Construction season has come to Hangzhou as well. One morning about 6 a.m. we heard the loud clanging of metal on metal combined with voices in foreign tongues. Alas, construction workers went about the business of erecting scaffolding at the building across the courtyard and beginning to tear off overhangs above the windows. By the end of the first week, scaffolding appeared around our building as well, and workmen are now casually negotiating the pipe walkways right outside our second-story window. Literally, I can reach out of the window and grab the pipes–they are just two feet away.
That the scaffolding is so close is not so worthy of comment as is the fact the these workers walk and climb about this scaffolding, which reaches to four stories, without any protective gear. Some wear hard hats, but others do not. They wear light shoes–canvas sneakers–and no other safety equipment of any kind. No safety belts. No body harnesses.
This would not be so in the United States.
This, to me, is a manifestation of the emerging China. Granted, I have not done a lot of research here and this is my opinion based solely on observation, but it seems that opportunity for work abounds in this country at the moment. It is a country caught in the throes of growth, and its citizens are happy to have jobs. Generally, their lot is improving. They can find jobs, support their families, build careers, start to afford some of life’s niceties. These workers probably do not ask about insurance policies or health care benefits (I may be wrong). Certainly, there appears to be no Chinese equivalent of OSHA looking out for their interests. In the United States, the contracting entity would probably ask for assurances–and so designate in a contract–that the construction company and all of its employees be properly bonded and follow all regulatory procedures, which, of course would include OSHA. When I see workers as the one in the photo above, I clearly get the feeling that no such concerns exist in China.
My guess is that in the years to come, this will change. This country is bursting at the seams.