We have become neurotic and obsessed with minimising risk of damage to property, failure to meet targets or harm anyone. Words like critical, imperative, and paramount are emotive enough to scare off the toughest contender for action. What were once reasonable safety rules and regulations for building sites have now been applied to most aspects of life. In some workplaces the work, health and safety expectations are laughable. For this we will talk about my place of work.
Annually each staff member is appraised on our abilities in a number of tasks like hand washing after having used the toilet; getting into and out of work vehicles (which may be different from how we get into and out of our own vehicles); and we each year we have to provide evidence that we still remember how to put fuel into the work vehicles (which again may be different to how we re-fuel our own vehicles, apparently).
At different times during the past year we have received directives from on high (where the grown ups work) advising that we are no longer to use cloth hand towels. Paper towels have replaced the cloth articles of offence. The paper-towels we now use were not to be placed in the paper recycling bins as they contained some non-recyclable product/chemical. Out with the bars of soap; no more soap to be used in the building. Soap was replaced by pump bottles of flowing soap only to be replaced some months later with a wall-mounted flowing soap dispenser – the contents of which is suitable for hair, body and hand washing.
The kitchen has not escaped the notice of the environmental police. No more dishes to be hand washed and to make sure we followed procedure the sink plug has been removed. The dishes are to go in the dishwasher even if they require only a rinse. Like dishwashers all over the world, everyone knows how to stack them but hardly anyone knows how to empty one. Hence the machine is constantly cleaning already clean crockery and cutlery only each time it is switched on it is a little fuller than before. We reach “critical mass” when the cupboards are empty and the dishwasher will not hold one more teaspoon at which point cries of “When is the cleaner coming?” “No-one has emptied the dishwasher yet,” can be heard.
All staff driving work vehicles are required to be checked off the safety practice sheet for getting into and out of the cars followed by being shown the correct way to fill the work vehicles with petrol. Until recently there was a directive that only those who had completed appropriate training could use the defibrillator on the wall despite the machine being probably the most brilliant piece of idiot-proof equipment yet invented. A new directive has been issued but I will not elucidate on how it was worded but we are now permitted to use the defibrillator “in emergencies only”. No kidding!
It is difficult to believe we return to our homes each night and manage quite well without so many rules and regulations and the next day we turn up for work unscathed from an evening left to our own devices. It is miraculous really, considering how little we are given credit for during work hours. When we are in the sanctity of our homes we entrust our safety to common sense and experience yet during the work day we are bound and restricted by so much silliness it is difficult to maintain a sense of humour in the midst of the red tape and bureaucracy.
When will enough be enough? Are there any safety regulations you are required to adhere to or be assessed on for your work place?