Early yesterday morning I was sitting at my kitchen table reading The Toronto Star as per my daily habit. Unlike most days, however, the front page was notlittered with the usual murder trial, hockey star or international crisis. Instead it was a picture of a young man dangling from high a top a skyscraper. Rooftopping in Toronto the headline read and the article went on to tell the exploits of photographers who take great risks to take pictures from dangerously high buildings with no safety systems in place.
Now, I am a lover of art – and usually anytime a major newspaper takes an interest in the arts I am the first one applauding, but I cannot say that I felt even remotely good about this story. This story had my stomach in knots.
You see, all week long I go out and tell students and employees alike that no risk is worth their life. I tell horrific stories and show gruesome pictures of people injured at work and I try to raise the profile of workplace safety in our culture.
This is not an easy task. To begin with, most young people think they are invincible; and truth be told many “mature” workers also have a certain degree of bravado that makes them vulnerable to workplace accidents. So, everyday I am debunking the myth that safety is a topic for wimps and green thumbs.
And unfortunately, it is news articles like these – glorifying risk – that make my job even more difficult.
Throughout our culture, there are all kinds of jobs that are risky. Mining, for instance, is a high-risk industry – this does not mean however that those in this industry just throw all precaution to the wind because “there’s gold somewhere in there”. No, instead we expect them to take every step necessary to ensure that this is safest possible industry. My problem with The Toronto Star highlighting these pictures is not that “rooftopping” is dangerous – it is that it is un-necessarily dangerous. It is almost as if the genre only got press because it was so dangerous.
The caption under one of the pictures read as follows: “My scariest moment happened just after I took this shot … There was a moment when I thought, ‘This is it, I’m not going to survive.’” This caption really summed up the recklessness of The Star; trying to beautify lack of safety. If we are every going to turn the tide and make an impact on safety culture in Canada, we need to stop praise unnecessary risk. Instead, le
t’s ask ourselves, how do we make Canada a place a safer place to work and live?!