Dancing with death

Dancing with death

Health and safety regulations in this country are sometimes a real giggle. Not that I am in any way demeaning the importance of health and safety; we eat, breath and sleep health and safety at SHEQ MANAGEMENT. But I could not help but smile at developments in our office park, which indicated that we have a lot to learn in this field …

Well there we were, one day, working peacefully in our office, sprouting our pearls of wisdom to bolster the field of SHEQ management in this country. And then they arrived. A team of workers, who proceeded to turn a garden and a parking lot into a construction site.

There was a lot of banging, bashing, cursing and activity, as the previously peaceful scene was transformed into a mire of sweaty labourers, who tackled their task with vigour.

Except, of course, during rest periods. I am not sure if these were regulated or not. But we giggled and peered out of the window at the interesting nodding positions. My favourite? The wheelbarrow nod. I’m not sure I could get comfortable in a wheelbarrow. Gosh, I complain about flying economy class. But, sure enough, there was one chap who spent copious time, snoring his head off – in a wheelbarrow. I envy that man.

However the wheelbarrow did not attract the most attention. It was rather the death-defying acts that the workers performed – like tossing bricks with gay abandon. We used to bet on the number of workers who would get knocked out in a day. Incredibly, we never saw one man downed by a brick (although maybe this could explain the gentleman in the wheelbarrow; possibly he was unconscious and not just sleeping … he certainly didn’t move very much …)

Then it seemed as though the fun and games would all come to an end. An irate official from the Department of Labour arrived, and insisted very loudly that the team was breaking every imaginable piece of health and safety legislation (he was certainly right). But he had a very workable solution to their death-defying acts: buy him lunch, he would turn a blind eye and they could continue on their merry, very non-health and safety path. One of my colleagues was in our garden as this incident took place … so he heard every word.

Happily, the construction team refused to bribe the esteemed gentleman purporting to be from the Department of Labour (I say “purporting” because I don’t have conclusive proof of this, although he did seem to be the Real McCoy). They just told him to go away – and he did, tail between his legs. Good on you, team!

But they didn’t completely ignore his threats. Within 10 minutes, appropriate signage was erected. Some of the workers even donned hardhats. I am not sure that these would have helped the guys on top of the building and hanging from the side of the building sans safety harnesses. But at least they did make a tiny little effort to be more compliant.

Their somewhat subdued passion for health and safety soon wore off. The signs have remained but, apart from the occasional hardhat, I am seeing no evidence that they actually want to leave the site alive. I believe that the building will be completed in a month or so – and I will heave a huge sigh of relief. While it is incredibly funny at times, it’s also terribly scary to see the workers dance with death.

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