TV screen
Stack of papers
Three chairs stacked on top of each other
Three coffee mugs
Fruit bowl
TV remote
FALLOUT / falling out is a project exploring changing understandings of “work injury” through artist cinema and moving image, in parallel with worker organising and film production.

Bulletin #1

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Bulletin #1 features audio clips from discussions with Women and Work Hazards and Mark Catlin, and extracts from previously censored occupational safety films preserved by Mark. This bulletin takes a historical perspective on the 1980s in the UK and the USA as a key moment in the history of neoliberalism — where the responsibility for ‘health and safety’ is deferred to workers. Why are workers still getting hurt?

Bulletin #1 first screened at Dublin Art Book Fair: A Caring Matter, November 2022, curated by Rosie Lynch. Bulletin #1 has 3 video segments and was used to frame the films The Invisible Hand of My Father (Georgia, 2018) by Giorgi Gago Gagoshidze, and They Call us Maids: The Domestic Workers' Story (UK, 2015) by Leeds Animation Workshop and Justice 4 Domestic Workers. Invited respondents at the screening were Paula Geraghty and Chronic Collective (Tara Carroll and Áine O’Hara).

Screening package

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Each screening package contains a video bulletin, a printable transcript of the bulletin, and a poster to publicise your own screening event. Each bulletin is split into a number of sections, which are freely available to download here.

The bulletins are made in collaboration with activist groups, artists and labour organisers. They can be used to introduce your own selection of films / videos for a collective screening event, public or private. When setting up your own screening you could decide to share a video you have made on your job about hazards you face at work (like the lack of access to bathroom breaks). Or you could share a cartoon or an excerpt from the latest workplace TV drama?

Work injuries you discuss during your own screening events may be major or apparently minor: from environmental harm to interpersonal conflict. For suggestions to some of the occupational safety films FALLOUT / falling out has been informed by please follow this link.

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This is a ‘hazards bulletin’: a way to explore activist and artist films to learn about bodies, injury and collective survival at work.<span class="citation">Notes</span>

Bulletin #1 is made with Mark Catlin and Women and Work Hazards.

Mark Caitlin is an industrial hygienist, labour organiser and independent film archivist for workplace and environmental health and safety films, based in the USA. The bulletin includes extracts from occupational safety films preserved by Mark. These films were primarily commissioned by Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the USA by the Carter administration (1977-1981) and later recalled by the Reagan administration in 1981. They are now distributed via Mark’s YouTube channel.

The bulletin also includes clips of discussions with members of the Women and Work Hazards Group. This was started 1977 by women in the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science (BSSRS) that brought concerns of the women’s health movement and gendered struggles at work to trade union organising. They produced a hazards bulletin and other publications to support trade union struggles over health and safety issues.

Other voices referred to include scholars Françoise Vergès, Jasbir Puar, Carol Wolkowitz and artist Johanna Hedva.

Content note: this video contains accounts of work injuries, including sexual harassment, racism and workplace violence.


1. Who is working?

Françoise Vèrges describes how, the working body that is made visible is the concern of an ever growing industry dedicated to the cleanliness and healthiness of body and mind, the better to serve racial capitalism. The other working body is made invisible even though it performs a necessary function for the first: to clean spaces in which the 'clean' ones circulate, work, eat, sleep, have sex, and perform parenting. <span class="citation">Françoise Vèrges, Capitalocene, Waste, Race, and Gender, 2019</span>

[female narrator of the film] Electronics workers make products that revolutionise our lives, but for them, the price of progress may be their physical or mental health. <span class="citation">Andrea Hricko and Ken Light, Working for your Life (Labour Occupational Health Programme) 1979, USA</span>

Farm workers constantly touch crops sprayed with hundreds of these pesticides. Toxaphene is one of many pesticides linked to cancer in laboratory studies. Last year alone, more than a million pounds of toxaphene was sprayed on Californian crop. What long term effects do pesticides cause in farm workers, no one really knows? Research and regulation are too closely intertwined with the powerfully agricultural industry to guarantee protection for farm workers.

Ed Westcott, Calutron girls at their cubicles in the Y-12 Plant, 1944

In this photograph, we see a group of white women operating ‘calutrons’. These devices were used to separate uranium isotopes in the production of the first nuclear weapons during World War II as part of the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Claire Williams says, understanding women’s relation to work-related health and safety is bedevilled by ‘twin assumptions’ that women are not ‘workers’ and that any work they carry out is ‘safe’.  <span class="citation">Carol Wolkowitz, Bodies at Work, 2016, Sage Publications, p.104</span>

[male voice, off-screen] Dead bodies don’t move don’t you know!<span class="citation">Greenham Women’s Camp ‘Die-in’ at the London Stock Exchange. Anti-nuclear weapons protest at the visit of Ronald Reagan to Britain, 1982. Extracted from Gwyn Kirk, Common-sense: Greenham Actions (Concord Media), 1983, UK</span>

[to protesters] Get back…Stay there…

[angry to protestor] Why don’t you go to work? Why don’t you go to work?

[female voice] We do go to work.

[male voice speaks over] Quit wasting people’s time!

– Excuse me, if you are not letting her to jump in, don’t bother to photograph us.

[female voice] You're just as liable for this situation…

[male voice] I’m already here, you created this situation!

[female voice]  We are trying to give you a reminder of how it could be, really.

[female voice] You can't run away from it and pretend this can't happen for real, because it could, quite easily!

[male voice] Of course it could. What experience have you got?

[female voice] None. I don’t have any.

[male voice] You are not even at work. You are not even earning your living.

I am trying to earn your living and you are not allowing me to earn your living.

You will be going to the dole queue after this I suppose or to the social security.

[female voice] I don’t know why that is particularly relevant.

[male voice] I think you will find it relevant, as I have got children and family at home and I want to get on with my work, and so does this gentleman here.


What causes work injuries?

[Brenda Willis, Safety Specialist, speaking in the film] I monitor hazardous operations such as construction sites, making sure that they are following OSHA safety standards - the Occupational Safety and Health Act. We are mostly concerned with investigating potentially hazardous situations on the job for both contractor and NASA personnel, mostly anything that is potentially hazardous.<span class="citation">Space for Women (National Aeronautical Space Administration), USA, 1981</span>

[female narrator] Preschool teachers don’t face many chemical hazards but they are routinely exposed to contagious diseases and many suffer stress from the constant threat of being laid off. <span class="citation">Andrea Hricko and Ken Light, Working for your Life (Labour Occupational Health Programme) 1979, USA</span>

Stress is a major concern of telephone operators, complaints range from unrelenting supervision and feeling like extensions of their equipment, to being timed, even when in the bathroom.

The office doesn’t have the dramatic hazards seen in industry, but poor ventilation, noise, boredom, being underpaid and overworked, sitting or standing all day, all of these can lead to stress and fatigue of the clerical worker.

What hazards do you face at work?

Pause for discussion or play your choice of film here.

2. How has understanding of work hazards changed historically?

[narrator Studs Terkel] Workers in the past faced not only sudden death or injury from accidents but slow death from fumes, dusts, and poisonous gases. Doctors were slow to investigate these industrial poisons and the diseases that could result from them. The first major American study was not until 1910 when a young doctor, Alice Hamilton, investigated the effects of lead poisoning. There were further governments studies into health hazards but few industries applied their findings and workers’ health was virtually ignored by industry until the 1960s.<span class="citation">Janet Hayman, Can’t Take No More (Occupational Health and Safety Administration) 1980, USA</span>

It was all stuff around the electromagnetic radiation, microwave radiation and all that, so people were beginning to think chemicals, you know, the sort of hidden way in which they could damage you. I think people were beginning at that time to broaden their definition about what a work hazard was. You know, that most black nurses worked on the night shift because they had less racism at night than during the day.<span class="citation">Jude Connor, 2021, member of Women and Work Hazards</span>

I felt that the women’s health movement was very focused on reproductive health and individual health and it was quite important to me to raise other aspects of health, health at work, and to think about health in a wider way, you know public health, health at work and to link that to feminism.<span class="citation">Marianne Craig, 2021, founder Women and Work Hazards, author Office Workers' Survival Handbook (1981)</span>

I was going to say as well, I think that our women and work hazards group did a lot in terms of talking about hidden hazards. So we talked about stress and we talked about RSI, repetitive strain injuries, and we talked about the stress on women, of having not just paid work but like even today, the majority if not all of the responsibility of children and running the home and so on. So I think we did a lot to raise, broaden the definition of work hazards.<span class="citation">Jude Connor, 2021</span>

Jasbir Puar points out that, Certain bodies are employed in production processes precisely because they are deemed available for injury—they are, in other words, objects of disposability, bodies whose debilitation is required in order to sustain capitalist narratives of progress. <span class="citation">Jasbir Puar, The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability, Duke University Press, 2017, p.17</span>

[male worker off-screen] As the workers have said, he treats the chickens in his plant better than he treats the human beings who work for him.

[Gloria Jordan, speaking at a protest on-screen] The permission of going to the bathroom, you ask him please master, can I go to the bathroom, and he wouldn’t let you go. A pregnant women three months pregnant asked to go the bathroom and he wouldn’t let her go, within five hours she had a miscarriage. To the workers of [inaudible] that is not misusing a human being, that is taking a life. <span class="citation">Janet Hayman, Can’t Take No More (Occupational Health and Safety Administration) 1980, USA</span>

Why are workers still getting hurt?

Pause for discussion or play your choice of film here.


3. What is Health and Safety at work?

Well if we knew all of this for the last x number of decades why didn’t we do something about it? Why are we still talking about it? What I found is that taking safety and health from either an individual issue or a technical scientific issue, it is really a social political issue.<span class="citation">Mark Catlin, 2022, industrial hygienist, labour organiser and independent film archivist for workplace and environmental health and safety films</span>

I mean Dave Gee always used to say, he worked for the GMB [General Members Union, Britain] as well as me, and he used to say that normal collective bargaining in those days was about asking for more of what you got already. So you want more holidays, more money, more shift allowance, more this, more that. But, if you are talking about health and safety, you are talking about asking for the whole rearrangement of work. For the control of work to be given to workers. So you know the whole layout, and what they are expected to do, and how they are expected to do, is wrong and inherently dangerous, and therefore you know when you ask for that, it is really challenging management's right to manage and make those decisions.<span class="citation">Jude Connor, 2021</span>

Françoise Vèrges explains that, The economy of exhaustion has a long history in the modern world: it started with colonial slavery, mining human energy to death; the Industrial Revolution adopted this logic, exhausting the bodies of white workers and children until they finally obtained a reduction of work hours and hard physical labor thanks to the exhaustion of racialized bodies in the colonies.<span class="citation">Françoise Vèrges, Capitalocene, Waste, Race, and Gender, 2019</span>

Hi‘ilei Julia Kawehipuaakahaopulani Hobart and Tamara Kneese refer to the work of Johanna Hedva when they detail how, self- care is thus popularly associated with self-optimization, or a way of preparing individuals for increased productivity in demanding workplaces when, in reality, things like chronic illness are incompatible with capitalist productivity and even visible forms of activism: it is difficult to join street protests if you are a caretaker, suffer from depression or anxiety, or cannot get out bed.<span class="citation">Hi‘ilei Julia Kawehipuaakahaopulani Hobart and Tamara Kneese, ‘Radical Care Survival Strategies for Uncertain Times’, Social Text 142, March 2020</span>

Of course, employers are the ones who hire Health and Safety people… and this dichotomy, essentially from the beginning of the last century, the issue of, y’know, why do people get hurt at work? And for employers and their allies say, you know, they’re careless or they’re stupid or they’re accident-prone. Or now they have more nuanced words that they use, they don’t use those straightforward ones… and our side, y’know, the labour side, we would say – people are hurt because of the conditions at work. <span class="citation">Mark Catlin, 2022</span>

Who is responsible for your health and safety?

Pause for discussion or play your choice of film here.

More Bulletins

Work hazards bulletins are short video introductions intended as discussion tools. Each bulletin is split into a number of sections, which are freely available to download here. These videos can be used to introduce your own selection of films and videos that explore questions about bodies, injury and collective survival at work.

Content note: Bulletins contain accounts of work injuries, including sexual harassment, racism and workplace violence.
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