Hazards are often caused by cutting corners, and a search on Instagram will find many health and safety ‘fails’ featuring hapless characters who have allowed themselves to be caught in the act. A builder balances his ladder on a couple of buckets for that extra reach; a painter straps a house lamp to his head to illuminate the ceiling he’s painting. There is a desire to see the mistakes of others because it makes us laugh and feel superior. Their methods may be lazy, but they are creative and surprisingly inventive.

Health and safety legislation including the ‘Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974’ is supposedly the antidote to all this shoddy workmanship. However, elaborate temporary structures fencing off a tiny hole in the floor suggest a case of ‘over-egging it’. Sometimes, the safety measures put in place to avoid catastrophe are as creative and absurd as the dangers were in the first place. Photographs of hazards began life in earnest in the pamphlets and newsletters of the British Safety Council, and are now perpetuated and exaggerated through Instagram. Epic safety fails have become like contemporary myths and whilst we laugh, the warning message still pervades.

The photographs in ‘Cutting Corners’ show fictional health and safety problems, produced for FORMAT International Photography Festival 2019. These unsafe scenarios were staged in the exhibition venue where the images will be shown during FORMAT 2019. To avoid actual health and safety issues, the scenarios were swiftly dismantled and only the photographs remain as evidence. 

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