When I’m writing for work, I learn much more about things that normally wouldn’t interest me very much. Sometimes I find that it changes the way I think about the topics. This morning I was writing about health and safety laws and evacuation chairs. I was reminded of when, many years ago, I started a teaching job at a further education college.
On the first day I had to join several other new employees for induction training. Part of it covered safe manual handling and using evacuation chairs. I now know it was woefully inadequate, really just paying lip service to what the law required. We didn’t take any of it seriously. Even the tutors seemed to operate with tongue in cheek.
When it came to operating the evacuation chairs, volunteers were required to sit in the chair at the top of a flight of stairs so that each of us could have a go at moving them down. I didn’t volunteer as I was afraid of being tipped out. And the short session came to an end before it was my turn to handle the chair, for which I breathed a sigh of relief. We were not advised about techniques for getting a person from a wheelchair into the evac chair, and I wouldn’t expect that any of us felt really capable of taking charge in an emergency. Thank goodness it was never necessary in my time and I didn’t have any vulnerable people in my classes when the fire drill was tested.
Many of us still find health and safety regulations a joke, but I had to check out the news items on the Health and Safety Executive’s website. I was horrified at some of the incidents that were reported, and at what organisations had been prosecuted for. Of course, it does become a joke when companies take it too far out of ignorance about how to comply – it really isn’t necessary to carry out a risk assessment on using a tape measure or put guidelines on how to walk upstairs on the staff noticeboard. Still, I’m not going to be so dismissive of health and safety considerations in future.