Construction Danger Made Visible
It is a sad fact of life that sometimes an event which occurs regularly must occur once in the West before anyone really takes notice of it. In the case of the type of incident I’m referring to, its not just happened once in the West, its happened twice in just 10 days, and both times in America. Following on from the lethal crane collapse in New York city, a crane has collapsed in Miami.
Living in York, you get almost desensitised to the wonders of the buildings around you. Many were constructed over 500 years ago, before steel scaffolding and Health and Safety Legislation. Its hard to remember that, when one sees a building the size of York Minster, the number of serious injuries and fatalities whilst building it were probably completely ignored, and such people totally forgotten. I guess its something we just don’t think about when we look at the majesty of such a building.
The construction industry is still perilous, and demands for development are often louder than the cries of those left injured or bereaved in the wake of accidents. When something like this happens in the US, there might be outcry, but when it happens in China, where entire cities are being built in one go, or in Latin America, where safety laws are ridiculously slack, we don’t hear about it.
The other thing that marks out the two disasters in America is that it appears ‘civilians’ were injured. Construction workers are often the bottom of the pile, working long hours for little pay building other people’s empires of profit. Its an industry where vanity and poverty go hand in hand. Its the kind of work done by undocumented workers and people of ethnic minorities. But yet it is intrinsic to the wealth and self-image of every Empire, from Rome and Greece to Britain and America, and from military to corporate empires.
And still those who are killed in the projects taking place around us are often forgotten. The Olympics are a great example, with construction deaths reported in Greece, and with Wembley Stadium likely to be used in 2012, itself not without construction fatalities. I doubt we will ever know who has died building the venues of the games this summer.
Next month will see Workers’ Memorial Day. And yet year in, year out, such events are ignored in the clamour to build fresh symbols of power and wealth.