In May, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA, www.osha.gov) kicked off its Picture It! Safe Workplaces for Everyone photography contest. Coincidentally, weeks later, three workers were killed and at least 15 were injured in a blast at the Foxconn plant in Chengdu, China.
Yes, OSHA is indeed part of the U.S. Department of Labor, so what does its photo contest have to do with industrial plant safety in China? Well, that depends on how seriously U.S. companies are about safety.
Foxconn is the trade name of Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industries, which operates manufacturing plants in a variety of countries, including Poland, India, Mexico, Brazil and China. Fourteen Chinese workers at Foxconn also committed suicide last year, allegedly due to severe labor conditions, and Foxconn employees now must sign a promise not to commit suicide.
Two weeks before the explosion, Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM), a group from Hong Kong, criticized Foxconn’s ventilation and protective equipment at the Chengdu facility. The blast at the plant was attributed to the ignition of highly combustible magnesium dust in a duct.
So, again, what does this have to do with OSHA and its picture competition?
Foxconn’s plants are suppliers to the U.S. technology industry. In fact, more than a million workers manufacture products for companies such as Apple, Hewlett-Packard and Dell. And that gives those U.S. companies quite a big opportunity and considerable leverage. If ever there was a chance to force change in labor practices and industrial safety standards, this is it.
Getting the picture yet?
While OSHA is challenging amateur and professional photographers to capture an image of workplace safety and health, the goal of the contest is to collaborate with the public and raise national awareness about workplace safety and health.
U.S. companies have a long history of requiring compliance up their supply chains on issues ranging from sustainability to quality management. Workplace safety is an important issue that manufacturers should do their best to drive all the way up the international supply chain.
And every picture tells a story. How about a new Apple iPad advertising campaign that includes photos of safe work environments of the plants that supply the tech manufacturer?
And don’t forget the OSHA photo contest at your own plant. It’s part of the organization’s 40th anniversary celebration and is open to anyone 18 years or older. The competition deadline is August 12, and workplace safety and health may be interpreted in any way the photographer chooses. The photos, however, must be taken in the United States and its territories.
If you have photos from outside the United States, we’ll be more than happy to accept them here.