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Saturday, 21 February 2009

Health and Safety

I've gradually seen a change in our safety over the years. For the worse.

In older days we were provided with PPE and off we went to work. Youngsters today would jump up and say how irresponsible of the company. How can they send the workforce out before carrying out a complete risk management study first?

Well, my young friends, here's how it was done.

Before the hugely burocratic HSE came in to force, people were actually able to think for themselves. My employer would give me instruction in the use of PPE and would supply all that was neccessary. We were taught to carry out a continuous risk assessment throughout the working day.

I believe that the modern day system lulls you youngsters into a false sense of security. I will explain.

A manager at the beginning of the day, for the task in hand fills out a risk assessment form, a permit to work, a Cossh assessment, and anything else that is the flavour of the day.

All this takes away the feeling of any risk from the person who is tasked with the job. Ie, "The Boss says it's safe, so it has to be." So for the rest off the day the worker goes about his business, happy in the fact that he is safe.

He is sadly deluded.

An example:

The workplace is a 250,000 ton supertanker.

Safety equipment available: Boiler suits, hard hats, safety boots, two oxygen meters, Breathing apparatus at the hatch entrance in case of emergency, etc.

Three sailors are tasked with entering a ballst tank for inspection of the coatings. All the relevant checks have been carried out. Oxygen meter lowered into the tank, and good atmosphere found. So far so good.( No It's not. There were only two oxygen meters, weren't there?)
Portable lighting lowered into the tank, so far so good.
Rescue equipment available at the tank entrance at the top of the tank. So far so good.

The three sailors enter into the tank. They are quite safe, their boss has filled in the paperwork, therefore they MUST be safe.
Down at the bottom of the tank they start their allotted task, however due to the fact they took an hour in sorting out the paperwork, they are running late. So they split up.

NB: A ballast tank on a 250,000 ton tanker is huge.

After a while there is a loud thump. One of the sailors has collapsed. The other two hurry towards him but their oxygen meters go off. What should they do? If they go to assist him they will put themselves in the same danger. Their only course of action is to get themselves out of harms way and call for help.
Which they do.

Did the sailor who collapsed due to oxygen starvation survive? Sadly,no. The rescue team donned breathing apparatus and descended into the tank to save him. When they reached the bottom they attempted to carry him up the vertical ladder to safety.

I did mention it was a 250,000 ton supertanker didn't I?

They never made it out. Their BA might have got them out alone, but the extra workload used too much air, and they ran out, and died.

Moral of the story: Think the problem out for yourself. It's your life, paperwork does not keep you from dying.

The correct procedure would be on the lines of this.

All personnel have an oxygen meter.
Two of the personnel survey all of the tank first with oxygen meters, wearing Breathing apparatus ready to be donned. Then work could be started.
All of the personnel should be carrying their own personal oxygen meter.

Moral of this story: Think for yourself. It's your life. Forget about the compensation culture, you're dead.

I realy am a sad bastard.

We would all be safer without the HSE regs. Get people thinking for themselves.

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