Safety posters from the golden age of accident prevention – Have we lost the art of communication at a cost of countless lives?
For Paul Rennie it was, as he puts it, his “Tutankhamun moment”. A lifelong passion for posters had produced a growing personal collection, a shop in Folkestone and – eventually – a career as a graphic design academic at Central St Martins College of Art & Design. Soon, perhaps inspired by a family tragedy, he embarked on a research project that focused on accident-prevention posters, particularly those dating to the Second World War.
“My own grandfather was killed in an ‘unspecified accident’ in the Merchant Navy,” Rennie, who is 56, says. The death at sea left his grandmother and her two children destitute. Rennie’s father, who was only three at the time, was put into a Merchant Navy orphanage. “It’s important to remember that each of Britain’s major industries were so dangerous that they ran orphanages for the children of deceased workers,” Rennie says. “I remember seeing the railway orphanage at Woking. They put it next to a railway, for God’s sake, just to remind them.”
But as he began his research, Rennie found large gaps in the archives. There was no tradition of preserving these posters. “Then I got a call out of the blue and the caller said, ‘You’ll never guess what, but we’ve discovered the archive in a warehouse that had remained locked for 20 years.’” The posters belonged to RoSPA, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, which emerged in London in 1916 to tackle a rash of road accidents during wartime blackouts. Posters were a part of the charity’s earliest campaigns and, in an increasingly dangerous world, RoSPA soon developed a broader mission to prevent accidents of all kinds.
“Very few people seem to understand what we have achieved in 98 years,” says Tom Mullarkey, RoSPA’s chief executive. “But once you talk about things such as seat-belt laws, moulded plugs and fire-retardant furniture, they begin to see it.”
Rennie and RoSPA worked together to publish the lost posters, which date from the 1930s to the 1970s. In Safety First, Rennie explores the societal, historical and artistic significance of the sorts of striking and often beautiful posters that were once commonplace on factory floors, police-station noticeboards and billboards.
His own favourite is typical. It warns van drivers not to let their rear doors swing into traffic. The message could not be simpler yet the poster, which dates to 1946, is also a work of art, inspired by the works of El Lissitzky, a renowned Russian-born artist who blurred the lines between those disciplines with striking, Modernist works of bold, geometric shapes.
After the war, a generation of Soviet war propagandists turned their talents to safety in Britain, bringing a new sense of modernity to our streets. “It’s health and safety rendered in Constructivist style, which is just fantastic,” Rennie says. They joined British artists, including Cyril Kenneth Bird, aka the cartoonist Fougasse, most famous for his “Careless Talk Costs Lives” posters. Yet the posters of the era, and through to the 1970s, were more than visually pleasing. What is striking is how many of them convey messages that would trigger howls of “‘elf’n’safety gone mad” today: “Bad weather! Extra care at crossings” and reminders to turn off your iron, bend the knees when lifting things, and flick on your car’s headlights.
“Part of my interest has been to try to debunk that idea,” Rennie says. “I’m always suspicious when people talk about common sense. Often people don’t know stuff not because they’re daft but because no one has explained it to them. Simple messages need to be repeated frequently, because the minute you scale back people start behaving stupidly again.”
The posters are also deft and steer clear of shocking imagery. As well as speaking simply, “designers such as Bird treated people as intelligent,” Rennie says. “The default is to shout at people but they stop listening when you do that. You have to be cleverer than that.”
But since the state gave up responsibility for producing this kind of material, largely handing it over to the makers of television soaps, charities or advertising agencies, Rennie and RoSPA believe that the disappearance of simple yet smart messages have deprived us not only of art but – ultimately – lives, a regression not helped by the popular maligning of health and safety.
“Workplaces and roads are much safer now,” Mullarkey says. “Yet deaths in the home and in leisure are going up. And while road-safety posters might still exist, Mullarkey says that elsewhere, “we were doing much more in the early part of the last century” than now, adding: “The result is that we have a population not tuned into this threat.”
Rennie’s father later excelled and became an architect, raising his own family in an artistic home in Guildford that inspired his son’s career. “I imagine he was plagued with feelings of guilt and what-if questions about what would have happened without the accident,” Rennie says. “He never spoke about these things to me.” He adds: “I hadn’t pieced all this together when I started my safety-poster work but, as Sigmund would say, it explains a lot.”
Source Link http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/safety-posters-from-the-golden-age-of-accident-prevention-have-we-lost-the-art-of-communication-at-a-cost-of-countless-lives-10308763.html
The 5th edition of the report ‘Utilities Construction Market Report – UK 2015-2019 Analysis’. This report incorporates original input and primary research, and represents an up-to-date and perceptive review of the market and its development. It includes a review of recent market trends and forecasts for the utilities construction market over the next few years.
The utilities sector comprises the water, energy and telecoms markets, which were previously operated as state run monopolies but have been opened to private competition for more than 25 years. Construction output for the utilities sector for Great Britain in 2014 was around £7.9bn and has experienced growth of 64% since 2008, outperforming the wider infrastructure market over the last 2-3 years due to outstanding growth in the electricity sector. Construction output in the electricity sector more than quadrupled 2008-14, and this accounts for the overall improvement in sector performance over the period.
The chart indicates that utilities construction output grew by 49% 2009-11 but only by 10% 2011-14 when growth in the electricity sector was partly offset by declines in the water and sewerage sectors. The level of capital spending within the utilities sector is underpinned particularly through 5 year asset management and renewals programmes for individual sub-sectors such as water and electricity.
Key Topics Covered:
2. Summary and Future Prospects
3. Economic Environment
4. Construction Output In The Utilities Sector
5. UK Utilities Capital Investment And Output
6. Utilities Procurement And Major Contractors
– AMEC Foster Wheeler
– Arup Group
– BAM Nuttall
– Balfour Beatty
– Barhale Construction
– Bechtel UK
– Black and Veatch
– EDF Energy
– GDF Suez
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– Skanska UK
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DUBLIN–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Research and Markets (http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/gczwr7/utilities) has announced the addition of the “Utilities Construction Market Report – UK 2015-2019 Analysis” report to their offering.
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