Sometimes, something as simple as a photograph can cause people headaches.
It happened last summer when a feature shot of a bunch of construction workers watching a baseball game while they ate lunch led to a handful of men suspended from their jobs.
Apparently the way the men chose to eat their lunch, with their legs dangling over the edge of the floor they were building, was a violation of Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules.
Then last week, there was a big water main break near South Anthony Boulevard and East Wayne Street. There have been a lot of those this year.
One of our photographers happened by and took a picture of a man standing in a huge hole with a big water main exposed at the bottom.
As news photos go, it probably wont win any awards, but it was newsworthy. It showed how big a hole it took to fix the problem and showed people why traffic might have been diverted and let some people know why they didnt have water.
Apparently, though, the photo also showed something that never occurred to the photographer: an OSHA violation.
What the OSHA violation was isnt clear. As far as I know, Im not covered by a lot of OSHA regulations. I sit in a chair next to a desk that I am occasionally told to clean.
On the street, though, there are all kinds of regulations, and apparently some OSHA official spotted the picture of the repair work – and a violation of some sort.
Of course we had no idea any of this had happened until the same photographer stopped Thursday to snap a possible feature photo of a city worker cleaning up leaves that were stopping up a sewer grate.
The worker wasnt pleased. He yelled at our photographer, the photographer said, and said he didnt want his picture taken. He said they had a meeting that morning and the boss told them if any media show up at a work site they should get out of the hole or stop what theyre doing and not be photographed. Then he explained the OSHA issue.
I asked a spokesman for the city whether the city had actually adopted a policy of not allowing city workers to be photographed. He called me back and indicated the city doesnt have a policy like that but that safety is the main focus and if workers feel they need to stop work they certainly can do so.
If there is such a policy, even if its informal and isolated within one department, it might really put a crimp on future publication of man-in-a-hole-with-a-broken-water-main photos, but well survive.
It might also mean that if a photographer shows up at a work site, work will immediately stop and wont resume until the photographer leaves. Keep in mind, though, that when a photographer shows up, its to shoot a picture of something that might be news, not to try to spot someone violating an OSHA regulation.
It occurs to me, though, that theres a simple and effective solution to this problem.
Dont violate OSHA regulations. If youre supposed to wear a hard hat, wear one. If youre supposed to wear a reflective safety vest, wear one.
And just keep on working.
And then if you dont want your picture taken, you can always just say so.