Saturday, 25 April 2009

Health and Efficiency

Those of a certain age will perhaps recall the magazine of that name, which, under the thinly disguised veil (or lack of it) of 'naturism' satisfied every schoolboy's pubescent fantasies with liberal helpings of the naked, if airbrushed, female form. My tale today is of a different Health and Efficiency - the imposition of Health and Safety considerations on what was once a simple job. Driving back from a Highland and Islands Fire Board meeting in Inverness, on the A9 trunk road, in a dual carriageway section, I came across one of those big yellow lorries with a huge flashing 'keep right' arrow on the back of it, moving very slowly. Another couple of hundred yards along the road, there was another one, performing exactly the same function, and moving equally slowly. Another hundred yards further along and guess what - there's another one. Immediately in front of this one is a little tractor, with a mowing attachment, trimming the roadside verge - a verge which, by the way, given that it's barely spring yet in the Highlands had no more than an inch of growth on it and really didn't need trimming yet. Once upon a time, this job would have been done by a machine on the verge, not one on the road with an attachment overhanging the verge, and there would have been a warning triangle or two by the road side ahead of the spot to warn of 'grass trimming'. Now, we're so ruled by the health and safety mafia that we get this kind of over-reaction - why three of the beasts, for goodness' sake? They're huge - you can't miss them - surely one would do if it's really necessary to have them at all. But what on earth is the cost per mile of trimming verges that don't need trimming using four vehicles and four drivers? And what is the value to the drivers of these vehicles of a job that must be as satisfying as being a lift operator in a bungalow?

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