Wednesday, September 22, 2010


The more strident commentators in the tabloids love a good Health and Safety (always suffixed by 'gone mad') story. "Why oh why?" demand the headlines.
The dull and predictable response, that H & S laws are about keeping people alive and uninjured, cuts no ice in the saloon bar when I am on the defensive on a Sunday lunchtime.
An hour or two ago a neighbour hammered on my door, shouting for me to call an ambulance. I did so, and went to find out that an Eastern European worker engaged in demolishing the house next-door-but-one had been injured. After a nerve-racking delay (that can't have been more than eight minutes) the ambulance turned up, and we all relaxed mentally as the calm efficiency of the ambulance crew took the weight from our shoulders.
Once the injured man had been taken away, a neighbour pointed out that he had been wearing no safety equipment, not even a hard hat, and that he and his colleague were, to put it bluntly, cowboys - but cheap.
I have no idea about the details of the incident, and I trust and hope that the injured man recovers quickly. But when the smart-arse commentators sneer at 'Elf'n'Safety' in future, I shall remember that for every jobsworth who bans a kids' egg-and-spoon race there is a cowboy contractor who lets his employees risk, and sometimes lose, their life or health.

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