Living in Shanghai – Occupational Health and Safety standards

One thing with living in Shanghai, China, you will always notice the lack of occupational Health and safety standards (OH&S), coming from a western world and from working in businesses where OH&S is paramount to still being in business, I find it a huge shock to the system and many cringe worthy deep breath taking /gasping for air moments.

You can see in one day many occasions where they would not pass what we deem our standards of acceptable OH&S – guys without harness cleaning windows from the 42nd floor in a 5 star hotel, self-made scaffolding on a 10 storey building, welding with no face masks on, no fencing around outdoor pools, no lockable windows in a 40 storey building, building site workers wearing jandals and the list could go on and on..

I have become somewhat acclimatised to this as there is no in your face situations really to confront you.

That was until today.

We live on the 23rd floor (not the highest floor in the building) in a rather fancy-ish area in a rather fancy-ish compound. Great facilities and the Leasing management team are fantastic.

Most recently our aircon in the living area has been playing silly buggars on us and after countless times and conversations (in broken/non-existent mandarin) the team finally brought in an outside tech. (We have urgently needed it fixed as it has been between 32-42degrees here in the morning/evening (mid-day I have been too scared to look) so it’s been imperative to have fixed)

So, the aircon guy trucks around with a colleague and they proceed to have rapid fire conversation about what’s wrong, they then head to the study with a gas cylinder (I’m puzzled as to why as we have no BBQ in there and there is no air con unit to re-gas in there),  the Aircon guy then proceeds to open the window jump on this thin window frame and reach out to connect the gas hose to the aircon unit which sits about a metre above the top of the window.

A barrage of thoughts then race through my head “If he falls how quickly can I grab him and then anchor myself, Can I pull off a Bruce Willis style action move? If he falls can I scream loud enough so someone can come and save us? Would we get sued if he falls, does he have family, if I grab hold of him will my dress rise and my undies show etc.”,  all the time I am inching closer and closer just in case.

I could feel my heart racing and breath rapidly increasing, all the while the colleague  is nonchalantly talking on his mobile until he realises the panic on my face and jumps up on the window bay to tentatively hold onto the guys pants. (Did I mention they were both wearing cloth shoe covers which I use to skate around the living room floor on whilst standing on a marble window bay?)

The other guy then proceeds to hangout for about 5 minutes (felt like 5 hours) whilst attaching the gas hose, jumps down and walks back to something else like its normal. He then proceeds to go back to hang out the 23rd floor window to unattach the hose and the colleague this time makes sure to grab hold of him on his belt.

Another flash of action movie scenes go through my head and I now position myself much more closer in case I have to pull out some bad ass hanging onto the guy whilst swinging from the 23rd floor moves (worst case scenario), then suddenly he repositions himself to get better access to the outside air con unit and I hear myself yelling out obscenities in panic. I then hear laughter from these two guys and the other guy hanging out the window jumps back in with the hose and meanders back into the living room, like it’s all in a day’s work. He then promptly leaves with the courteous “Zi Jian” (see you later) because it’s all in a day’s work for him.

After this I was quite tempted to have a shot of whiskey to calm my nerves.

It then hits me, “ this is normal for them and my panic isn’t” I then wonder if they think our standards of OH&S are not necessary and viewed as a time waster in their eyes. I guess it’s another example of cultural differences, quite frankly though I would take our OH&S over theirs any day.

And yes, the aircon currently works now and the room is down to a manageable 26 degrees!

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