Saturday, 14 July 2007

Health and safety

Driving down to London yesterday I was listening to the athletics coverage on 5 live when they announced that a long jumper had been hit by a wayward javelin thrown way off course by some Finnish guy. Presumably he was the one I've seen this morning on the news wearing very thick glasses. I don't see how even the potential for this could be allowed to happen in this risk assessment led world.

When I was at school we were all trooped into the hall one day and we knew it was serious because it wasn't regular assembly. That was always bad enough for me because I did five years refusing to bow my head on the 'Let us pray' command. Usually I got away with it but whenever the headmaster was there I got hauled out and dressed down for being disrespectful, odious, slovenly and supercilious. (I still need to look that word up, but he was right about the others I'm sure). In the ad hoc assembly one of the PE teachers told us how a boy had not listened to his barked advice and had run to fetch his javelin after everyone had had their turn at chucking them. I don't know why he ran because we could only throw them about 20 yards at best. He ran into a javelin that was stuck into the ground and all but invisible to him. It impaled his neck and he nearly died. Inappropriate, nervous giggling broke out of course but after that I found running anywhere as fear inducing as I do flying now. What if someone had forgotten to collect their javelin? Unlikely in the High Street but fears are meant to be irrational a lot of the time I suppose.

My son's tech teacher has a catalogue of gory stories about kids who refused to adhere to health and safety advice on the machines in school. "Yeah, there was this one kid whose hand slipped and the drill went right through it and ripped two of his fingers off." If I believed for a moment that all those things had actually happened at his school he wouldn't be there any more. I do understand why the teacher is using this warning device but can't help feeling that there'll be kids that never go near a power tool again as a consequence.

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