Don't Get Me Started on Health and Safety!

May 19, 2012

'ATTENTION - WET FLOOR' - proclaims a bright yellow sign. All around it, a great pool of water sprawls across the station floor. Quickly, I divert my route to join the rest of the rush-hour onslaught, parted like a colony of ants before a great boulder. Tiptoeing carefully round its boundaries, I think how grateful I am that I hadn't gone charging in recklessly toward the hazard zone.

Just imagine the consequences for some poor businessman, clad from head to toe in crisp grey suit, casually walking by...then suddenly...slip. The bulging briefcase erupts into a flurry of papers, arms and legs flailing in clumsy desperation; glasses, expensive smartphone, laptop and pager all come crashing down - bombshells in a fierce battlefield. He slides to a halt. Finally, I imagine the embarrassed face glaring upward from the trail of destruction, and only one phrase can describe that glowing red face - like an exploding tomato. Yes ladies and gentlemen. It is the look of 'it could've easily been avoided.

Well, it could have. And thankfully, due to that one sign, that one bit of neon yellow plastic, that entire scene was confined to the bounds of my imagination. We all know that the warning and hazard signs we see all around us every day are just vital aid to keep everything running smoothly. Whether they're there to guide us round the threat of a crumbling road, to give visibility to a lurking blindspot, or even simply to slow us down for a zebra crossing, they will always be there to stop us from interrupting our daily lives when we've taken our own eye out. Or indeed for that matter, somebody else's.

We can therefore conclude that warning signs serve only one purpose. That is to rescue us before we can reach that that inevitable result of being confronted with unexpected danger. These following words, to the ears, truly music of evil. Those, when we must shake our heads, perhaps sigh, or even shed a tear or two and utter these same painstaking, soul destroying words. It is when we kick ourselves and admit that it could've easily been avoided.

However, it's not actually surprising that sometimes we are left with just one of such cases. After all, there is only a limited extent to which our observations can serve us to the capacity that necessity demands! Sometimes we need someone there to tell us to rethink or divert before it's too late. And a warning sign does just that: through wind, rain, hail and snow. And it doesn't complain

That's all well and good.

On the contrary though, I bring to light today, a very new concern. This concern is of a sudden surge of obsession over health and safety. An obsession that erects colourful signs everywhere it can, to tell you that a cliff face is a 'STEEP DROP', or to reassure you that a gravel beach is a 'ROUGH SURFACE'. This very same obsession is culpable for sticking up a bold blue exclamation mark to make sure you know that the automatic doors in front of Sainsbury's are - believe it or not - in fact automatic!

Unfortunately, that's only the tip of the iceberg.

It is now I must prove that due to circumstances mentioned above (and those to follow), that the warning signs we're used to, are beginning to lose any sense of purpose at all, as well as stealing away the role of common sense from right beneath it's nose!

Does it really take a huge red sticker pasted across my cooker to make me think twice about sticking my head under a searing grill? Apparently 'shampoo can cause blindness'. I don't even have the spare 3 hours I'd have to spend, stood there pouring it in my eye. And I would've been deterred LONG before reading a message on a matchbox which warns me 'Fire Kills Children!'. Or does that just mean that it'd be fine for my parents?

Just kidding.

But on a more serious note, let's put this into the context of indisputable reality. The iconic microwave story. There are innumerable uploads on YouTube involving microwaves. Despite the violent buzz and hiss of the blue illuminations, flung like bolts of lightening when you put foil in. Despite the magnificent explosions and vibrant colours of vegetable guts spilled everywhere. Despite the glowing pile embers which concludes every single one of such marvellous spectacles, there was one woman who ignored the warning-ignored the ferocious plea called out by these videos, and decided to dry her the microwave.

I'll very quickly bypass the graphic imagery, probably very distinctly reminiscent of descriptions provided above, that one would've most undoubtedly conjured in one's mind. We all know what must've happened. My point is that it doesn't stop there. My point is that regardless of all these warnings, so clearly thrust before us. Regardless of the prevalence of the most basic level of common sense and what it dictates to us, the court who bore witness to the trial of this ludicrous case, concluded with a verdict that to any human being - I certainly hope - would be miles out of the bounds of sanity.

The microwave company was to blame. And suddenly the dog murderer was innocent-all because there was no sticker there to advise her otherwise.

Is this blatant mockery? One malevolent rogue taking advantage and manipulating a hypersensitive law system? Or is this where I shake my head, exalt a defeated sigh, wipe the tears cascading from my eyes, and admit to myself that we are all doomed?

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