Just a few short months ago, in May, two construction workers were killed due to unsafe working conditions at a site in Navi Mumbai, a suburb of sorts to the Sai Mannat business hub in India.

While the deaths should have prompted outrage and collective demand for improving safety conditions, that’s just not the way things work in India. Reporting for NDTV, Sonal Matharu and Sreenivasan Jain shared the following:

We filmed inside the Sai Mannat site using a hidden camera – as well as a regular camera from the outside – to find workers suspended several stories above ground without safety nets or belts. We could see open wires, posing the risk of electrocution.

A metallic plank, the same one which caused the fatal accident in May, could be seen sliding down the building, tilted, with three workers on it without helmets.These findings shed light on the darker side of India’s $140 billion construction industry, where a pervasive lack of safety, as well as lack of government oversight places millions of workers at grave risk.

The Building and Other Construction Workers Act, 1996, which governs safety at worskites, sets out nearly 200 rules, including asking employers to ensure that workers are supplied with helmets, boots, harnesses and other safety equipment. Risky open spaces are meant to be covered, with netting, for instance. Exposed wiring in wet areas is another no-no under the law.

If you have ever witnessed the construction of larger projects in India, then you probably already know just how deplorable safety conditions are, compared to what we enjoy in the US. I personally have seen pictures of job sites for Fortune 50 companies building large commercial office buildings with workers scampering across bamboo “scaffolding” barefoot, with no personal protective equipment whatsoever.

So yeah, those toolbox talks take time, and wearing fall protection and PPE does slow you down. But those tactics may also save your life so you can still get home to see your family tonight.

Submitted for your approval, below is a video that is part of an entire series of videos on YouTube depicting a guy working on excavating a tunnel all by himself, using primitive tools.

On the one hand, the idea that someone is constructing a massive tunnel by themselves, using hand tools, working shirtless and barefoot is certainly intriguing.

On the other hand, not only is this completely unsafe and goes against well established standards of practice, but if I understand some of the comments, he is not performing this work at his own property. If true, it is highly illegal, and it exposes the actual property owner to significant liability!

Perhaps there are other hobbies one might want to consider…

David Kravets, writing for Ars Technica:

A judge on Thursday declared as unconstitutional a local Wisconsin ordinance mandating that the makers of augmented reality games get special use permits if their mobile apps were to be played in county parks. The law—the nation’s first of its kind—was challenged on First Amendment grounds amid concerns it amounted to a prior restraint of a game maker’s speech. What’s more, the law was seemingly impossible to comply with.

The federal lawsuit was brought by a Southern California company named Candy Lab. The maker of Texas Rope ‘Em—an augmented reality game with features like Pokemon Go—sued Milwaukee County after it adopted an AR ordinance in February in the wake of the Pokemon Gocraze. Because some of its parks were overrun by a deluge of players, the county began requiring AR makers to get a permit before their apps could be used in county parks.

The permitting process also demanded that developers perform the impossible: estimate crowd size, event dates, and the times when mobile gamers would be playing inside county parks. The permits, which cost as much as $1,000, also required that developers describe plans for garbage collection, bathroom use, on-site security, and medical services. Without meeting those requirements, augmented reality publishers would be in violation of the ordinance if they published games that included playtime in Milwaukee County parks.

Central to its position, Milwaukee County tried to argue that Augmented Reality apps were not protected by the First Amendment. Why?

Because according to the county, the game “does not convey any messages or ideas. Unlike books, movies, music, plays and video games—mediums of expression that typically enjoy First Amendment protection—Texas Rope ‘Em has no plot, no storylines, no characters, and no dialogue. All it conveys is a random display of cards and a map.”

This is a preliminary injunction, and ultimately the matter will be determined in trial, currently not calendared until April of next year.

Friday is here, and this video seems like the perfect end to this week:

I first noticed this video in a post by Mike Wehner at Boy Genius Report:

As someone who spends much of his work day trying to sift through gadget rumors and staring wide-eyed at photos taken hundreds of millions of miles away from Earth, I’m not the kind of guy who passes judgment on what anyone does for a living. That being said, I have to assume an industry trade show for something as straightforward and utilitarian as construction equipment would be a pretty dull and boring affair. But how wrong I have been.

This footage, smuggled out of some magical fairy tale land where 18-ton bucket loaders prance around like unicorns (or, slightly less interestingly, a Chinese industrial trade show) reveals just how exciting earth-moving machines can be.

While I would like to pretend that this sort of thing happens all the time at construction trade shows, sadly that is not the case. Here’s hoping this trend makes its way to US events in the near future…

Slate’s podcast, Working, profiles various professionals in an attempt to understand what certain unique jobs entail. In a recent episode, Jacob Brogan profiled Mark Hughes, a self-described “cell technical specialist” who performs forensic analysis of batteries:

The lab where Hughes works is an enormous facility, coming in at around 85,000 square feet. It includes equipment that allows the company to put in-development batteries through their paces under unusual and extreme circumstances. (If your memory of how batteries work is, like mine, fuzzy, fear not: Hughes also clearly explains the underlying processes.) They can, for example, test how those cells perform under temperatures higher or lower than any driver would be likely to encounter.

“When those batteries fail … they’re then given to me, and then I perform what’s called a battery teardown,” Hughes tells us. “What I do is I literally cut the pouch that the battery is encased in. I open it up, and I look through the electrodes and try to piece together what happened in the chemistry of the battery during these extremely strenuous test environments.” He and his colleagues then try to create a report that can help the company and its suppliers ensure the next generation of models will function better.

Though Hughes also goes into detail about the other elements of his work, it’s the process of pulling apart a battery and inspecting the insides that clearly excites him most. “The teardowns are absolutely the most fun part of my job,” Hughes says. “Because teardowns are such nonstandard work, there really is no handbook for how to do a battery teardown. … Small variations could result in huge consequences throughout the battery.”

The process Hughes describes above is fairly similar to the destructive testing protocols we use in the investigation of building performance issues. So, I can absolutely relate to that feeling of excitement that comes from performing a root cause analysis of a failure mechanism, with the express goal of preventing future incidents of failure.

Perhaps it should come as little surprise that Sweden’s new Museum of Failure sounds like the perfect museum for a person like me. Jason Zasky, writing for Failure Magazine (which is now one of my favorite subscriptions), reports the following:

The Museum of Failure isn’t on any list of the Top Things to do in Sweden—at least not yet. The new museum, which opened last week in Helsingborg, a city of 130,000 people on Sweden’s southern coast, has already attracted worldwide media attention and is drawing visitors from around the globe. In fact, Chinese tourists have been arriving by the busload “to look at the Donald Trump board game,” notes curator Samuel West, a former clinical psychologist who has more than 70 different failed products and objects on display in the 450-square-meter space.

The underlying message of the museum—that we can all learn from failure, that even the largest multinational companies fail spectacularly, and that business executives have the most to gain from an appreciation of failure—is worth considering. In fact, the museum’s essence recalls the work of the late Robert McMath, who spent decades building a collection of tens of thousands of failed consumer products, housed in his Ithaca, New York-based New Products Showcase and Learning Center, which I had the opportunity to visit in 2000. McMath would go on to write several columns for Failure, including one about Breakfast Mates, which explains how Kellogg’s went wrong when it tried to sell cereal and milk—a winning combination, if there ever was one—together.

Zasky was lucky enough to score an interview with the museum’s curator, Samuel West — which I highly encourage you to read in full. In the interview, West explains that absolutely none of the companies whose products are featured would agree to discuss their inclusion:

Most of the brand managers didn’t even reply to my emails or LinkedIn requests. I do understand that it’s sensitive but I was naïve to think that with the focus of the museum being to learn from mistakes, that they would cooperate. Failure is kind of cool now, and failure isn’t as stigmatized as it used to be—or so I thought. I was wrong.

As for me, I can’t wait for an excuse to visit Sweden to check out the Museum of Failure!

Financial Times’ Matthew Klein has proposed an interesting alternative theory about the skilled labor shortage in the US that has impacted all sectors of the construction industry, but especially the residential market.

He posits that by looking at homebuilding data in Japan, the implication is that the US isn’t facing a labor shortage so much as it is dealing with sub-par productivity. Despite the fact that Japan’s population is less than 40% of US population, only 14% more homes have been built in the US since 1992.

Surely an aging society without a reservoir of cheap (and often illegal) immigrant labour would have fewer builders as a share of the labour force than a relatively youthful and foreigner-friendly country such as the US. Unsurprisingly, there has been a glut of articles over the past few years warning of “labour shortages” due to the combination of aging and falling immigration rates, with the implication that this has been restraining construction and inflating house prices.

Reality is the other way around. Despite radically different demographics and essentially no immigration, Japan has consistently employed a much larger share of its workers in the construction industry than the US, although the share has dropped over time. Even at the peak of America’s housing bubble, only about 5.5 per cent of workers were employed in construction. In Japan last year, more than 7 per cent of employees worked in construction — and that’s a lot lower than in the early 2000s…

Another way of putting all of this is that America built about the same number of housing units in 2016 as in 1992, but somehow required about 46 per cent more people to do it. Japan built 31 per cent fewer houses in 2016 than in 1992, but its construction workforce had fallen by 19 per cent. Productivity deteriorated in both countries, but productivity fell much further in America than in Japan.

Skilled labor shortages affect more than just the construction industry. As craftsmen in various trades and industries from the Baby-Boomer generation retire or change professions, there aren’t too many younger apprentices to train or to otherwise transfer that knowledge. The brain drain could have drastic impacts on modern conveniences that most of us take for granted.

Case in point: COBOL programmers.

What’s a COBOL, you ask? COBOL is the nearly 60-year-old Common Business-Oriented Language that most banking software depends on. Anna Irrera, reporting for Reuters, elaborates on the issue:

And here lies the problem: if something goes wrong, few people know how to fix it.

The stakes are especially high for the financial industry, where an estimated $3 trillion in daily commerce flows through COBOL systems. The language underpins deposit accounts, check-clearing services, card networks, ATMs, mortgage servicing, loan ledgers and other services.

The industry’s aggressive push into digital banking makes it even more important to solve the COBOL dilemma. Mobile apps and other new tools are written in modern languages that need to work seamlessly with old underlying systems.

Safety First! That’s been the culture in construction for most of my life, but as we all know, safety was not always the highest priority in decades past for our industry.

Back in the 70s, when OSHA, various trade associations, and — perhaps most importantly — the insurance carriers began cracking down on lax safety practices in construction, the pushback was epic. With already razor-thin profit margins, the additional direct and indirect costs of improving safety was a real threat to the businesses behind our built environment.

But people got over it, and now safety is taken seriously — well, at least a lot more seriously than it was a century ago.

Fast forward to present day and we can see that not only are our workplaces safer, but there is also a financial benefit to keeping workers safe. OHS Online reports the following:

Associated Builders and Contractors has released its 2017 Safety Performance Report, which reports that users of its Safety Training Evaluation Process, by using proactive safety practices, reduce recordable incidents by up to 87 percent — making the best-performing companies 770 percent safer than the industry average.

“ABC’s third annual report on the use of leading indicators, such as substance abuse programs and new hire safety orientations, confirms that high-performing ABC members have safer construction job sites,” said ABC President and CEO Michael Bellaman. “This is one of the few studies of commercial and industrial construction firms doing real work on real projects, and it shows that implementing best practices can produce world-class construction safety programs.”

Less job site accidents and injuries = more profit. It is that simple.

You can download a PDF version of the report for free at ABC’s website.

Google X — now just “X” — is a secretive skunkworks subsidiary of Alphabet, the parent company that used to be simply known as Google. The company is famous for its “moon shot” experiments where big risks hopefully lead to big payoffs. But are the costs really worth it?

Julie Bort, at Business Insider, reveals the darker side of cutting-edge technology research and development practices, and the negative impact on the humans behind those efforts.

Some members of the Project Wing field team painted an alarming picture of hostile work conditions driven by engineers and managers back at headquarters who scheduled the group to conduct loads of tests, thereby producing loads of data, despite the long hours outdoors that such a schedule required.

What’s more, the field crew found much of their feedback and expertise on how to improve their circumstances discounted or ignored, in part, some say, because their backgrounds in the military were allegedly viewed disdainfully by others on their team.

“It was unconscionable” to make that team “work that hard,” one person told us about this team’s experiences.

The story of the drone crew reveals some of the problems that have plagued Google’s efforts to build advanced delivery drones, and it illustrates one of the risks when Silicon Valley’s worship of workaholism and data crash into real people doing physically demanding jobs. It’s a dangerous dynamic as companies like Google, Facebook, and cash-rich startups expand into new industries, from aerospace and delivery to space exploration and self-driving cars.