Time for a short story, methinks. This one was originally posted on authonomy, but I doubt many people read it.
Safety begins at home
The Royal Society of Health and Safety Inspectors’ annual dinner dance was the highlight of Ray’s otherwise moribund life. It was neither the friendship nor companionship he liked the most, but the planning and execution of the meeting. It was, without doubt, the safest (and possibly the healthiest) dinner dance in the world being as it was planned and coordinated by the most elite of the society’s members.
Sat at his table, Ray inspected the knives (regulation level three sharpness, the potential risk of minor cuts minimised), the forks (category two bluntness, but still a small risk of piercing) and the table cloth (made of 50% wool to minimise slippage.)
Satisfied all was well, he surveyed the room. His colleagues were mingling, drinking and walking round with clipboards. A few of them inspected various items with tape measures and approving nods. He noticed in the corner of the room Greg Nappel, the society’s president, begin his approach to the stage.
The background noise in the room, played at precisely twenty eight decibels, faded. The minglers and drinkers took their tables, some of them inspecting the chair legs before they sat. Ray watched Greg walk to the stage then climb up the reinforced, two-handled ramp clearly labeled, ‘For Trained Operatives only.’ Then, he walked to the ergonomic podium, its height previously adjusted via a clip board risk assessment to not cause Greg any discomfort.
The microphone hissed once as he spoke. “Good evening ladies, gentlemen and Health and Safety operatives.” It was the same joke each year, but it always got a laugh, even from Ray. He continued, “Before the annual ‘Safest Safety Worker’ competition, I’d like to say a few words.”
Then, just as Greg put his hand on the podium for support, it happened.
Richard Binwell, the North East Region’s most senior Health and Safety Inspector, had inspected the podium for all safety fastenings, rough edges, electric and static electricity earthing and also the danger of blinding by reflection from the hall’s many spotlights. However, he hadn’t checked the topple point: the point at which, if pressure was applied, the podium would topple. It wasn’t his fault. It wasn’t on the safety checklist. It wasn’t on his clipboard.
Via a combination of poor footing, the pre-speech sherry and a heavy hand, Greg’s weight on the podium started to tip it. Losing his balance, he leaned further forwards, helplessly grabbing for the podium as it toppled and he started to fall.
His weight now too far forward, in one last desperate attempt, he lunged for the podium. Mistiming his grab, he instead pushed and, losing his footing, fell after it. The podium fell from the stage, landing first on the head of Western-Super-Mare’s safety representative, then onto the lead table, knocking over two bottles of wine.
In the rush to stand up, the other members of the lead table capsized the table onto its side, squashing the representative for East Grinstead. The falling Greg landed in a pool of wine on the floor, closely followed by the ripped power cables from the microphone and podium lights.
The fatal fizzing electric shock he received created panic amongst the onlookers. Two were crushed to death in the stampede to exit, while sixteen others gained minor injuries including finger dislocations, broken limbs and trampled toes. Poor Ray somehow received a freak castration after falling knackers first into a pile of category three forks while others accidently trampled him in their haste to flee.
The Newspapers, of course, had not only a field day but a whole field week. The annual dinner dance was cancelled indefinitely and a period of mourning set aside for the ex-president and the other deceased.
To big to fail is now 55,000 words long and well on target for the christmas deadline.
Another picture from Village of Joy