Wordpretzels, many of you, no doubt, just like me, have to face the regular dangers of health and safety at work. Not real risk of course, that’s rare. Of course, making sure that people are safe in the workplace is an important thing. Indeed, advances in health and safety throughout history have led to major improvements; employers were encouraged to fit guards and procedures to ensure their workforce didn’t fall into huge vats of boiling liquid or be torn limb from limb by massive, carnivorous machines. Par boiled and diced employees tend to be less productive.
Of course, these days few of us have to stir molten metal or operate a steaming, screaming, ear splitting piece of machinery. In fact, most of us spend our time in offices behind computer monitors like human battery hens. This doesn’t stop us being subject to health and safety rules, of course. Everybody has to be shown how to leave a building, how to sit in a chair and how to type on a keyboard without perishing. All designed by those rather earnest people who were bullied at school and who then grew up to take middle management positions in H&S in order to wreak revenge on the masses who mocked them. In fact, at (almost) voluntary work today, there was a special one hour session, including an information film, on how to act during a fire drill. I would like to have told you about it, but I was out of the office. However, Nelly Dean was happy to tell me all about it.
“Well, it was set in a Threshers’ off licence, where some young people lit a fire in order to steal some sweets,” she explained. “The shop assistant didn’t know what to do. Meanwhile, a lady brought her toddler children into the shop so they could watch the pretty flames. At this point, the shop assistant found a fire extinguisher, which she emptied onto the inferno. But it was the wrong kind of fire extinguisher.”
I looked at Nelly for a moment. She shrugged.
“Then a man came into the shop and suggested that the shop assistant looked out the back for another extinguisher,” she continued.
“Didn’t they just all get out?” I suggested.
“No. She decided to take his advice. Then, while she was looking out back for the other extinguisher, he went behind the counter and nicked 4 bottles of Scotch.”
“Are you sure you weren’t watching a sit com?” I asked.
“Well, the film ended and we had a discussion for half an hour to see what we’d learned,” said Nelly.
“What did you learn then?”
She thought for a moment, looking up at the ceiling. “That if you want some Mars Bars and a few bottles of booze, light a fire in an off licence,” she replied.
Our work requires us to write risk assessments, even those set in classrooms with parents and children who could be writing, drawing, colouring in or (steady!) cutting things out.
Which reminded me of the comprehensive risk assessment I wrote a few years ago and occasionally share with new (almost) voluntary workers during their induction process:
Risk Assessment for Activities
We are aware that many of you find the procedure of risk assessment an odious and rather tiresome task. Remember, the elimination of risk is of paramount importance if people are able to live, learn and work in a safe environment. If you can follow the procedures outlined below, nobody should come to any harm and we will all be happy. You know it makes sense.
|Scissors||Cuts, abrasions, stabbings, gouging and lacerations. Risk level: tiny graze to death.||Advise learners not to use scissors. If necessary, remove sharp blades and issue scissor handles.|
|Pens||May be danger of poking, insertion into mouth ear or other orifice resulting in injury.||Pens should not be used under any circumstances.|
|Pencils||See pens.||Pencils may be permitted provided they are new and unsharpened.|
|Paper||Slight or severe paper cuts can lead to discomfort or if septicaemia results, hospitalisation and the risk of a fatality.||Learners may use paper but only after being issued with heavy duty gardening gloves.|
|Furniture||Robust contact with chairs and tables can lead to light to severe bruising, abrasions with the additional risk of back injury or hernias when carrying.||Remove all furniture from the proposed activity area.|
|Carpets||Can cause trips, falls and concussion which may result in paralysis or death.||All carpets and floor coverings must be removed by a qualified carpet fitter wearing a fine particle face mask and NBC suit before sessions.|
|Children||Statistically, children carry more bacterial and viral diseases known to humankind than any other animal (with the exception of the brown rat (Rattus Norvegicus) . May lead to debilitating illness and death.||Under no circumstance should schoolchildren under the age of 23yrs take part in sessions, unless all adult learners can be supplied with suits and outfits similar to the carpet fitter.|
|Clothing||Clothing is known to carry many germs, causing illness. Snagging clothing on doors or windows may lead to serious injury.||Learners must be instructed to remove clothing before attending sessions. They may wear thongs which are protected under European law (Hazardous underwear in Work and Education Act 2000) provided they are not yellow in colour.|
|Home||Research has shown that most serious injuries and accidental deaths occur in the home.||When learners have finished the session, it is recommended that you instruct them not to return to their homes.|