7 of the Absolute Dirtiest Jobs in the World — Would You Do Them?

Dirtiest jobs
Lindsay under Creative Commons

When I was younger, I worked as a live-in babysitter for a while, and I never did get over the way grape Kool Aid turned green by the time it made it to the diaper. It wasn’t a pleasant job.

I also got dirty the various times I’ve worked in the construction industry. But hey, we all have to pay the bills somehow.

Of course, there’s dirty and then there’s disgustingly dirty. With some work, you have to wonder if it’s ever worth the pay. Consider the following nominees for the absolute dirtiest jobs in the world…

1. Septic Tank Cleaner

I used to own a home with a septic tank. When I had it pumped out and cleaned, I watched from a distance to avoid being hit by one of the occasional splashes of raw sewage. You might think you would just drop in a suction hose and pump it out, but it’s also necessary to scrape the inside walls of the tank to dislodge the compacted “solids.”

When the worker poked his head inside the tank to see if it was properly scraped down and empty, I thought, “This has to be one of the worst jobs out there.” Then he told me he was the business owner and he had customers lined up one after the other.

It still seems like a pretty terrible job to have as an employee, but maybe if you’re the owner, the profits make the odor bearable. “It smells like money,” Dick Dolan, owner of the highly successful business ABC Cesspool Co. Inc., told Angie’s List, Maybe it does, but would you want money that smelled like that?

2. AI Technician

Why is it that 95% of dairy cattle in the U.S. are artificially inseminated? As Allen Harper from Virginia Tech, explains on Freakonomics.com:

“…natural breeding is very wasteful of sperm. About 3 billion sperm cells is more than adequate to inseminate easily six or seven sows. Natural mating is really biological overkill in terms of sperm cells that are deposited.”

Turkeys and other animals are also artificially inseminated, and somebody has to do the job. The position is also called “AI technician.” That’s probably the title to offer when people ask what you do for a living, since they might think you work in artificial intelligence, and that’s easier than explaining what an electro-ejaculation device is.

What does the job entail? It’s pretty much as bad (or worse) than you imagine. You collect, you insert, and you try to wash well afterward.

If you want more details, visit Discovery.com and watch the original dirty jobs ringmaster, Mike Rowe, collect sperm from a horse using an artificial vagina. After that, you probably won’t want to apply for the job.

3. Rendering Plant Worker

Dead animals are the basic input in a rendering plant. What comes out is food for farm animals and pets, and sometimes biodiesel. Working as a renderer made Mike Rowe’s list of the dirtiest jobs in an ABC News interview. He says:

“It’s a blood bath — no one wants to see it or talk about it… It took me years to convince a camera crew to go inside a rendering operation. The smell is indescribable; the sights are something out of Kafka. But the finished product is something really valuable.”

And then we have this more detailed description of a rendering plant:

“The rendering plant floor is piled high with… dead dogs and cats; heads and hooves from cattle, sheep, pigs and horses; whole skunks; rats and raccoons… all waiting to be processed. In the ninety degree heat, the piles of dead animals seem to have a life of their own as millions of maggots swarm over the carcasses… A giant auger at the bottom of the pit begins to turn. Popping bones and squeezing flesh are sounds from a nightmare you will never forget.”

Perhaps not all plants are like this one, and not all pet food comes from places like this. But would you want to work at even the “more pleasant” rendering plants?

4. Lift Pump Replacement Technician

A lift pump in a sewer brings the raw sewage from lower to higher drainage pipes, keeping it all moving along smoothly.

What happens when one breaks? Someone has to go in there and replace it, of course. As Mike Rowe explains, “To do this, you have to wade — and sometimes swim — through human waste.” Enough said.

5. Slaughterhouse Worker

As explained on FoodIsPower.org, slaughterhouses are largely mechanized, yet still require that “…some workers kill and bleed the animals while others make a series of cuts to separate fat, muscle and bone.” It’s a hectic, fast-paced environment, and workers use sharp tools around animals and machines, so “injuries are inevitable.”

That’s a description of a normal slaughterhouse. Last year the New York Daily News reported on one operation “where pigs were shot, stabbed, beaten with sledgehammers, gutted and boiled all while alive…” Fortunately that operation was closed by authorities, but it takes about 10 seconds on Google to find a dozen similar examples. What kind of paycheck would you want for doing that kind of work?

6. Sheep Castrator

Any way you do it, castrating sheep is likely to be an unpleasant job. But apparently some people use their teeth to castrate sheep!

Mike Rowe learned and demonstrated the technique on his show, Dirty Jobs. But according to an article on ScienceBlogs.com, ripping out the testicles with your teeth can make you sick. So in case you needed a reason not to take this job, you have one.

7. Crime Scene Cleaner

Often called Biohazard Remediation Technicians or CTS Decon (Crime and Trauma Scene Decontamination) specialists, crime scene cleaners try to make things nice again after suicides, homicides, unattended deaths and industrial accidents.

In an interview, one technician said he sometimes laughs as a “coping mechanism.” He added that it’s necessary “to add humor to the job when you’re cleaning up brains from a ceiling all day long.”

OK, you might want to pass on that job, too.

Your Turn: What’s the dirtiest work you’ve ever had, and how much would you have to be paid to do the worst of these jobs?