Top five Harlem Shake OSHA safety violations

| March 7, 2013
safety is a job requirement sticker

The Harlem Shake craze provides employees with a much needed break from work, though some have taken it too far, breaking safety codes and OSHA regulations, too.

Here at MySafetySign, we’re not immune to the repetitive, head-scratching hilarity and absurdity of the viral “Harlem Shake” phenomenon. For the uninitiated who’ve been happily living under a rock for the past month, the Harlem Shake is a group dance event of dubious origin (and not really related to the original, and respectable, Harlem Shake dance craze of the ’90s) where a variety of friends or near-strangers all dance like loons to a clip of music by a Brooklyn DJ named Baauer.

However, safety is never far from our mind, so we started noticing some common themes in these viral videos. Take a look at some of the worst offenders of workplace safety and health, and hopefully you’ll think twice before making your coworkers stand on their desks in silly animal costumes.

Cubicle jockeys should ride out the recession, not their office chairs.

We know that office life can get a little staid. Day after day, toiling at our desktops, sometimes we yearn for the fresh air life of the dog walker, or the manual satisfaction of the carpenter … or the throbbing beat of a dance party:

While the total meltdown of a quiet working environment does look tempting, we see a few problematic behaviors at play here. First of all, office chairs aren’t toys. OSHA knows that back pain is one of the most common workplace injuries, and the right chair can make a huge difference, but not if you’re standing on it. And while the 21st century office brings us innovative devices so that we don’t need to be perched in front of the traditional monitor all the time, lying on the carpet isn’t exactly good for your posture or your cleanliness. We would like to offer praise to the office worker who brought his bike to work, though; there are obvious environmental benefits to bike commuting, but it also improves your health and mood!

Fighting fire with … silliness.

Firefighters are the heroes of the neighborhood. They’re the selfless public servants that rush in where others are rushing out. We suppose all that workplace stress means they need to release the tension somehow:

OSHA requires that fire brigade members be trained annually (1910 Part 156), and of course municipal fire departments go through much more rigorous training and safety protocols. But none of the standards we found mention anything about having one member of the firefighting team dressed like Spiderman to boost morale in a terrifying rescue situation. And we’re pretty sure that chicken suit doesn’t exactly meet NFPA 1981 standards, as most firefighters’ personal protective equipment should. In fact, it looks highly flammable, and roast chicken, while delicious, isn’t useful in a fire emergency. We’re not sure what either of these characters are doing in the fire truck.

 It’s all fun and games until Shamu gets angry.

This might be our favorite Harlem Shake interpretation yet; who doesn’t love a good hoedown with your friendly sea lion and walrus buddies? Workers at SeaWorld San Antonio share the stage with these incredible marine mammals; we wish we could dance with sea lions, flipping their fins to the groovy beat!

Of course, these trainers are interacting with the gentle walrus and the delightful (if slightly unhinged) California sea lions, but things can turn deadly around marine mammals if safety hazards aren’t properly addressed. After the tragic death of a trainer at SeaWorld Orlando in 2010, OSHA ruled that any trainers performing with killer whales – who, after all, are not so called because of their killer outfits – must be protected with an adequate physical barrier, which effectively stops the performers from sharing a tank with these powerful creatures. While legions of SeaWorld fans will be seeing less impressive feats of training, OSHA is doing its job protecting those workers from a merciless (but handsome) predator.

When tensions run high, everybody loses.

We know that sports can elicit dramatic reactions from people, particularly when faced with the exultation of a rival team. Nobody wants to be a Mets fan walking through Times Square when the Yankees have just won (ahem, bought) yet another World Series title, right? And while Minnesota can be a cold place, passions were on fire when the Timberwolves came face to face recently with the Miami Heat, and this particular Harlem Shake is a testament to that:

While this may feel like sweet revenge to the Timberwolves fans, workplace violence is no joke.  According to OSHA, violence in the workplace caused over seven hundred fatalities in 2011, and there are many more injuries and incidents that thankfully don’t escalate to homicide; nearly two million workers in America report having been victims of some kind of workplace violence. If you’re feeling this violent about an opposing team, we suggest a massage or a walk around the block.

And most importantly, DON’T shake your job away.

Seeing the sheer tonnage of Harlem Shake interpretations flooding the web in the last few weeks has probably been tempting to many a team of colleagues. We’ve seen Army officers, members of the UGA swim and dive team, even an airplane passengers (which, by the way, the FAA is investigating). But sometimes you should ask yourself whether it’s actually going to be worth the risk of losing your job:

Fifteen miners in Western Australia, performing their own version of the dance in the slushy, watery recesses of the Agnew Gold Mine, were summarily fired after management saw their shenanigans on the web. We can barely count the safety hazards here, but to name a few: the workers are usually not wearing personal protective equipment (or not wearing it correctly), one of them is doing The Worm in a few inches of muddy, probably toxic water, and we don’t want to stare too closely, but something inappropriate is being done to a steel rod. Hey, listen, we all think this meme is funny, but mining is an industry with seriously strict safety standards, where a few missteps can lead to confined space fatalities, explosions, or exposure to fatal and incurable diseases. We’re pretty sure MSHA wouldn’t look kindly on these guys, either.

Safety hazards aside, what’s your favorite Harlem Shake video? Tell us in the comments!




Category: OSHA

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