River pullers are people employ to pull barges up the rivers by the strength of their own muscles. A team of pullers is connected with a barges with huge leather belts and pulls it while walking along the river. Originally, they were recruited on an ad hoc basis by merchants in need of their service. Back then they were mostly poor inhabitants of coastal cities and village. As concerns for fair work and pay were starting to grow accross the world, many cities started to regulate the rules how river pullers can be employed. Today, each coastal city that is located at the mouth of a river has a special office that manages puller teams and to which merchants pay for the pullers' services. Naturally, not all merchants are happy with this arrangement. Some of the wealthier, and greedier, ones invested in building tugboats which they use to pull their barges both down and up rivers. However, as ship building remains extremely expensive, most merchants have to employ river pullers.
The only requirement to become a river puller is to strong enough to be able to wear the leather belt and not be a burden for the rest of the team. Despite that, mainly poorer people decide to work as pullers. This is because it is seen as an undignified job for people of higher social standing. Even a son of a carpenter or a mason wouldn't choose it.
Payment & Reimbursement
Before the formalization of the profession pullers were paid by the merchant who was employing them after the job was done. Today, their pay comes from their city's office of river pullers and comes in two halves. First is given before the job and the second after the job.
The leather belts that puller wear on their chests while working are all of the special equipment used by them. Many of the pullers use butter or other fatty product to reduce of the risk of chafing. They cover their belts and skin with it. However, it isn't a mandatory thing in the profession.
Dangers & Hazards
The biggest risk associated with being a river puller are injuries caused by the pressure of the belts on their chest. The most common is chafing, result of long rubbing of leather belts against a puller's body. As pullers also have very little rest while working there were cases of people dying on the job from exhaustion.