On the afternoon of Monday 29th March, while a low pressure weather system moved over the British Isles and started dragging icy winds and snow down from the Arctic Circle, Faith and I were sunbathing and occasionally slipping into the pool to cool off!
I know that you’re probably getting fed up with articles that begin like that but please just stick with me for a while longer – this story doesn’t STAY in Tenerife!
Anyway, we were just drying off from such a dip when the microphone on the “Poolside Entertainment Station” was switched on.
A very nice English lady then proceeded to deliver a lecture (in English only) to the multi-national sunbathers on the perils of ultra violet radiation, the importance of using the right type of sun protection and the active ingredients it should contain. I thought at one point that she must have shares in an Aloe Vera processing plant!
Quite what the other nationalities thought of it all I dread to think! Especially the French!
“Ze stupeed Eengleesh, zey ‘ave to be told ‘ow to sunbathe!!”
Very shortly before I stopped listening I heard her reminding us that we were 700 miles further south than the Mediterranean coast of Spain and that the sun was therefore hotter!
I had two thoughts at that point. The first was the astrophysical fact that the actual temperature of the sun is not affected by anything to do with earthly latitudes and that she really meant that more of that heat gets through the atmosphere down here due to the increased angle of incidence. I just may have been getting a little pedantic at that point!
The second thought was “Yes! And I’ve travelled 700 miles south of the Mediterranean in the hope of getting away from PEOPLE TELLING ME WHAT TO DO!”
Now don’t get me wrong, I KNOW that you can get serious burns and even skin cancer from excessive exposure to the sun but because I DO know about it I DON’T want someone droning on about it while I’m on holiday and trying to relax!
I strongly suspect that the well meaning and sincere lady is funded by the “Sunburn Division” of some European branch of the dreaded Health & Safety Executive – the organisation dedicated to stamping out anything, however much fun it is, if it might just be the tiniest bit dangerous.
In short she was what I call “A Safety Elf”!
I promised you that this story wouldn’t stay in Tenerife – and this is where it leaves.
Back in the good old days when I still had a job we had a “Chief Safety Elf” (or Health & Safety Manager) who was incapable of any sort of independent thought!
She did not like the IT Department because we not only dared to argue with her “word-of-god” pronouncements but did so calmly and logically instead of just doing what she wanted.
Her name was Rachel and we called her “Rachel Hatred”, not only because she REALLY disliked us but also because “Inciting Rachel Hatred” was something we could get away with while sounding like something else that definitely wasn’t allowed.
To give you an example of the kind of dogmatic stupidity we had to put up with she once asked me why there had to be so many “computer wires” under people’s desks. It turned out that she meant the two mains cables serving each PC “box” and its monitor!
“Because they won’t work without electricity!” was the rather curt reply I gave but on reflection I should have kept silent, taken her very strong hint as an order and gone round after hours removing the offending wires! Mind you if I HAD done so even “on Health & Safety orders” the Directors would probably still have accused ME of being the one not behaving sensibly!
On the day in February 2009 when a large portion of the site I worked at (including Rachel) was sold to a rival company those of us remaining with the “rump” of the old company were told that our own Departmental Managers were now responsible for Health & Safety matters.
No-one, however, informed Rachel of this – after all we were now (quite literally) none of her business so they shouldn’t have needed to inform her.
Now getting such a person to relinquish ANY part of their powers is never easy and a few weeks later she breezed into our little office block (which was, remember, ENTIRELY outside of her jurisdiction) with her superior from the new company.
They both started discussing potential risks and making notes, fortunately for us, unfortunately for them, in one of the other offices and we received a “tip-off” from a colleague giving us ten minutes to prepare.
As they marched into the IT office my Manager immediately asked them who they were, what their business was, where their visitors badges were and, furthermore, WHY they had totally ignored the safety sign on the door to the department reading “Danger! Sensitive IT and Telecoms equipment. STRICTLY no admittance without permission from the IT Manager or his Deputy”!
In fact, his Deputy (ME) had hurriedly switched THAT notice from the Server Room door to the main one but they weren’t to know that and had no satisfactory answer to ANY of those questions (except for who they were which I think they DID manage when they’d had time to think about it).
I had also used the rest of our ten minutes warning to set up all six of the computers on our workbench with a scrolling screensaver proclaiming in highly visible text “Health & Safety – keeping idiots in the human gene pool!” I could have added “and in employment” to that but didn’t want to be unkind!
To say that their defeat and retreat from the building were total, swift and inglorious does not begin to sum it up and I’m sure that they could hear us laughing all the way back across the yard to their own domain.
And the moral of this story is that “Even Health & Safety doesn’t mess with the I.T. Department – it’s neither healthy nor safe!”