The first day in the factory I noticed two signs everywhere: Danger and Safety First. Our bosses said Safety First meant keeping the workers’ life and limb safe was the first priority of the company. I felt a little skeptical though how just plastering the Danger signs would accomplish that. How could these protect the workers from the ubiquitous huge fabric cutting shears, giant milling machines and steaming red-hot molding presses? The employees not only had to work on these machines, they had to do it at a furious pace, producing their shift quota in eight relentless hours, with a short, solitary break. Every day they walked past these machines on dirty, slippery floors, worked with worn gloves and scarcely had time to don protective gear to save their eyes or ears.
My friend, Adi, another intern, to whom I voiced my concern, scoffed at my unease. “Are you a woman?” he asked. “All men’s jobs have minor risks like that. You have to watch out for those.” He concluded, “A job like that makes you strong.”
Three weeks later, I was scalded by an accidental contact with a steam pipe and observed that the pipe wasn’t insulated, as it easily could have been. Adi chided me instead on my carelessness and put the injury down to bad luck. “It certainly didn’t threaten your life or limb,” he said with finality.
I wasn’t surprised to read years later in the company’s journal an article by Adi, emphasizing the need for safety awareness and advocating installation of better protective devices to safeguard workers.