Thursday, 10 December 2009

How many policemen does it take to change a light bulb?

Apparently the answer is none. They have to fill out a series of forms and someone will come from miles away to do it for them.

The police who accept shiny new buildings through the PFI system have a lot of very silly rules to deal with, for which they blame 'the private sector'. In fact, the private sector has been hampered with silly rules for a long time and they didn't make them up themselves - well, not all of them anyway.

In constant terror of being sued, every private sector industry takes Elfin Safety to a ludicrous extreme. They can't allow policemen to change their own light bulbs or buy their own toilet paper because that's a janitor's job and the unions will go apeshit if police officers do it. If one of those officers falls off a chair while changing a light bulb, it's time to play Compensation Bingo so the PFI side of the deal can't allow it. They might turn a blind eye, but officially their only option is to say 'no'.

Some of the restrictions make a sort-of sense, such as where to put a coffee table and bin, because Elfin Safety will come down on the building's owners like a ton of bricks if that table can be said to hamper emergency evacuation or just generally be in the way. Whether it's a real hazard is irrelevant; prosecution can be based on a perceived or potential hazard these days. I know of universities who have been told to remove lockers from corridors, where they have been for many years, because eight feet of corridor width is not enough and that extra foot of width could be crucial in an emergency. Objecting is futile. The Safety Elf's word is law.

It's no surprise that the private-setor part of the deal is bricking it every time someone moves a bin. Yes, it's a waste of police time. It's a waste of everyone's time but that Safety Elf must be placated or it's off to court you go, police station or no. You want plants? Well, best check none of them are poisonous or spiky. Someone might sue. Cutlery and plates? These must be non-sharp and shatterproof. Someone might sue. The PFI is responsible for fixtures and fittings, including the hooks you hang pictures from and the whiteboards etc. They must all be safely fixed. Safety Elf is watching and waiting to pounce.

Some of it, however, is a little harder to justify.

Advice on where to hang crime prevention posters? Surely the police know best where those should be. Even the all-knowing, all-seeing Safety Elf should concede that one. Stationery is neither a fixture nor a fitting so it's difficult to work out why the PFI cares about that. Unless Safety Elf has a fire-safety limit on paper stores, which wouldn't surprise me in the slightest.

Some of the comments blame the police. Some blame the PFI. It's neither. It's this damn country and its incessant need to placate the Safety Elf because if you don't, Safety Elf will help someone sue you into penury.

There are no accidents any more. Someone is always to blame and someone will always be paying compensation. Until that insanity is addressed, none of the rest of it can be touched. Sometimes crappy things just happen. Sometimes it's nobody's fault. Sometimes when you fall down you can just get back up again without blaming anyone or demanding cash.

Not with Safety Elf around. He's untouchable and invincible and it's time he was reined in.

And then shot.


Mark Wadsworth said...

Woah! Your other blog said "Transition" but this one is making serious points?

As to the "there are no accidents" philosophy, that was on Allie McBeal about ten years ago, where she spoke to the lawyers for the airline (whose 'plane had crashed) and said "I know it's not your fault. But the jury want to blame somebody. And that's going to be you, so why don't we just settle?"

Life copies satire, as ever.

Leg-iron said...

I'm copying posts to both because I'm still messing with this one and might yet break it.

It must be hell to be a satirist these days. What can they do with the average newspaper story now?

Even the Daily Mash is starting to look like mainstream news.

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