Photographer and Submitter: Elizabeth OBrien, EIO photo, Somerville,
An untethered ironworker walks the line on
the frame of a condominium garage in Boston. While the
activity looks like an apparent safety violation,
steel connectors can work up to 30 ft high without fall
All good contests
recognize excellence, not only because excellence deserves
to be recognized, but also because great work demands recognition.
Such accomplishments should stand far above others and give
professionals a benchmark for their actions. And so it is
with ENRs contest winners.
Recognizing photographs that demonstrate
excellent camera skills but depict substandard building practices
offends those who safeguard the lives of the work force and
the public. Construction photographers should encourage industry
to improve by taking a photograph of people doing it
the right way, says Tom Rehkemper, safety director for
the Associated General Contractors of Americas St. Louis
But showing unsafe practices also
can be healthy for the construction industry to view. As difficult
as they are to look at, such photos can and do serve as springboards
for meaningful discussions between management and labor. ENRs
challenge is to strike a reasonable balance between the two.
Submitting a contest photo that
is shot by means of an unsafe act is not recommended. Posing
workers in unsafe situations to get the attention of a contest
judge is even worse. Those photos end up on the cutting room
In the spirit of a good contest,
the methodology for choosing the images in this year's competition
now includes safety as a consideration. Bob Magee, a Manhattan-based
safety specialist for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health
Administration, joined this years panel of judges. Magee
is trained to identify acts that violate federal safety and
health regulations. He reviews dozens of fatalities, accidents
and other cases every year. During his career, he has inspected
more than 1,000 work sites.
by Guy Lawrence for ENR)
Rather than focusing on aesthetics,
as did the other judges, Magees job was to flag safety
violations. Surprisingly, few photos were rejected solely
because of safety concerns. A few winning pictures still illustrate
questionable safety practices. Sometimes, the safety issues
were murky and the artistic merit was clear.
The contest was a potent illustration
that photography can trick the mind into seeing things that
may not exist. For example, the worker in the winning photo
above does not appear to be wearing fall gear, but that requirement
depends on how high up he is. How high up is he?
By addressing concerns in these
pages, the editorial team hopes to raise awareness and provide
another venue for readers to discuss the important subjects
of safety and health. Over the years, several ENR covers have
prompted readers to question why unsafe practices were put
on display. One cover, taken high up in the cab of a tower
crane, showed what looked like a beer bottle near the operators
seat. A similar photo taken the same day, shot from another
angle, showed that it was clearly a soda bottle. Still, the
letters poured in. A worker inside but near a steep drop prompted
a similar storm of letters.
Unfit to Print? Workers
pour concrete near uncapped rebar. This image was considered
for a cover but rejected.
The cover of last years photo
contest showed a dramatic view of ironworkers taken by artist
and former boilermaker Joseph Blum. The cover sparked a heated
debate on safety in the letters section of the
magazine. It is interesting to note that OSHA judge Magee
found nothing citable in that particular image.
Reader concerns about last years
cover show that industry is starting to supplant minimum levels
of protection and is ratcheting up best practices. ENR is
reponding to reader sensitivity and tuning its approach to
selecting artwork. Earlier this month, art directors considered
a cover photo that raised safety concerns and later rejected
it. Because the image was being used for artistic purposes,
the safety issue prevailed. For news and project photos, however,
we still will show it like it is.