Napoleonic, WSS & ECW wargaming, with a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Hooptedoodle #151 – Health & Safety – Donkey Special

This is a tale which I heard about some years ago, but I rejected it as an urban legend. I was too hasty – I have now had confirmation that it was, in fact, true, so I shall tell it to you, that you may share the wonder.

About 4 years ago, my mate Brian had two jobs; he owned the pub in a local village, but he was also an engineer – he specialised in CAD computerised design of heavy-spec heating and ventilation systems – in hospitals and suchlike. For a while, he was commuting from Scotland to York, where he worked on a big project Monday to Friday, staying in lodgings and driving home each Friday evening.

At the time there was some discussion (which required much beer and profanity) of the fact that there was very little of the job for which he needed to be on-site – he could have done all the CAD work at home, emailing in his drawings. He would have to attend a monthly site meeting, but mostly it would be cheaper and simpler if he worked from home, which (of course) would also leave his evenings free to run his pub, rather than drink in someone else’s. This was the basis on which he originally took the job, but the rules were changed.

However, it seems that the main contractor required him to work in York, and – since he was going to be on-site there – he had to attend a Health & Safety briefing first thing every Monday morning, and sign a form to say that he had attended it. Otherwise he was not permitted on the site.

After a while, Brian discovered that the way this really worked was the main contractor needed him to be in York to sign the H&S attendance form, and – as he was now there anyway – they provided office facilities and an accommodation allowance for him to spend his working week there. In other words, he was required to attend the H&S briefing only because he was going to be on-site in York, and the only reason he really had to be on-site was to attend the H&S briefing. It was actually in the contract like this; Brian eventually got very tired of the arrangement, and explained to them in some detail where they could put their ventilators.

We’re here because we’re here because
We’re here because we’re here



  1. Probably nothing to do with health and safety. Just some pillock cocking up on the drafting the contract spec, and then nobody at the main contractor using their brain to arrive at a practical solution.

    It really irks me how folk hide behind "health and safety innit" as cover for not engaging their brains.

    1. Calm, calm...

      There was never any doubt that the H&S regs were not the real villain here - there seems something particularly British about our approach to regulation. Externally imposed rules are a magnificent way to spoil someone else's day without appearing to be to blame. Also, I am increasingly tired of the way we Brits implement European legislation in the most bovine, literal way possible, and then whinge about the injustice and stupidity of it all, overlooking the fact that the Germans and French seem to manage quite well, thank you very much, by following the spirit rather than the letter - using their brains and just getting on with it. We seem to have a need to make our own working lives intolerable, just so we can moan about it. I'm sure this is universal to an extent, but we seem to make it our specialist subject.

    2. Yes, I think you're probably right. I found out this week that the German approach to a particular piece of EU employment regs was completely (i.e. almost the opposite take) different to the UK's. And on the face of it much better, at least from a customer's point of view.

      No I will be calm. Calm, calm calm.

  2. Replies
    1. Bearing in mind we're talking about a private sector organisation ("main contractor"), we need to be using the term "bureaucracy" in its widest sense.

      In 30 years' experience (about half public, half private) I've seen as many examples of stupid bureaucracy in the private sector as in the public.

  3. Data Protection Act is another bureaucratic nightmare that makes H&S look like common sense - believe me!