Episode 14 BOFH 2002: Episode 14
"..and so we're looking to identify problems in the workplace that could lead to illness, injury or personal discomfort," the Human Resources Health and Safety Droid burbles happily to the majority of the IT Dept.
Sigh. It's the same thing every year - we're obliged to attend an Occupational Health and Safety Course and identify risks in our environment that need to be addressed. Failure to attend means you're marked 'absent from school' and get docked a day's pay, thanks to the stooley nature of the HR Droid concerned. The rows of vacant faces are a testament to how well this works after the low attendance last year...
"Obviously, this is good for both you and the company," The Droid continues, "because we reduce the incidence of accidents to you and lost revenue to the company!"
"Didn't we already do this?" The PFY murmurs quietly, remembering something similar from days past.
"Yes," I respond. But it hasn't escaped the attention of the HR department that whilst accident reports for us two remain at a static ZERO, accidents in our area just keep increasing."
"Oh. So you mean they wanted us to identify areas which put OTHER people at risk?!?"
"I believe that was the purpose, yes."
"Ah! Now I get it! I did think they were paying a lot more attention to our wellbeing than they normally did."
"DO YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO SHARE WITH EVERYONE?" the HR Feeb snaps in a distinctly annoyed manner.
"Well, yes," The PFY replies. "This identifying danger areas - would this be like the Danger of getting shut in a tape safe over the weekend?"
"Well YES, I think that would be a valid danger!" he responds, pleasantly surprised that someone was listening for once. "And so from that danger, or potential accident, we would work back to the cause, and ways to prevent it."
"Oh. OK, well I suppose the cause would be annoying me, and ways of preventing it would be locking my office door and taking the phone off the hook."
"No, I think you misunderstand. We're talking about ways to prevent the accident occurring - or getting worse - like perhaps fitting a safety release to the inside of the door."
"Oh," I interject. "We actually used to have one of those, but it was removed to ensure that in the unlikely event of someone being trapped in the tape safe it would provide enough air to sustain life."
"You mean the safe is airtight?"
"Well it HAS to be airtight to work - otherwise the heat of a fire would penetrate the safe and destroy the media."
"Ok, but thinking back a step, wouldn't the safety release remove the need for an air hole?"
"Ordinarily yes," I concur, "but in the UNLIKELY event that a large filing cabinet was ACCIDENTALLY leant up against the outside release mechanism, it would still provide the air needed for the person inside."
"I think you're multiplying slight probabilities here, and the likelihood of this happening as you described is extremely small."
"But still a possibility," The PFY responds darkly.
"But not one which would lead to anyone endorsing the removal of a safety feature in a device. Tell me, who removed the lever concerned?"
"I did," The PFY responds tersely, obviously thinking back to that couple of hours of feverish activity before the torch batteries ran out...
"Well it's not recommended, and as an Official Safety Agent of the Company I'm required to ask you to replace it - but how would someone even get trapped in a tape safe?" the HR Droid asks, really starting to labour the point now. "Surely it has shelves, and tapes, in it?"
"Well there's no point in putting tapes in it if they're not going to be safe from fire," I respond, deciding on the recursive approach, " what with that air hole in it and all."
"But if you put the door release back, then replace the shelves, there'd be no possibility that someone would get locked in the safe!!!" he cries triumphantly.
"But then there'd be no air in the safe," The PFY blurts, playing dumb.
"You don't need it!"
"You do if you're trapped in it over a Bank Holiday Weekend just because you won too many games of Unreal Tournament and your Supervisor is a poor sport!" The PFY replies.
Perhaps I'm being oversensitive, but I may have detected a slight touch of annoyance in The PFY's voice - almost as if he still bears a grudge about the lost weekend last year. I momentarily consider advising him to just let it go, but decide to play it safe and say nothing.
"But you can't get lock in there if the lever and shelves are in there!"
"I'm not sure I follow you," I say, joining the discussion..
"It's simple," he explains, going to the whiteboard and drawing pictures frantically.
The rest of the audience look on silently - knowing what this means - the God of Workplace Harmony requires a sacrifice...
"I'm not sure I follow you either," one of the IT geeks speaks up, remembering only too well the reduced pay packet he encountered this time last year. "Perhaps we should actually see it in-situ, as it were."
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God of Workplace Harmony appeased, good fortune soon to follow... ®