Archive for Health & Safety

Health & Safety dusted off again

Posted in Venting with tags , , , , on March 20, 2008 by Apollo

747You may have noticed that the subject of Health & Safety, or rather the abuse of Health & Safety as some sort of global catch-all to rule something out, us a recurring subject. It’s use when somebody can’t find a legitimate law or rule with regard to something they want to control continues to grow, and is does little more than make a mockery of it real value.

I don’t intend to go into the details of the most recent use that was just spotted in the news, where it was called up by some jobsworth when the subject of the legality of people having sex in aircraft was reported, and various legislation was considered.

The carrier was unsure, considering it to be a ‘New’ subject, and legislation wasn’t really available or tested. They’d have a quiet word, rather than create a scene (wouldn’t that already have happened?) and attract attention, but would call the police if passengers were upset or complained. The carrier itself couldn’t enforce fines or the like, but could ban anyone it deemed as behaving offensively from flying on its aircraft.

While no-one has yet used it, there are existing laws regarding sex in public places such as toilets, whether it would apply on aircraft remains unclear, and there is also the serious question of precisely which laws might apply – country of origin, country over which the aircraft was flying at the time, law of the country or countries in which the ‘offenders’ reside etc.

Transport and Civil Aviation law don’t appear to have specific content to be applied to the situation, so the bold spokesperson for that side of things came away with the old ‘Catch-All’, and stated that passengers were required to comply with Health & Safety legislation, and have their seatbelts on during take-off and landing.

Either a new comedian has been born, or they need to get a new spokesperson with a bit more knowledge.

Debunking six myths of the Data Protection Act

Posted in Noteworthy with tags , , on February 2, 2008 by Apollo

There are probably two stock phrases guaranteed to make me see red: one is Health & Safety, the other Data Protection Act.

As I’ve noted previously (with Health & Safety) the problem is not with either of these subject themselves, but with those incompetent Jobsworths who are actually useless at their own jobs, and use these expressions to either force those who are less well informed to do something they would otherwise not do (claiming the reason to be due to, or because of, Health & Safety requirements), or to get out of doing something they have been asked to, in which case they will claim they cannot comply because of the Data Protection Act.

They rely on misinformation, and on the fear of those they abuse with these excuses, implying that some dire legal consequence will arise if their greater wisdom is ignored or challenged.

I thoroughly enjoy challenging and ignoring these little people and their inflated view of the power they think they have, especially if the confrontation leads to an even bigger confrontation to their superiors, who will also be taken down a peg if the challenge proves successful.

The following article is a little gem that should be memorised if you are amongst those who find their reasonable requests blocked by some little snot who uses the DPA as a means of avoiding compliance with such requests, and getting themselves time for an extra teabreak…

Debunking six myths of the Data Protection Act

Myth 1: The DPA says you can’t market to people without their consent

No it doesn’t. All it says is that you have to tell people when you collect their information that it will be used for marketing. But individuals can object to marketing whenever they want under a DPA right, and electronic marketing (including phone and email) normally requires consent under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.

Myth 2: You can’t process my details without my consent

There is nothing in the DPA that stipulates that consent must be obtained for any specific processing operation. The Act offers six ways in which you can comply, you only need one, and only one of them is consent of the individual. Some people think that they can dictate to banks and other organisations as to how their information is used, but although there are limited rights to object to certain processing which causes distress, if processing is necessary for a contract, for example, then no consent is needed.

Myth 3: We will never share your details with anyone else

Not exactly true. Someone making this promise might not give customer data to a spammer but they may be forced to give it to the police. Alternatively, the company might be bought, in which case the customer data may pass to a new owner.

Myth 4: We can’t investigate the theft/loss/fraud because of the DPA

The DPA allows organisations to disclose information to the police and other law enforcement agencies if they believe that not to do so would be prejudicial to the prevention and detection of crime. It also allows disclosure where the organisation has a court order or is exercising a statutory power to require disclosure. The corollary is that disclosure can be refused if the requesting party has no court order or other authority.
The provisions in the DPA that allow you to do this accord with human rights legislation and strike a balance between the interests of a crime-free society and the individual’s right to privacy.

Myth 5: We’re not allowed to tell you what went wrong because of the DPA

You shouldn’t be hiding behind the Act if you have made a mistake. People exercising subject access rights will generally have the right to be told what went wrong. There are other provisions that allow disclosures where they are in the public interest.

Myth 6: We can’t talk to you about your grandmother’s electricity bill

Wrong. If Gran authorises you by phone or letter to discuss her bill and the company accepts that, there is no problem.

Health & Safety back again

Posted in Venting with tags on July 25, 2007 by Apollo

I thought things had gone too quiet on the loony Health & Safety front, and I was right, they were saving their point to launch a classic and more widespread assault on Common Sense (whatever happen to that? It used to pretty important when I was a kid), and land a cracker of an insult on the country’s War Heroes.

A Remembrance Day parade is to be scrapped for the first time in 60 years because of ‘Health & Safety Fears’.

Every year since 1945, the town of Horwich has held a parade to remember its war dead. But thanks to health and safety rules, there won’t be one this year. And there are fears that Remembrance Day marches nationwide may be threatened by similar safety demands, which put severe pressure on budgets.

Organisers in the Lancashire town have previously relied on brief and small-scale road closures put in place for free by the police, to clear the way for the event. But this year, senior police officers said although they will still make no charge, a team of marshals must be employed to man the route at a cost of about £50 a day. In addition, organisers will have to pay for each road they want closed.

To make matters worse, Bolton Council has increased permanent road closure prices from £300 to £800 this year. These costs could bring the final bill to £18,000 – making the November 11 parade too expensive to hold. Usually it would cost only a couple of thousand pounds.

Greater Manchester Police said the extra security is necessary because another force in the West Midlands was successfully sued when Brownies participating in a parade were injured by a car which drove into them while they were marching.

But Bernard McCartin, of the Royal British Legion’s Horwich branch, warned that the cost of imposing further safety measures could affect parades across the country.

Maybe the Elderly Heroes should just carry on and have their parade without asking the Council et al, and see what they do!

Unlike most criminals, drug addict, and muggers, who seem to be coated in Teflon, I’m sure the old participants in the parade could easily be carted off to jail and fine for endangering themselves, and everyone nearby.

Don’t sit down, it’s not safe

Posted in Venting with tags on February 23, 2007 by Apollo

Even the TV shopping channels want in on the Health & Safety act.

A little gem was passed to me, relating one channel’s efforts to sell bedspreads and sheets.

Suitably draped over a ‘bed’ to make them look good, the presenter had to keep reminding her guest not to sit on the ‘bed’ -“The Health & Safety people have told us to tell you not to sit on it because it’s only a prop and not strong enough to support your weight if you sit on it“.

How hard is to knock together a few wooden panels to look like a bed and make it strong enough to sit on?

I’ve got scrap lying out the back that would handle someone sitting on it even if I only hammered them together with a few nails – were they trying to get the H&S folk upset, or were the corporate lawyers just pulling out the H&S card to cover themselves?

Health & Safety

Posted in Venting with tags on February 23, 2007 by Apollo

When I added the Health & Safety category, it was more of a personal gripe about something I was involved in being trivialised and hijacked by the ‘Jobsworth’ brigade. I didn’t really expect it to provide a regular source of observations, but I may have been wrong, and that’s just a little bit sad.

This morning, I saw an English newspaper with the good old headline splash with ‘Health and Safety’ in it, and true to form, it was yet another council looking after its legal interests (i.e. nothing to do with H&S, lots to do with not being sued), and using H&S as an excuse to explain its crazy logic.

It seem that they’re about to cut down the metal goalpost frames on the local playing field, having judged them to be a danger to RAMBLERS, who apparently walk across the field in the dark, and MAY INJURE THEMSELVES if they don’t see the goalposts, and walk into them.

The logic defies belief, and does little to explain why the counci have chosen to not to cut down the swings and other amusements adjacent to the goalposts, in the kiddie’s play area. Do they reckon there’s no danger there, since the ramblers are probably too scared to go near those in case they get targetted and beaten up as paedophiles?

Safe & Healthy in Dunoon’s leisure pool

Posted in Venting with tags on February 9, 2007 by Apollo

As if to help christen my new category of Health & Safety (lunacy), those nice people at the Dolphin Leisure Centre in Dunoon have been trawling the small print of the legislation, and come up with a new set of rules for their members to comply with. In fact, if they don’t sign a document confirming they will comply, then they’re not even getting in!

The following quote comes from the Dunoon Observer Online, of February 9, 2007. I’ve had to quot rather than summarise, as you have to read the detail of the Centre’s statements yourself, just to get the full flavour of the logic:

All users must now sign a disclaimer to acknowledge that they have read the new rules prior to being allowed access to the facilities. By signing, you are accepting the terms and conditions. Failure to sign will result in entry refusal.
One disgruntled leisure centre member, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “Myself, and plenty of others who swim at the Dolphin are very annoyed at some of the new rules and regulations.
“Basically, they are not employing a lifeguard at quiet times and we have to sign a piece of paper at the entrance before going in saying we agree to all the rules. One of the rules is that there must be a minimum of two people in the pool and the spa at all times.
“As there is not always going to be a lifeguard on duty, they have installed panic buttons. But what if it is only a mother and baby in the pool, and the mother takes ill. What would happen then?
“We have been wondering if they just want the locals who have paid their annual subscription to get fed up and to stop going over the winter months, so that they can close it down and save money on staff.”
David Dain, the General Manager, strongly refutes any allegations that they plan to close down in winter.
“Quite the opposite,” he said. “We have made these changes to try to ensure that we don’t shut down at all over the year. Business in this industry is slow between November and Easter but we have not laid off one member of staff. Some have been given other duties and others have been relocated to other parks, but not one person has lost their employment.”
He added: “Yes, there are times when there is no lifeguard sitting by the pool, but that does not mean that there is not one on the premises. We know our business pattern and the times that the pool is unmanned are when we know it is quiet.
“In quieter spells we have lifeguards carrying out other duties like cleaning the pool and conducting various health and safety checks, including the many different chemicals we use, but there are always trained lifeguards and first-aiders on the premises when the pool is open.”
He said that they are installing more panic buttons by the sides of the pool, and if ever one of them is pressed members of staff from all over the building will be automatically alerted and will attend immediately.
One of the biggest bones of contention, however, is the fact that there must always be a minimum of two people in the pool or spa at any one time. Mr Dain explains that this is for health and safety reasons. “Our main concern is for the safety of our customers. We consulted with the Health and Safety Executive and this was their recommendation. If somebody comes in on their own, and there is nobody else in the pool, then they will not be permitted down.”
When asked what would happen if, for example, there were six people swimming and five of them vacated the pool, Mr Dain said that the remaining person would be asked to leave for their own safety. He promised that “common sense would prevail with regards to any refunds.”
Another contentious issue is the ruling stating that if you have consumed any food or alcohol in the one-and-a-half-hours preceeding your visit, you will not be allowed access. “Again, this is for the customers’ own safety,” said Mr Dain. “Our insurers contacted the Health and Safety Executive regarding this and this is what they were advised.”
One further stipulation is that anyone who has a medical condition of any sort should alert the staff before swimming. The reasoning behind this, explained Mr Dain, is that they will therefore be aware in advance of any potential problems, should there be the need to deal with an emergency situation. Anyone suffering from any medical conditions that could possibly cause a danger may also be asked not to enter the pool. Again, this was recommended by the Health and Safety Executive.
Mr Dain was at pains to stress that the regulations are constantly enforced. “We implement these rules at all times, whether there is a lifeguard by the poolside or not, and we vigorously police it. This way there is no chance of a misunderstanding or a slip-up. By doing this, we are just falling in line with other privately-owned swimming pools. A lot of pools in other holiday complexes don’t actually have lifeguards at all.
“We are open to any suggestions with regards to the complex. Anything that will bring money into the business will be considered. We already host weddings, kids parties, lifeguard teaching sessions and swimming lessons at very reasonable prices.”
Mr Dain concluded by saying: “The safety of our customers is paramount. However, we need the cooperation of our customers and guests to ensure the swimming pool and leisure facilities stay open. We are trying all possible measures to ensure we don’t shut down over the winter months. The simple message is: if you don’t use it – you lose it.”
The Health and Safety Executive’s website does, in fact, confirm that there are no specific regulations governing swimming pools.
It does, however, give recommendations on employers’ responsibilities to ensure that the public is not exposed to risks to health and safety, so far as is reasonably practicable, without incurring disproportionate costs in implementing the measures.
It outlines, that whilst not legal requirements, certain elements should be taken into consideration when deciding on whether or not to have constant poolside supervision. Those factors include the nature of the pool, the activities that take place, and users of the pool. It strongly recommends supervision at all times if, amongst other things, the pool has water deeper than 1.5 metres, or if access is not restricted to members only.
When we contacted Argyll and Bute Council to ask them what their guidelines are regarding lifeguards at the Riverside in Dunoon, we were told by a spokeswoman that there are at least two lifeguards on at any one time.
“We follow the guidelines as set out by the Institute of Sport and Recreational Management, and have two fully qualified lifeguards on at all times when the pool is open. The recommendation is that a 33-metre pool should have two lifeguards, and as the Riverside pool is only 25-metres (the Dolphin has two 25-metre pools, including one for children), we are well within those guidelines.”

What I’d like to know is what happens if a swimmer doesn’t notice they’ve been left in the pool alone when everyone else has gone. Since ther’s no lifeguard, and the staff would appear to be deployed elsewhere by the management, then have they broken the terms of the disclaimer? Can they be thrown out if staff do then notice them on their own? Call the lone swimmer a liar if they say they didn’t notice? Ignore them if they’re drowning, since they’ve effectively broken the contract they signed by swimming alone?

Truly depressing stuff.

Southern Jessies

Posted in Venting with tags on February 9, 2007 by Apollo

Britain, or rather England, is in the grip of Snow Hysteria, and it’s given the Health & Safety junkies an excuse to trot out the good old “For Safety Reasons” clause once again.

Subject to what can only be called a heavy dusting of snow in the past couple of days, they’ve been thrown into despair and confusion. Schools are closed en masses, with safety and concern over “Wee Johny” slipping and getting a skint knee. Police are calling for motorists not to make any journeys unless necessary, and to carry warm clothing, blankets and shovels. All this while the TV weather reporters stand in the middle of snow falls that they have to talk up from “We’ve got anything up to 5 or 6 cm” to “But there’s 10 cm or more to come”.

Thankfully, the parents and those affected have more sense, and have described these reactions as overkill. Many are complaining that the authorities to close so many schools at this dusting of snow has cost them, as they’ve had to take time of work to remain at home with their children, and others are complaining that they are losing wages as their employers have closed in response to these warnings. As usual, the motivation for these warning is nothing to do with safety, but to help those who are in fear of being sued if “Wee Johny” should slip and skin his knee, or the adult equivalent.

What will they do if it carries on and the they get some Real Snow? One can only imagine they’ll all be reaching for bottle (or something to ‘End it all’) if they get a real sonowfall that piles up to few feet in depth, and then lies for days or weeks. They’ll all starve to death since all the roads will be closed.

*Jessies = wimp = Big Softy