Steelies

Commercial Building Sites (and other locations) require PPE – Personal Protection Equipment. A hard hat, steel capped boots and a high visibility jacket at a minimum. It’s a code: you can tell a trade or function by the colour of helmet, you can tell if someone’s safe in an environment by the colour of their overalls. Sometimes it’s a bit more relaxed, on some sites, it’s vital to be dressed accordingly…

So, maybe about four times a year, I’ll be filming on a building site (or similar). It’s exciting work, I love it – it’s like getting an anatomy lesson in architecture, the people you meet are so NOT media but share a passion for what they do, and it’s a great antidote to Corporate Head Office Syndrome.

But today – a recce – was interesting. Half of our motley crew could not visit the site because they’d not brought their ‘PPE’. It brought back memories of school and not bringing the right PE kit. With the thankful exception that the site manager would not make us do our job in our underwear, unlike many PE teachers.

Okay, so luckily Pete the Lobster had some spares in his van and if the truth be told, Mr AirCon’s big DMs could pass as Steel Capped Boots (steelies), but a couple of chaps would have to pass on the tour.

I had to pass on a message to a fellow shooter about this, and suddenly realised – heck, who would even think about this unless they’ve been through the ritual humiliation before? Some poor chap dragged from his duties to dig up a pair of unloved and overused boots for you in a size that will hopefully avoid permanent toe damage, the location of a Hi Viz vest that’s decidedly lo-vis and almost ‘Camo’ thanks to a community of bacterial life forms based on a gene swap Lichen and Thrush. A hard hat that conspires to provide both whiplash and a medicine ball for your head whilst transferring arcane versions of transmissible dermatitis.

Dude, you go through this once or twice and suddenly, you buy your own kit. It then sits in your car for a year, untouched.

Then you go on site visits, recces, shoots, and each time, you avoid brushing your Hi Vis jacket against tar, soil, sand, cement, glue or anything. Your boots are protected from the worst of the elements by architectual pebbles and galvanised walkways, your hard hat never contacts anything more onerous than the plastic storage bag you received it in.

A couple of years later, and you’re out on a site visit, and your PPE is still in showroom condition. You suddenly want a ‘distressing service’ to tamper your day-glo jacket and shiny boots to avoid the glares from the engineers around you who already resent the fact that you’re here to commit their labours to video.

For what it’s worth, it can cost you less than £50 to get your hat, gloves, boots and vest, which you can pack into a bag and let sit in the car for ever and a day. For those of us in this community that will never need to film on a building site, no worries. But believe me, over 10 years, it’s nothing. I’m very glad to have it in the car, and suddenly a job comes up and that PPE kit will save your bacon.

Or even your life.

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