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“Who is my neighbour?”

By Mike Cunningham On February 7th, 2013

The theme around the Stafford Hospital tragedy seems to lean towards ‘responsibility’ and whether  a nurse, a doctor or, indeed, a management executive, upon seeing something disturbing; such as a patient lying in their own urine or faeces, should attempt to do something about this, or pass by on the other side of the ward.

I used to work in Construction as a M&E (mechanical, electrical) consulting engineer, on the supervisory side of things; directing, checking and approving all activities related to my expertise. The first day of my time on a very large project in the City of London, our big boss said to all present, “The one thing you must do is never to walk past a dangerous situation; you must always sort it. Because if you don’t, and someone is either injured or killed, you are responsible for that injury or death. No ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’, no excuses; that is the Law!”

I was given responsibility for all aspects of work on a seven-storey building which was a bit of an orphan, in that it was to be occupied by the ultimate client, but no-one wanted to look after the various bits of it. So on my first walk around site, I just noted all the areas where equipment and work activities were not to my liking, or where the possibility existed for safety problems to occur. For example, I sent back three truckloads of ventilation ducting on the grounds that all edges were razor sharp, no de-burring had been done, and if an inexperienced operator picked a section up without gloves, his hands would be lacerated within seconds. I went through the entire site like that, making sure that the men, and sometimes women, were protected in spite of themselves.

Up on the top floor slab, I came across a team who were installing large sections of plasterboard walling which would form a ventilation shaft up through the entire building. No safety barriers existed, piles of equipment were haphazardly dumped anywhere, and no safety rules were being even paid lip service. As it was the first time I had seen this crew, I mildly pointed out the many omissions within the work area; told the crew I would be watching for improvements, but decided to let them work on. As I descended the staircase, I heard the foreman mutter, “F******* Safety Bastard,. I reversed my course, stopped all their work on site, told the foreman that he would only be allowed to continue once all the relevant safety precautions were in place, all working and safety paperwork had been reviewed not only by myself but also the senior safety officer; all working practices would be monitored on a daily basis, and he would really have to watch the bad language!

Transfer that attitude to the Stafford Hospital, and those 1200 people would not have been even placed at risk, never mind died in their own filth.

3 Responses to ““Who is my neighbour?””

  1. Good job.

    You should not need legal requirements but we do, since many are sloppy.

    In the hospital, you might think that some would have intervened more out of a sense of duty for people suffering,of care. Law and management should not even need to intervene, if more people cared.

  2. But these days accountants rule the roost.
    I was responsible for a site and wanted some money for what I considered essential and urgent safety work. The chief accountant turned down the request for money. We had a row, with myself demanding the refusal in writing, with reasons, so that I could produce it at the Coroner’s inquest if necessary.
    Approval of my request for early retirement on very favourable terms came through a month later. So the money men won in the end as the newly appointed and newly promoted engineer probably wouldn’t be so insistent.

  3. My customers are maniacs for proper safety. A proper dollar spent now will save you ten down the road, along with lives, and less downtime.