Danger – High Voltage!

We’ve suffered yet another casualty at work this week. This time it was Trevor on the receiving end of an exploding kettle in the kitchen – 3rd degree burns and some scalding – should be out of hospital and in the queue for plastic surgery in the next week or so. That’s the second time we have witnessed the horror of that particular occurrence. Last month it was Diane who fell victim to the overheated photocopier. Some idiot left it switched on over night (can you believe it!) and it went up in a puff of toner leaving Di with flash burns and breathing on a ventilator. We had hoped to have seen the last of this sort of thing after tragic events at Easter when we sadly lost Graham after he was electrocuted on the water cooler that somebody had turned off at the mains but foolishly left plugged in. Turns out the current jumped the switch, the device malfunctioned and he caught the full shock via the plastic cooler casing in cruel defiance of the laws of physics.

This seemingly endless sequence of office maimings and fatalities no longer even makes the local news but it’s a real inconvenience to the teams who regularly find their headcount down with the same workload to deal with. Thankfully we seem have put a stop to all of this now by turning off every electrical device in the evening, switching the mains sockets off and then removing the plugs. I have been the first arrival recently while early bird Jane is off (berzerk shredding machine incident) and I accept that the reconnection of every mains operated device before I start working is a small and worthwhile price to pay for the knowledge that lives are being saved. Indeed we must all make the effort to do our bit and remember that the minor risk we each take when endlessly connecting or disconnecting a multitude of high powered devices from the mains with our sweaty bare hands is making the workplace safer for everybody. Or something.

Personally I would like to see the fuses removed from all disconnected mains plugs each night by blindfolded members of staff who are standing in buckets of water. Why? Because we will all be sorry when one day a microwave that has merely been powered off, then switched off at the wall and the plug disconnected, spontaneously plugs itself back in, turns itself on at the wall and on the front panel, before setting itself to maximum power and jumping out at a passer by in the kitchen and cooking their smug little head.

That said I will never really feel 100% safe until a vague and generic dictat about what safety measures we should all take filters down from Health and Safety via an email chain in response to soaring insurance premiums. Only then will I be able to truly relax and not think for myself about the common sense things I could do to protect my wellbeing.

In fairness my current workplace isn’t the only magnet for paradoxical thinking on some health and safety issues. At my last place the cleaners used to mop the floors around the kitchen areas twice a day. Their rationale for doing this during work hours was that people sometimes left splashes of drink on the floor that could lead to a slip. Their proactive response? Mop the whole floor area regardless so it is regularly all wet rather than the odd drink splash here and there a couple of times a week. To mitigate this self created hazard they would then leave out a knee high plastic sign in the middle of the floor bearing a “warning – slippery floor” message. Ironically this was more dangerous than the coffee splashes and floor mopping combined. Firstly the signs would get left out all day long after the floors had dried so their message was rendered meaningless (a bit like those expensive overhead signs you see on major roads that always tell you there are queues on slip roads despite the fact there usually are none. Bad information is more dangerous than no information). The worst part was that people were always tripping over the signs – sometimes resulting in spillage of a hot drink – because the signs were so low and often out of the line of sight with other people milling around the area. They were also a particular menace to the blind chap who could navigate his way around the building brilliantly except for these plastic assault course escapees. I was one of a number of people to raise all of these issues with the cleaning manager but to no avail. The response I got was that Health & Safety reviews had demanded these measures and so they had to follow them.
Perhaps global warming or pandemics are less of a threat to our future survival as a species than bureaucracy and dumbing down. Once again Douglas Adams got there first, this time with his “Restaurant At The End Of The Universe” subplot involving the Golgafrincham Telephone Sanitisers
I would love to hear any stories you have about misguided safety initiatives. I’ll be sure to append any good ones to this blog entry. Just be careful not to cut yourself on your keyboard as you email me or to inadvertently attach yourself to the message and end up with a hand stuck fast in your DVD drive.