Archive for the ‘Health and Safety’ Category

Lord Preserve Me from GTDs

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

I have once again been on a grand tour of our Northern regional offices.

While of course I’d rather be at home with my beloved Purple Fred (whom I love very much), these trips can be a pretty good way to earn a living. As well as seeing a new work location, in a place that by definition is going to be nicer than London (simply by not being London), there is a touch of luxury in hotel life. Someone else cooks you your dinner and washes up afterwards and if you’re careful not to blow the expenses allowance they’ll bring you a beer as well. And then the same thing (without the beer) happens at breakfast time as well!

The other downside (as well as being away from PF(WILVM)) is that being public sector and looking to make the most efficient use of public money, we generally have to do these trips by public transport – which invariably brings us into contact with what I call “the Gobby Taxi Driver”.

What makes these people think that just because I’m paying them to drive me somewhere, I want to have a conversation with them? I wouldn’t mind quite so much if it wasn’t always the same conversation:

GTD: “Nice hotel, yeah?”
Me: “Yeah, it’s OK.”

GTD: “How much do they charge there?” (Translation: How much can I screw you for on the taxi fare?”)
Me: “Don’t really know – the company books it centrally and I know they get a huge discount” (Actually I do know – regardless of how nice the hotel is, Government contract rate is sixty quid B&B per person per night)

GTD “What sort of work do you do?”

This is the killer – if I tell them what I really do, I’ll get a rant that’ll last the rest of the journey about how Health and Safety is a waste of time, all common sense, killing the country etc. OK, I’ve heard it all before and it’s water off a duck’s back to me, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to volunteer to hear it again. And if I tell them who I work for, that brings its own tale of woe.

While I’d really like to tell the guy to mind his own business and concentrate on driving, I do still need him to get me where I’m going without driving round the block 89 times to rack up the bill – or as one driver did to me, taking me to the wrong railway station (and I hadn’t even upset him – he was just daft). So I let my creative juices run – in the past I’ve been:

  1. A fire safety adviser – for some reason this doesn’t attract the same unpleasant response as general Health and Safety
  2. A personal safety trainer – I teach people who have to work in nasty areas how to avoid getting mugged or stabbed
  3. An electrical safety inspector – I don’t use this one any more as I’ve had too many grisly descriptions of people the GTD knows who’ve been electrocuted
  4. An asbestos consultant – sadly nearly everybody knows somebody who’s been affected by asbestos so I never get the mickey taken when I use this one
  5. An accident investigator – GTDs understand that ‘cos most of them have had to give statements to road traffic accident investigators at some time.

The funny thing is that all of these are more or less true, I’ve done all of them at some time in my current job. But listing each one individually seems to be more socially acceptable (to GTDs) than all together!

Save a Life

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Having blogged twice already this year, I didn’t have much to add…but then I came across this. Soccer hard man-turned-film-actor Vinnie Jones is fronting the British Heart Foundation’s latest life saving campaign.

Research has shown that the main thing preventing less experienced people (by which I mean anyone except medical professionals) from attempting resuscitation on unconscious cardiac patients revolves around the mouth-to-mouth part: it’s clearly yucky and unpleasant, there’s a perceived (although largely non-existant) risk of cross-infection, and a fear of the consequences of getting it wrong – although frankly if a patient needs resuscitation, quite how things could be made much worse escapes me. There’s a lot of urban myth about people being sued after unsuccessful attempts to give first aid, although it’s never really happened in the UK and the rumours seem mainly to be attempts to sell personal liability insurance to first aiders.

Anyway, the Resuscitation Council have been promoting for some time, the fact that “compression only” resus is almost as effective as full resus, and certainly better than nothing, and that’s what this new campaign is promoting: compression-only resus moved partly-oxygenated blood around the body and certainly gets enough oxygen to the vital parts to keep the patient alive until paramedics arrive.

So if you’re not resus-trained – or even if you are – check out that link and see the instructional video that goes with it. You might save a life one day.

The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intent

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Due to unforseen circumstances (a burst pipe in the office upstairs), our Frozen North office has had to temporarily close.

Of course the work still needs to be done, so the home working project has had a sudden acceleration. Our IT contractors are producing laptops in only three times the time it would take to order them from, leaving the rest of us to deal with the other aspects of home-enabled working – in my case, of course, the Health and Safety implications featuring high.

Someone who should know better asked me today if we should be supplying each of our home workers with a fire extinguisher, in case their house catches fire while they’re working in it. I kept a straight face and produced a sensible justification why we shouldn’t, that went a bit further then my first reaction, which was “errr…NO!”. But it made me think…what if I’d been on holiday? It’s conceivable that in my absence, someone would’ve thought “Fire extinguishers aren’t expensive, let’s issue everyone with one rather than risk getting it wrong”. And then, having done it for this crowd, we have to do it for every future home worker.

Then because we’re a medium-sized public sector body, other public organisations start coming under pressure from their staff to do the same. And on the same justification – they’re not expensive so it isn’t worth fighting – the other organisations do the same. And so the policy spreads, with every organisation or company that says yes making it harder for those that come after to say no.

So my question is – at what point does a daft suggestion become industry accepted practice, without ever going through the intermediate stage of being a good idea?

Krap Fit – Even Krapper

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

In this blog entry I described my encounter with a chain of tyre fitters I referred to – in order to anonymise the guilty – as Krap Fit. Almost seven years later, I’ve clearly not been learning from experience.

One of my over-winter caravan jobs was to take the caravan wheels to a tyre fitter and have new tyres fitted – the old ones were five years old, and that’s how often it’s recommended tyres are changed for safety. So I whipped one of the wheels off, got out the spare wheel (which I bought and haven’t got round to getting a tyre fitted to yet) and headed off to my local independent tyre specialist.

They were shut, on account of it being Sunday. On my way home, with wheels still in the back of the car, I passed the local Krap Fit, who were open. “OK” I thought, “I had one bad experience with them, but that was years ago…surely they must have sorted themselves out by now?” So in I went. They didn’t have the tyres in stock – which I was sort of expecting – but they could get them in and everything would be ready for me to collect the following Saturday (because I work in London I can’t be in Southampton during their weekday opening times).

“Great”, I said, “and while you’re doing it, could you fit Tyron safety bands?”. Tyron safety bands are a pretty standard thing to have on caravan wheels and almost every caravanner either has them, or wishes they could afford them. And Krap Fit are an authorised distributor. “Never heard of them, what are they?” asked the tyre fitting sepcialist. When I described them, he said he’d heard of something a bit like it, but didn’t know where to get them from and didn’t think their tyre fitting machine could fit them.


So on Thursday, Darren rang and told me the job was done and I could collect my wheels and tyres Saturday morning. Saturday was a bit fully booked but I wanted the job done, so I made time and called in.
“Oh, are you just picking them up? We thought you were bringing the caravan in to have them fitted”.
“Oh that’s a good idea, I’ll just go and get…ah hang on…IT’S GOT NO ZARKING WHEELS ON IT!!!”

At this point – remember they told me the job was complete on Thursday – they started to fit the tyres to the wheels. I went and got a cup of tea from the machine and a six month old Top Gear magazine, and sat in the customer waiting area. When I came round to check progress fifteen minutes later, they were stuffing plastic bin bags inside my tyres (yes really). Apparently because caravan tyres are a bit sepcial, they were having trouble getting them to inflate – they didn’t explain the function of the plastic bags, but I’m sure it’s all legit and above board. Anyway, they finally admitted defeat and said they’d have to get their mate, who fits lorry tyres, round with his sepcial tool, but that wouldn’t be until Saturday evening. I agreed to return Sunday morning.

Sunday morning: “I was here till seven o’clock last night inflating your tyres!”. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do with that information, so I just commented “OK, as long as it’s done” – only to be told they hadn’t finished balancing the wheels, at which point I may have gone a bit nuclear.
“Hey, I was here till seven o’clock doing your wheels last night – that’s service above and beyond, that is…”
“Sorry, the fact that you were here till seven o’clock finishing a job you were supposed to have completed three days ago doesn’t impress me in the slightest”
. Was I being unreasonable (the person I was having this conversation with was the same one who’d phoned me on Thursday, and who’d failed to know what Tyron bands were)?

So, I paid and ran away – having already decided that I was going to take the wheels to an independent tyre fitter who I trust (and who I should’ve given the job to in the first place) to make sure they weren’t still stuffed with plastic bags, and to get the Tyron bands fitted. As a bonus, I came away with the old tyre – it still has pretty good tread and I thought it might be useful to have a spare around, as they’d had trouble getting hold of them (or at least that’s what they told me).

So it was particularly annoying to check the invoice, to find they’d charged me for “ecological disposal of two tyres” – partly because there was only ever one tyre, and partly because their “ecological disposal” was to give the tyre back to the customer.

So in summary…

  1. The tyre fitting specialist has never heard of a standard tyre safety device for which his company is an authorised distributor
  2. They lied about the work being completed on Thursday
  3. They were unable to fit tyres, and resorted to what I’m pretty sure was a cowboy technique to make it look like they had
  4. They tried to make the measures they’d had to take, to cover up their own inadequacy, look like they were doing me a favour
  5. They charged me for tyre disposal without disposing of any tyres, and then allowed me to take the “waste” tyre away (which I’m pretty sure is an offence under the Environmental Protection Act, as I’m not a licensed waste carrier)
  6. …and I’m pretty sure, given the time it took, that they didn’t balance the wheels properly either

So to repeat what I said seven years ago…I am NEVER going to Kwik…er sorry, Krap Fit EVER again.


Friday, October 15th, 2010

Lord Young’s long-promised review of Health and Safety in the UK has been published. If you’re interested, you can download your very own copy here.

It could be worse – the feared “bonfire of the legislation” fails to appear, replaced by a recommendation that

The current raft of health and safety regulations should be consolidated into a single set of accessible regulations

(Page 40)

I’m not actually sure what that means – the normal meaning of the word “accessible” makes no sense in that sentence – but I’m guessing that he wants to replace the current laws with new ones that say the same things in more easily understood ways.

Much of the report focusses on regulation of the “no win no fee” lawyers and the insurance industry to remove fear of the “compensaition culture”, and I’m all in favour of that, as long as a channel remains by which people who’ve been harmed by the genuine uncaring negligence of others can be given recompense. But whatever the Daily Mail might say, Health and Safety isn’t about fighting compensation claims, so lets move on.

Regulation of the Health and Safety profession is a key point:

Professionalise health and safety consultants with a qualification requirement that all consultants should be accredited to professional bodies…

Page 15

This is something the profession itself has been asking for for years, although we’re still squabbling among ourselves about how the accreditation will work: the trouble is, Health and Safety is such a wide subject that no one person is ever going to be universally competent, so you’ll end up with people accredited by the category of what they can cover: You could end up with an accreditation scheme so complex that potential employers can’t use it – which is exactly where we are now, with a quaification/experience framework that is completely meaningful and adequate – to the tiny minority of people who understand it. Meanwhile we have potential employers specifying “NEBOSH Qualified” and thinking that they’re going to get a Health and Safety version of a “Universal Soldier”, not realising that there are currently at least eight different NEBOSH qualifications, no single one of which demonstrates even a reasonable level of competence in any except the most basic areas.

I’d feel more confident that this was likely to happen under the present government if Michael Clapham’s Early Day Motion of 2007, asking for exactly this sort of regulation, had received the support of at least one Conservative MP.

He seems to have a hangup with risk assessment – for example his recommendation

Simplify the risk assessment procedure for low hazard workplaces…

Everywhere that Health and Safety law requires a risk assessment, it specifies that it should be Suitable and Sufficient and address significant hazards: so we already seem to be specifying that a low hazard workplace can have simple assessments (or if it’s really low hazard, no assessment at all). More worrying is his assertion that the law should

Exempt employers from risk assessments for employees working from home in a low hazard environment

So there you are, home-based workers – you can use your computer workstation until you’re crippled with RSI (which Young seems to consider on page 27 a low-impact hazard), and your employer can claim they didn’t know it was likely to happen.

Even more worryingly, he wants to

Simplify the process that schools and similar organisations undertake before taking children on trips


Introduce a single consent form that covers all activities a child may undertake during his or her time at a school

(both page 37)

Abolish the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority, and replace licensing with a Code of Practice

(page 36)

Google “Lyme Bay Tragedy” for an example of why that’s NOT a good idea.

So, the consent form that you sign before your 12-year-old goes on the coach trip to the Science Museum, will cover them for the rock climbing trip in four years time. You don’t yet know the teacher who’ll lead that trip, or how the trip’ll be planned…and the activity leader won’t have necessarily had any formal test of competence!

There are some worrying inaccuracies which, minor in themselves, raise concerns about the amount of care taken over the whole report:

…hence the example of the restaurant that banned toothpicks…

…which never happened, except in Daily Mail-land

…officials are giving poor advice to organisations and individuals, who are in turn prevented from running an event (for example a school fete)…

Make my day – give me a reliable reference for a school fete cancelled on safety grounds.

Currently where an employee is absent from work for three days following an accident or injury at work, a RIDDOR form is required

No. A RIDDOR is required if an employee is unfit for normal duties for three days following an accident or injury at work. So they could be at work on light duties, and the rules would still apply. His Lordship wants to increase the reporting time to seven days – which will decrease the number of reports, but isn’t likely to have any other effect.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations Approved Code of Practice is a legally enforceable guide for business

No it isn’t. An ACoP is by definition not legally enforceable of itself. It’s a statement that “if you do this you’ll definitely be compliant”, but it isn’t by itself enforceable .

So, it’s all a bit mediocre: not as bad as I feared or as good as I hoped. I predict that for most workplaces the impact will be minimal.

I See…

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

Earlier this week, I did a Display Screen Equipment assessment for one of m’colleagues. Su (not her real name) was complaining of migraines caused by working at her computer. I started with my usual opening question in such circumstances:

Me: When did you last have your eyes tested?

Su: About a month ago

Me: Did the optician say anything about your migraines?

Su: Yes, he prescribed me these glasses

Me: Those glasses?

Su: Yes, these glasses

Me: Um…errr…did he actually suggest you try wearing them?

As of five days later, the glasses are still sitting on Su’s desk, and her migraines are no better.


Thursday, June 24th, 2010

You really were going to get the Lord Young rant today…but then he went and spoiled my fun by saying something sensible. I can’t prove it because the forum where I found it is down for maintenance, and although I’m sure it was in the Daily Telegraph, I can’t find it on their website anywhere.

The gist of his comments was that the problem with Health and Safety seems to be peoples’ perception of it, rather than the law and practice itself. Which of course is what this blog, and most of the rest of the Health and Safety profession has been saying all along.

We’re not out of the woods yet, and he’s still saying some incredibly daft things – earlier this week he was quoted in The Scotsman as saying “”Every piece of electrical equipment in an office has to be checked every five years. There are risk-assessment officers all over the place. It’s nonsense.” (see link). Yes, it’s nonsense – I thought I’d seen most of the Health and Safety myths going round, but this every five years is a new one even to me. And of course, this very blog debunked ages ago, the idea that there’s any legal specified frequency for electrical testing (see link and follow the link within that for even more info). As did the Health and Safety Executive in their Myth of the Month web page (see the July 2007 myth).

So since my blood pressure remains dangerously normal on the “Lord Young” front, I thought I’d share this with you. And note to Purple Fred (whom I love very much) – don’t worry, I’m not really going to cook it. I’d love to try a tiny slice, though…


Monday, June 14th, 2010

Many of you will have seen this news story, or the interview with Lord Young on the telly, about a gubmint-sponsored review into Health and Safety legislation.

It’s worrying that the review is being led by someone who thinks that lunacies like “Safety goggles to play conkers” and “toothpicks banned in restaurants” are a result of Health and Safety law. They’re a result of policies being made and implemented by people who don’t understand either the law or the risk reduction process, and an argument for better health and safety, not less.

Lord Young also said this morning that part of the problem is that anyone can set themselves up as a Health and Safety consultant with no qualifications – which is true, but in a speech on 24th March this year he criticised the professional body for failing to campaign for better regulation of the profession – despite the fact that the Institute has been campaigning for exactly that for five years.

So, more in hope than expectation, here’s my shopping list for what I’d like to see come out of the Young Review:

  1. Regulation of the Health and Safety profession, to require that only individuals of proven competence can practice as Health and Safety Advisors. You have to be of proven competence to be a gas fitter or electrician – why not a Health and Safety person?
  2. Insurers forced to better support companies with compensation claims: I’ve seen cases where insurers have paid out on obviously-phony compensation claims, rather than go to court and fight them. This alone has contributed hugely to the growth of the “Compensation Culture”, and of course the insurers rarely suffer – they just put the premium up next year
  3. Trade unions forced to take responsibility for malicious false claims made by their members and carried out by union lawyers: Again, I’ve seen claims where the claimant had obviously made untrue statements – only to get away with it because insurers wouldn’t tackle unions.
  4. Consistency of enforcement by the Health and Safety Executive, which is a bit patchy now. And fire safety – which is in part enforced by the fire authorities – is even worse, with businesses in some areas receiving improvement orders when they’re doing what businesses in other areas are being advised to.
  5. And this one’s a real dream…

  6. The Press forced to adopt a more responsible attitude to reporting, so the only things reported as Health and Safety stories are real Health and Safety stories rather than pathetic scaremongering (incidentally, we recently read of a health and safety prosecution after a gym user was killed in a lift accident – where were Clarkson, Littlejohn and all the other idiots then, with their “too much Health and Safety law”?)

Meantime, what effect am I expecting to actually see over the next couple of years? Not much.


Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

I walked past two caches today – didn’t even consider looking at either of them!

After the cachemania of the last couple of weeks, that was a bit unusual – but it’s all in a good cause. If you have a look at my caching stats up there on the top right, you’ll see that I’m on 1299 finds…and I’m planning on going caching with m’lovely PF this weekend. I like doing landmark numbers with chums.

I’m on a course at the moment, so they weren’t even caches in my normal coverage area – alright, they’re in Southampton and less than a mile from my house, but they’re not somewhere I pass that often. I’m doing my first aid refresher course – and so far only a couple of things have changed. But we’re doing CPR tomorrow – and that ALWAYS changes!


Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

Today I have been mostly attending Firex South, the exhibition for the fire safety industry. And if you think that sounds dull…you should’ve been there! Even the quality of the freebies on the stands wasn’t up to much, although I did score a “quid on a keyring” trolley token, get another mouse mat and a packet of mints. Oh, and a fairly decent ballpoint pen.

Still, it was a nice day outside (which made being inside seem even more dull!) and the fact that the show was in an area I’d never visited before meant that on the walk from the railway station I bagged five caches – including this little beauty:

How many of us remember when 90% of caches looked like that, and micros were an occasional novelty?

Better still, also included in the five was another one just as well hidden as that, and a micro that showed how good a microcache can be – it was exactly right for the location, and drew attention to an interesting local curiosity that a visitor might otherwise miss.

A good day out – I think I might go back to Sandown Park.


Monday, March 8th, 2010

Following on from my rather rantish post on Friday, Elly the Rich commented “You’ve listed 15 or so acts and regulations, which does sound like a bit of overkill. Get rid of them all and there will be no need for the consultants, no need for further regulation by government, and a return to common sense. A three point win.”

Good point – and here’s another idea: Let’s do away with the driving test, then we won’t need all those driving instructors and examiners. And I’m sure we can expect everyone to use their common sense and drive responsibly and not kill each other.

In truth, those 15 or so legal instruments (they’re better than illegal instruments, like bagpipes) only serve to embody the basics of how employers should treat their employees (and employees should treat each other): If your actions are likely to cause harm, you’ve got to reduce the risk as far as possible (the legal phrase is “as far as is reasonably practicable”, which is actually a lower standard than “as far as possible”), and then if the residual risk is still unacceptable, protect people and help them to protect each other. There’s actually nothing any of those acts and regulations require, that aren’t what a responsible employer would be doing anyway.

In spite of that, there continue to be prosecutions for breaches of health and safety law: Collapsing scaffolding, overturning machinery, factory plant with dangerous faults – I was going to quote a few cases, but the size of the “recent health and safety prosecutions” database boggled even me. Anyone remember the Piper Alpha oil rig fire in the North Sea? 167 fatalities caused firstly by poor process (disregard of a permit to work system) and exacerbated by appallingly bad emergency plans.

For something slightly lighter hearted – at least in as much as no-one was killed – see this for an example of what happens when you leave people to use their common sense.


Friday, March 5th, 2010

According to an article in The Sun on Wednesday, Jane Moore claimed that “Health and Safety laws have flourished under Labour”. Well as many of you will know, I’m no fan of the Labour party, but let’s just see how true that is.

Labour came to power on the most recent occasion in 1997: The Health and Safety at Work Act came in in 1974 (under a Labour government but the foundation work was done by the Conservatives). The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations came in in 1992, as did the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations, the Workplace (Health Safety and Welfare) Regulations and the Manual Handling Operations Regulations. The Electricity at Work Regulations date from 1989.

Health and Safety regulations brought in since 1997 include:
The Reporting of Injuries Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2005
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

…all of which are merely modernisations of regulations originally implemented in 1995, 1992 and 1992 (again) respectively. The Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008 only updated the penalties for breaches of the 1974 act, and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 hugely simplified the requirements of the old Fire Precautions Act.

In fact, the only Health and Safety legislation I can think of that impacts on general areas of the UK workplace and were introduced by Labour are:
The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 (which formalised 1985 requirements);
The Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999 (which implemented the Seveso Directive of 1996)
…and of course the Corporate Manslaughter Act 2007, which didn’t actually introduce any new duties, it just made it easier to obtain a prosecution when duties which already existed had been breached.

Oh, and the Work at Height Regulations 2005 which – you’ve guessed it – replace a selection of earlier regulations.

What has increased under this government is a huge Health and Safety mythology where employers have been led to believe they’re prohibited from doing huge numbers of things which, properly done, are perfectly safe and permissible – such as the use of stepladders in basic maintenance. This mythology is partly down to consultants hoping to make a fast buck by selling people services they don’t need, but mainly to the government continuing to allow the Health and Safety profession to continue unregulated, meaning anyone, with no qualifications or experience, can set up as a Health and Safety sepcialist and give whatever advice they think is right.

Rant over. Thank goodness it’s the weekend :-)

A Warm Glow

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

According to this news story, bosses at the Liverpool Echo Arena have banned glow sticks at a forthcoming gig “for Health and Safety reasons…to prevent a repeat of a recent episode where a plastic beer bottle was thrown at Morrisey”.

I’m not quite sure what the connection is between plastic beer bottles and glowsticks – admittedly they’re both made of plastic and contain liquid, but I can’t see how being in posession of a glowstick would make you want to throw a beer bottle. Listening to Morrisey might well make you want to throw things but not being in posession of a glowstick.

The usual caveat about commenting on news stories has to apply here – we don’t necessarily know the whole story, only what the Liverpool Echo has chosen to tell us. But if I was keen to prevent a repeat of a thrown-beer-bottle incident, I’d look to ban beer bottles. Would it be cynical of me to wonder how much the venue makes from the sale of alcohol, compared to the sale of glowsticks and other ephemera?

There’s a suggestion that they’re concerned about glowsticks being dropped, splitting open and leaking, causing someone to slip on the spilled fluid. Again comparing to beer bottles – how many glowsticks do you have to drop and split to equal the volume of liquid from a dropped beer bottle?

Given my comment about only really knowing what the paper is telling us, I’m hoping this turns out not to be a health and safety story after all. The thought of a major entertainment venue having a “competent” health and safety person who thinks is is a reasonable, proportionate response makes me shudder. Needless to say, this story was a major discussion point on the health and safety forums yesterday afternoon – and not surprisingly (to me at least), the huge majority of health and safety professionals think it’s a ridiculous over-reaction.


Friday, February 5th, 2010

In last night’s rather confused rambling, I promised you a picture from my travels. And here it is.


That’s a combined smoke detector and fire alarm sounder, and was in the hotel room I stayed in Tuesday night. And it’s another sign of the cheap wine I mentioned yesterday, that I didn’t notice it until the morning – bearing in mind what I do for a living, that would normally have caught my eye straight away.

The problem, of course, is that that poly bag is kinda affecting the smoke detection capability of the device – so what’s the point? Well since it wasn’t me who put it there I don’t know, but I’ve got three hypotheses –

  1. A previous resident was having a crafty fag and didn’t want to set the alarm off
  2. Since the detector is right outside the nathroom, the staff were fed up with steam setting off the alarm (but only if it’s a tyndall beam detector obviously, because an ionisation detector wouldn’t be affected by steam)
  3. The alarm was faulty, and this was an easy way of stopping it (which if the detector is truly faulty, wouldn’t work)

After my discussion with the manager, I suspect it isn’t still there now.


Thursday, February 4th, 2010

I’ve been away.

More specifically, I’ve been in the far and frozen north of this fair land of ours, visiting our regional offices for health and safety purposes, and finding a geocache. And in the interests of not hauling around any more than I needed to, I left the laptop at home, which is why I’ve had a blogging holiday.

And while I know it’s called the frozen north, I was surprised that there was actual ice floating on the canal! I was walking down alongside this canal in the hope of finding a cache, you see, and couldn’t help noticing the decidedly solif crystalline nature of the surface of the water. And then I got to the next quaint little nothern town on my itinerary, where I was even more surprised by how much I slipped and slid around on the frost on my way back from the fish and chip restaurant – although the fact that wine’s a fiver a bottle there might have contributed to that.

I took a couple of good photos I wanted to share with you while I was away…and when the computer and the camera are in the same place, I will. Maybe tomorrow.


Sunday, January 31st, 2010

M’lovely Purple Fred – whom I love very much – has insisted I tell you the following…

PF has two cats, and fine handsome specimens of the species they are too. The boy cat – Furry Fred – perhaps doesn’t have as many IQ points as the average moggy, but he’s a fine strong handsome chap, and Furry Freda is pretty and regal. In spite of them both having had the appropriate operation, F.Fred often seems to forget this fact and makes inappropriate approaches to F.Freda…which not surprisingly, she takes objection to.

So yesterday afternoon, I decided it was time F.Fred had his education improved: I sat him down and had a good old man-to-man with him. “Now listen,” I told him, “this leaping out on her when she’s not expecting it isn’t the way forward. You need to be gentle, show her that you’ve got a lovable side. Show an interest in the things that interest her: smarten yourself up a bit, show her that you’ve gone to some trouble for her”.

So far so good…and I’ll admit I may have gone slightly over the top as I warmed to my theme.
“Buy her some flowers…maybe take her to the theatre, or the opera. Find out what she likes to do, and offer to do it with her”.

At this point PF…who’d been listening with interest…couldn’t stand any more. “Paul…he’s a CAT!”

So if you see a black cat in a bow tie, and a pretty tortie in an evening dress, queueing for tickets to “Cats”, say hello…it’ll be the two furry Freds.

Busy Busy Busy

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Well, I’ve been hugely busy.

I wrote some Chrismas cards this evening – I know many of you will agree with Purple Fred that it’s insanely early to be writing Christmas cards, but I want to get the ones that need to be posted done nice and early in case the Communication Workers start playing silly devils again. Oh, and I’ve started sorting the gear I need to take on the big Raynet in a couple of weeks time. As I explained to PF – whom I love very much – packing gear usually involves at least a couple of hissy fits running around and yelling “Where have I put that, and why can’t I find it?”. If I’m going to do that, I’d rather it was a couple of weeks before the event, and not half past eleven the night before!

And I’ve bought three Christmas presents and I’m partway through sorting out a fourth.

Meanwhile there are some longer term projects that have been on the back burner for rather too long that I need to get sorted –
– getting Evie B fitted with a towbar
– getting the caravan booked in for the annual service
– making a start on the winter caravan jobs before it gets too cold to want to get over there
– studying for my environmental qualification
– sorting out my application for Chartered status
– finishing the stats for New Wine that I promised about six weeks ago.

And that’s why blogging’s been a bit sparse lately :-)


Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Being a Health and Safety professional involves a wide range of skills that you might not at first think.

Today, for example, I spent a significant amount of time fitting a spare footrest on a wheelchair. Which raises two interesting questions:

  1. How can it take a professional person with letters after his name forty five minutes to attach a piece with two moving parts, to another piece?
  2. How did a wheelchair – which rarely gets used anyway, and has never been outside the building – lose a footrest?

In more normal work, I’ve also been up and down twelve flights of stairs – twice – doing my monthly inspection of the fire exits, and sworn quite a lot at Microsh**e software, finishing the latest revision of the Health and Safety manual.

I also bought a camera, but I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.


Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

I spotted this today at one of our regional offices. Thank goodness it was in a communal area that the landlord is responsible for, not in our bit.


But you have to wonder what…if anything…was in the mind of the service engineer. “Hmm, it’s failed. Mustn’t forget to put FAILED on the label. And now I’ll just put it back on the hook and not tell anyone…”


Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

Today’s blog is a response to a post by Scott J on his blog.

In the middle of 1999, I was stuck in a dead end job: I was Quality Manager for a company that didn’t care about quality, which is a pretty disheartening situation to be in. But the popular perception – which turned out to be wrong – was that the company was going down the tubes, and I’d been there long enough that the redundancy money was worth hanging on for. Also, it may have been mind-numbing, but having a job where no-one cares if you work or not, in a company with no block on personal internet use, had at least a few compensations.

On 5th October 1999, I was having one of my famous hour-long teabreaks and watching the morning news on the canteen telly. A train had crashed in north London, causing huge numbers of casualties. Later news reports made much of the fact that doctors, nurses and other emergency staff from local hospitals had come in to work on their day off to help out. That really focused my mind on how little use I was being to the world – at least in the day job. Hospital Radio is fulfilling – you have to do it, and meet the patients you’re talking to, to realise just how much you can brighten someone’s day – but work is where you spend a third of your life and there needs to be some point to it.

Most of you know at least some of the rest of the story – I not only managed to retrain as a Health and Safety specialist, but I convinced the company it was their idea and got them to pay for it. As I finished the academic part of the training, I was wondering how long I could would have to stay before I could decently leave. A week later they solved that little dilemma by making me redundant, giving me a year’s salary and telling me to go away. On the day they gave me that bit of news, I spotted a job advertised, and thought “Ooh, I’d love to have a go at that, that looks really interesting”. Three months later (the security checks take ages), I started the job.

So now I do an interesting and worthwhile job, working for an organisation which only exists to make the world – or at least, a bit of it – a better and fairer place. I work with a good team, and meet lots of interesting people, and I’m able to get directly involved with helping some of them. And I’m able to use my professional skill – backed with 25 years experience of working in the real world – to come up with ways to help our front line teams do their jobs safely, without the Health and Safety getting in the way.

And of course, for the last eighteen months or so, I’ve been doubly blessed with the love of a lovely lady, who’s shown me that life can be fulfilling and exciting on a personal level, as well as in work or hobbies.

Life’s good. Mid life crisis? I don’t have time for one of those!

To Scott – and anyone else who feels the things he wrote in his blog: Keep at it: You touch more people in a positive way than ever you realise. The smile you gave someone today could have been the thing that turned their day around. The people who love you, love YOU – exactly because you’re who you are, and not anyone else. Thinking of you, and sending cyber-manly-hugs across the pond.

Night night chums

It’s Training Again…

Monday, August 24th, 2009

Yes, I’m back at my favourite second favourite (or maybe third, but who’s counting?) midlands hotel, for the third load of training to our new employees.

It’s a nice enough hotel, and the food is excellent – tonight’s onion gravy (which came with the beef and stilton pie and mash) was the nicest I’ve had in ages. The starter-and-main were so good I didn’t have pudding! The nearest railway station is Rugby, which is satisfylingly easy to get to from the Nation’s Capital – the only downside is the half hour in a taxi from Rugby to the hotel, especially with Talkative Taxi Driver. I got him tonight – and he spent the whole thirty minute high-speed trip telling me how he’s fasting at the moment because it’s Ramadan, and how, by this time of day, he starts to feel a bit faint. And he was nice enough to give me his number so I can book him for the return trip tomorrow!

Still, death-defying taxi rides aside, I’m in the hotel, in a room bigger than some houses I’ve seen. I’m going to stretch out for a nap on the olympic-sized bed, and watch 52 channels of nothing on the widescreen. And then tomorrow I’ll teach them all about Health and Safety, and go home.

Oh, and well done to Stu, who got yesterday’s question about the dinosaur on the bike right.