We stumbled on a photo feature of 11 Cringe-Worthy OSHA violations – and as advertised, the photos are mind-boggling horrific safety violations. Darwin awards waiting to happen. (In a similar vein, the Naval Safety Center Photo of the Week has been logging such violations for a long time now – 445 weeks, to be precise. )
We have mixed reactions to these photos. This genre of “people doing stupid things” photos and videos are immensely popular on the web – whether the stupid acts occur in the workplace or elsewhere. It’s the age-old slipping on a banana peel gag. Sometimes, their popularity can be attributed to simple schadenfreude. Sometimes, watching people do stupid things makes the viewer feel superior in a “ha, at least I am not that stupid” way. And sometimes, laughter is rooted in a whistling-by-the-graveyard coping mechanism. We see this frequently in police, firefighters, and other emergency workers, whose job-related black humor might be shocking to people outside the industry. We see this same type of black humor in a lot of safety professionals, too.
But while we’re as fascinated as the next person by these type of photos, we admit to being a bit humor challenged. Perhaps we’ve just seen the flesh and blood results of workplace injuries a little too often to find photos of this nature particularly funny. Astonishing? Yes. Cringe-worthy? Yes. Instructive? Often. Fascinating? Frequently. But rarely do we find them ha ha funny. Where some see idiots, we see untrained or inexperienced workers and horrible calamities waiting to happen.
The poster says she assumes that most of these violations are taking place in countries where OSHA doesn’t have jurisdiction. We don’t have any way of knowing where these photos actually did take place, but while that seems a fair assumption, we would caution about too much national superiority. For all we know, these workers could be offshore employees of U.S. firms. We are pretty sure that if U.S. workers were left to fend for themselves when it comes to workplace safety, we’d see some comparably “humorous ” pics. But, never underestimate some of the safety horrors that go on right here in OSHA-land. Here’s a recent example: Blogger Patcick McDonough points out a safety violation in Chicago.