3. Steeplejacking

Steeplejacking is associated with centuries of maintenance on churches and places of worship in the UK, and

skilled steeplejacks also work on lighthouses, bridges and other tall structures.

Rather than using rope to descend, steeplejacks historically used complex lattices of ladders and a wide seat to enable them to climb and carry out repairs.

Modern health and safety laws generally prohibit free climbing,

so steeplejacks tend to use ropes, and the falling cost of modern methods is causing traditional steeplejacking to die out slowly.

However, steeplejacks are still used in modern industry to work on churches and chimneys around the world.

How Do I Train For an Extreme Job?

Interested in a career that involves abseiling? You’ll enjoy plenty of adrenaline-boosting experiences, but you’ll need to be formally trained.

  • The Industrial Rope Access Trade Association (IRATA) offers a variety of training schemes that will put you in line for that dream job.
  • If you want to keep steeplejacking alive as a trade, the Association of Technical Lightning and Access Specialists (ATLAS) can point you in the right direction.
Featured images:

License: Creative Commons

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Brad Staines is an expert in abseil window cleaning. He is the MD of Aquamark, a window cleaning company in the UK.

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