29 6 mins 8 yrs


When I was first exposed to real danger, when working in an environment where your life was seriously at risk if you did not obey the rules; most of which were not written down, but learnt, off by heart, from real people who knew of those dangers by learning them from their predecessors: you learned the rules fast. At the age of 21, I was placed in charge of equipment worth millions, and more importantly, of people’s lives who used that equipment, when on board British Merchant Ships. If the Safety devices protecting an alternator, an engine, or a winch, were not tested and found satisfactory, someone could die, or be badly injured, and that death or injury would be placed at your feet, and you would be asked the reasons. When my friend the radio operator wished to have me check out the rotating radar aerial, I made damn certain that the control and power fuses for the rotating aerial were locked away until I came down from the forty-foot-high mast, so that no clown was able to switch the damn thing on, and send the aerial slicing into my back.

Similarly, when I was running the installation and engineering of a huge and complex electrical system for a South African hospital, it was my ‘Safety Document’ which was the rule for all switching and cabling connections and changes. Everything was written down, and everyone signed, so that, again, everyone was aware that eleven thousand volts; a truly lethal voltage; would not be even close to a human being, when work was underway.  We were professionals, doing a dangerous job, and ‘Health & Safety’ was paramount.

Health & Safety was always high in our minds when working in the English water industry, because each rule, each prohibition or passage, had been generated and established by professionals, for professionals. Two men died, over a weekend, in the tunnel feeding the huge, deep pumping station I was in charge of, when they failed to obey the rules. The 3 metre-dia. tunnel planned and built to carry water for London, ended in a large metal chamber, where the pump inlets would push the water up into the domestic zones of Northern London; and this chamber had been sealed for three months. The rules stated that, if a sealed chamber was breached or opened, the first item was to drop a gas detector, on the end of a rope, into the newly-opened space, to check if the atmosphere was stable, or if any noxious gases or major changes, hazardous to humans had occurred. Plain, straight forward; common-sense! But our two heroes knew so much better than scores of highly-experienced and qualified engineers; so they simply climbed down into the chamber and tunnel: and there they died, as there was less than two-percent oxygen in the tunnel and chamber, as the atmosphere had simply been denatured, nitrogen had displaced all the breathable air, and they died from a bad attack of ‘stupidity’!

Terry Waite, the enormously self-important Anglican envoy who flew to Beirut because he just ‘knew’ that his contacts in Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and the ordinary Beirut Arabic slime underground could be implicitly trusted. He has been assured that all was ‘safe’! So he climbed on to a pick-up truck crammed with armed terrorists, again trusting them all because they were all muslim, and therefore completely ‘trustworthy’: and promptly disappeared for five years. Tied to radiators, hidden in underground cells, his only contact was another hostage; until he was released after a huge ransom was paid. ‘Trustworthy’ is as trustworthy does.

FCO 312 - Nigeria Travel Advice Ed2 [WEB]Similarly, ‘humanitarian volunteer’ Alan Hemming was travelling in an ‘Aid convoy’ into the darkest place on this Earth, war-torn Syria, because he ‘wanted to help’; ‘wanted to make a difference’, and all the other bullshit phrases used to attempt to excuse the actions of a man who just ‘knew’ that he would be safe, ‘knew’ that he would compete his mission; ‘knew’ that everyone else was wrong, and he alone was ‘right’: going into a muslim maelstrom where no-one is or can be trusted, because, in the end, they all hate us, they call us ‘infidel’, they call us ‘kuffar’.

And now his bereaved family has the audacity to state that the British government should and could have done more to rescue this idiot, should have risked the lives of soldiers, because the family felt that, as a ‘volunteer’, he should have been given special treatment; despite his ignoring every knowledgeable Government Department stating the bleedingly obvious, that Syria was a no-go place, that Europeans, no matter how well-meaning, no matter how well-intentioned; simply should not be there, because their lives would be at risk the second they drove across the border.

I say, save the ink, don’t sign the books of condolence, don’t buy the silly bunches of flowers, don’t condemn the Government for its immobility; instead accept that Alan Hemming was a well-meaning but foolish man, who ignored the warnings of the real Health & Safety Brigade; who gambled with his life and placed his belief on black, but watched the wheel of life’s spin land on blood red instead!

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29 thoughts on “The truth of the real ‘Health & Safety’ Regulations.

  1. I wonder who else here shares Mike’s view?

    I know someone else who probably does, Billy Connolly.
    In 2004 Ken Bigley was kidnapped by jihadists in Baghdad, even after being warned by his guards it was not safe to stick around. They cleared off, he decided to stay.
    The video pleas and counter-threats from the hostage-takers became an almost black pantomime that went on for weeks, at which point Connolly remarked he was getting tired of seeing Bigley’s face every day, and suggested “Don’t you wish they [the jihadists] would just get on with it?” to an audience at the Apollo.
    It was a cruel remark, but many at the time thought Bigley had no-one else to blame but himself, and Connolly never apologised; and his career was unaffected.

    At least it was satisfying to know that Fallujah, where Bigley was held & murdered, was attacked and reduced to a smoking ruin & terrorist graveyard by US forces, later that year.

  2. I say, save the ink, don’t sign the books of condolence, don’t buy the silly bunches of flowers

    I say this is a despicable comment.

  3. “accept that Alan Hemming was a well-meaning but foolish man, who ignored the warnings of the real Health & Safety Brigade; who gambled with his life and placed his belief on black, but watched the wheel of life’s spin land on blood red instead!”

    I have to agree with Mike on this point. I do not agree, however, with his personal criticisms. The lesson is that if you put yourself at risk, you have to accept the consequences and nobody else is obliged to dig you out of the hole.

  4. You’re on dodgy ground with that last sentence, Matt.
    Lot of people eat & smoke too much, and end up ill.
    Should the taxpayer be obliged to dig them out of a hole?

  5. Billy Connolly is one of the many acts whose star shrinks after crossing the Atlantic.He’s very small beer in this country. I’ll always associate him with that comment and with nothing else.Cruelty of that sort I will never understand.

    If someone should decide to break the jaw of he unfunny comedian some night, I may find it in my heart to forgive them.

  6. Still, there are situations so vicious and insane that humanitarian aid, however well intentioned, is a bad idea, and where nothing short of military intervention will improve them. Mike does have a point.

  7. “You’re on dodgy ground with that last sentence, Matt.”

    I disagree, which is why I used the qualifier ‘obliged’. Nobody ‘has’ to sacrifice themselves for others. If they choose to, that is their choice, not anybody elses.

    The drinking and smoking arguement is a red herring. In the UK, tax income from alcohol and cigarettes far exceeds what is spent in the NHS on these conditions.

    Food is however zero rated. Maybe you have a point! 🙂

  8. The lesson is that if you put yourself at risk, you have to accept the consequences and nobody else is obliged to dig you out of the hole.

    Agreed, but there is no need to gloat.

  9. Noel, mike’s point is lost in his cotempt of his fellow man. Imaging how angry you must be to despise people who are murdered or killed in an accident.

  10. Yes.

    Here, he despises a taxi driver – an ” idiot ” – whose crime was to try to give aid and comfort to suffering people.

  11. Truth be told, I normally don’t read Mike’s posts and didn’t read this one. I find them long-winded and, with his ever-present ego, scarcely readable. I got the gist from the opening and the end, and the comments that followed, and missed the bit about the accident.
    His sneering at victims of accidents is nothing new, and is just another part of his perverted narcissism.

    Forget him.
    The question is what is to be done about Syria and N. Iraq.
    In the Bosnia war, the presence of people trying to do good on the ground in effect facilitated the real bad guys and helped preserve the killing fields. If the West wants to do something to prevent massacre in Syria/Iraq, their presence there may pose the same problem.

  12. Have a look at that map. Does anybody notice the straight lines as though drawn by a ruler? In fact, those lines were drawn by a ruler in the Foreign Office of the British government about 1917. That’s what imperialism is about: meddling in other peoples’ lands

  13. Truth be told, I normally don’t read Mike’s posts and didn’t read this one. I find them long-winded and, with his ever-present ego, scarcely readable.


  14. I would say that the idiots who go to west Africa to catch ebola should be compelled to stay there. Health and Safety applies to populations too.

  15. Noel

    No doubt the main reason why US & EU troops are reluctant to put men on the ground out there is what would they do with captured IS militiamen? Do they kill them all, or hand them to the Iraqi authorities who would shoot them out of hand?
    Would the West want to be seen as complicit in such brutal reprisals?
    There’s no conventional ‘enemy’ out there or recognised nation state as with Bosnia etc. Fighters come from all round the world.
    What would the West do, send all prisoners to the Hague and try them as war criminals?

    This is why the US wants non-Western countries to do the dirty work.
    Turkey, 99% Sunni, is expected to step in; there’s no-one else!
    Then watch the crap hit the fan.

  16. Re: US involvement…we (at least many of us; I don’t speak for all) are also very tired of our countrymen coming home in coffins. When I was at Arlington Cemetary earlier this week I witnessed the burial of one unfortunat son. It is a ceremony I’d rather never to witness again.

  17. I would like to mention that it was a very moving ceremony and had it been someone who had lived a long life, I would have been impressed…black horses pulling a caisson with a flag-draped coffin atop. But he wasn’t…he was a young man gone to soon.

  18. This is why the US wants non-Western countries to do the dirty work.

    Or to be the least bit accurate, we’d like the Arabs and Turks to stand up like men for the first time in their recent lives and address a problem that if left unaddressed will hurt them a million times more than it does the US.

    ISIS would not be the big problem that it now is if the well armed and well trained and Shia dominated Iranian Army had fought or if the Turks had not allowed free flow of jihadis on its southern border.

    If they don’t fight now, they never will.

    We can’t fight everyone’s ground battles. Maybe there can be a ” Libertarian Brigade ” to help out.

  19. //How did aid donors preserve the killing fields?//

    I meant the many UN and NGO aid organisations that were taken as hostages and used as human shields in one form or another. For years, the excuse given by the UN and European countries – most notably France and Britain – against intervening was that any military measures would endanger these organisations. The slaughter thus went on.

    As for Syria/Iraq, nobody expects a president that came to power with a disengagement pledge to commit ground troops, and Phantom is right that the US can’t be expected to do the dirty work forever. Surely aversion to the likes of ISIS is something that unites the entire world: the West and Iran, China and the Syria, Russia and Africa. An international move to help local armies stop this menace is needed. And this time there should be no get-out card: reluctant warriors like Germany and even Ireland must be involved. That way anyone failing to chip in for whatever reason would be easily identified.

  20. “I find it hard to see the humour here”

    My smiley face related to the specific point about food being zero VAT rated and referred back to the point about the tax contributions of smokers and drinkers in a light-hearted way. I shouldn’t have to explain that.

    Lighten up mate!

  21. A world where nobody took selfless risks with their own safety in order to help fellow humans in distress would be a cold and horrible place where little progress or kindness would grow. Alan Hemming was one of the many very small cogs who make the world turn in a better direction than it otherwise would.

  22. On one hand I tend to admire people who are willing to go and try and help people in trouble like this, but on the other I consider them to be extremely foolish. If the places concerned required aid and it was a practical proposition to send it, I’m sure that one of the major charities would have done so.
    For those who want to do charitable work, but not get involved with the major charities, there is plenty to be done in this country (“Charity begins at Home”) with many small charities crying out for help.

  23. we need the wild eyed dreamers that choose to go into these areas, they represent hope for mankind. However if you choose to be a martyr because that is what they are choosing, no blood or treasure should be spent on your behalf when it goes wrong.

  24. I know that Mike eschews anything to do with religion, but I wonder if he feels the same about the Christian priests who, regardless of their own safety, ventured out into No-man’s-Land during WW1, to administer succour and the Last Rites to wounded soldiers?
    Maybe it was their ‘Ministry’ to do so, but they weren’t obliged to take such selfless action in time of war.

    Even a taxi driver can feel the primal urge to help another human being.

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