Because we have volunteers working at the farm, we always give them a briefing on safety and hazards before they start working.
This makes sense to me because, as my osteopath can attest, the farm has lots of hazards and I have found most of them.
Usually we’ve had professional park rangers lead the volunteer groups and they handle the safety briefings. But I decided it was time I started doing it, so a while back I duly registered for an Official Safety Course. The course took a whole day and it was one of those things that when you are finished, you wonder how the human race has survived for as long as it has.
First, there are the stories of some of the, er, stupid things that people have done to injure themselves (trimming the bushes with a gas powered lawn mower is one of my favorites). Then there are some of the outrageous accident compensation claims that people have filed when, legitimately or otherwise, they have been injured.
So I have learned to tell volunteers that they should try not to cut off their toes with the spade when they dig a hole to plant a tree, that muddy hillsides are slippery and that (most of us) aren’t able to walk across bodies of water. Oh, and that no one knows for sure, but it’s probably not a good idea to pee on an electric fence.
We also learned how to do a “risk assessment” which is the process of identifying potential risks in a given situation.
I am not a paranoid personality, but after going through the risk assessment “doctrine,” I seriously considered becoming a hermit. Everything can and will hurt you. And if you think you are safe, it’s only because you haven’t adequately assessed the realities of the situation. That innocent pile of potting mix is a breeding ground for lethal bacteria. That planting stake is a dangerous weapon in the wrong hands (incidentally, the sharp and blunt ends both present different risks). That empty flower pot can kill you if you’re not careful.
I tell you this because it is only after having attended the class and becoming suitably paranoid that I was able to discern that a headline I saw in the paper today is not a hoax. Because any rational person who has not been through a government sponsored risk assessment class wouldn’t have believed the following headline:
Eye catching, isn’t it?
It turns out that there is an astronomy show on the BBC called Stargazing Life (yeah, I know), and a recent proposed episode was cancelled because the featured experiment “broke the corporation’s health and safety rules.”
What were they going to do? Visit a black hole?
No. The presenter was going to point a radio telescope at a recently discovered planet to see if there were any inhabitants who might be broadcasting in our direction.
I don’t know about you, but I’m inclined to think that such an exercise might have the same results as Geraldo Rivera opening Al Capone’s vault, but it sounds like an interesting experiment.
But it was not to be according to the BBC legal department.
Why? Because they have no health and safety regulations covering encounters with alien civilizations and therefore the risk was deemed to be unacceptable.
I wouldn’t have believed it—except I’ve been trained to.
(Free Digital Photos)