It’s Political Correctness gone mad. (Oooh no it isn’t, it’s Health & Safety!)
THE RISK ASSESSMENT
The email arrived on the 23rd December at half past four in the afternoon and read “With reference to your forthcoming event we do not appear to have received a Risk Assessment. A warranted inspector from the Health and Safety Executive will be visiting your place of work on 24th December at 8.30am…”
As the recipient continued to read he noted with a sigh the phrases “ensuring your compliance” and “enforcing authority”.
The following morning Mr Pugh, the inspector, arrived at exactly 8.30am. The need for precision in his work was intrinsic to his effectiveness and it was also manifest in his appearance. Although not expensive his suit was carefully pressed, his shirt very stiff and his tie perfectly tied. His shoes were so polished that they reflected the underside of his face. Unfortunately this was not a flattering angle. His features were tiny and above his lip was a very neat moustache; an attempt perhaps to denote manliness on an otherwise bald and unconvincing facade.
He was offered a chair and a cup of coffee both of which he accepted as an entitlement. Mr Pugh placed his files and paperwork in a neatly stacked pile on the table and reached into his breast pocket for a pen, which he held poised in readiness. ‘May I see your previous assessments and certificates please?’
He grimaced when presented with an ancient, battered box file, curled and frayed in the corners and empty but for a single recent invoice for hay. He was informed that there were no previous assessments.
‘Oh dear, that will not do will it?’ he said.
Taking a pristine risk assessment sheet from his pile Mr Pugh placed it on a polished wooden clipboard and began.
‘How many people will be involved in your event?’
‘I could not give a precise figure,’ was the reply.
‘Well then to the nearest ten,’ said Mr Pugh indulgently.
‘Approximately three point two billion.’
Mr Pugh repeated the answer and began to fill in the relevant box. He hesitated announcing, ‘The box isn’t big enough for all the noughts!’ He was visibly flummoxed by this obstacle to his neat and uncompromising working practice.
‘Perhaps you could just write the word.’
‘Yes, yes indeed, that would be sensible on this occasion,’ said Mr Pugh much relieved by the solution. ‘Which of the following categories of people are involved in the event?
- The General Public
- Children and Young Persons
- New and Expectant Mothers
- Vulnerable Adults
- The Elderly?’
‘All of them,’ came the unhesitating reply.
‘All of them!’ said Mr Pugh sounding ecstatic. With a flourish he took his pen and put a tick in every box. There was little he liked more than marking the boxes.
‘What hazards have been identified and what control measures are in place?’ he asked next.
There was a slight pause for consideration and then the answer was pronounced; ‘Over excitement is the worst hazard and it is best to let it run its course.’
‘I am sure there are potential hazards of a more serious nature than that,’ said Mr Pugh almost spluttering with exasperation, ‘but nevertheless we will need to identify further control measures. Letting it run its course is not a control measure!’ He clicked the clip on his board in irritation and made a point of straightening the risk assessment sheet even though it hadn’t moved.
‘Let’s look at equipment. Will you be required to do any manual handling at this event?’
‘When was your last manual handling course?’
‘I haven’t had one,’ was the reply.
Mr Pugh entered a very large cross in the box.
‘Does your work involve heights?’
‘What is the maximum height from which you are required to work?’
‘Eight hundred and twenty nine point two metres.’
‘Do you use safety nets and soft landing systems?’
‘Do you use a fall arrest system?’
Mr Pugh was putting a lot of crosses on the sheet in front of him and seemed to be enjoying himself.
‘I must inform you,’ he said, ‘that this is not looking good. It is indeed fortuitous that I have visited today because you are unprepared to safely proceed with your event tomorrow. There are a large number of actions and control measures that must be completed. I can arrange the relevant training, some of which can be done on line. In the meantime I have no option but to serve a number of improvement and prohibition notices, which…’ but he got no further.
In a small cosy cottage preparations were underway. ‘I’ve made an extra flask of hot chocolate dear, as you have to make that detour,’ she said standing on tiptoe to kiss his cheek and lovingly stroke his long white beard.
‘Thank you my sweet,’ he said pausing to squeeze his wife tightly around her ample waistline.
Having loaded all but one sack onto the sledge he lifted the last one gently onto the top of the pile and patting the outside said in a kind tone, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll be dropping you off first!’ The contents of the sack gave a muffled squeal as the ride began.
Within a wink of an eye the sledge reached the first of its many destinations and the driver landed quietly and unnoticed on the roof. He was able to access the property in the traditional fashion.
The curtains had not been closed due to the occupier’s absence so from the light of the street lamp he could clearly see the Christmas tree in the corner of the room. It had the appearance of having already been through the shredder and this had not been improved by a sparse splattering of tattered tinsel and battered baubles.
He carefully rested the wriggling sack on the floor and took from inside his jacket a present which he placed next to the only other gift under the tree, the tag on which read “With kind regards from your mother”.
As he returned to the hearth he loosened the knot on the top of the sack and the occupant realising escape was imminent became momentarily quiet. Turning for one last glance at the room the red clad gentleman smiled at the now huge and densely needled pine tree in the corner, covered in spirals of glistening tinsel and glass icicles, twinkling in the reflection of the fairy lights and filling the room with magic.
With a nod of satisfaction he vanished silently up the chimney. The emerging Mr Pugh was bathed in the glow of the tree lights and saw Christmas as through the eyes of a child for the very first time.
A dusting of soot landed in the hearth, hooves clattered on the roof tiles and sitting in the crumpled warmth of the large red sack Mr Pugh heard his parting visitor call out from the distance Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!