A couple of years back, a Health and Safety expert came to my office. I arrived a few minutes after him and promptly stumbled over the briefcase he’d left on the floor just inside the door. Health and safety, eh?
Now, before you get hot under the collar, I’m not having a dig at health and safety. Besides, getting too hot under the collar might well be a health and safety issue.
I appreciate the need to avoid unnecessary hazards, minimise risks and maximise safe outcomes. (You see? I’m even becoming fluent in H&S.) But whatever happened to good old fashioned common sense? How can we judge a situation if we're rarely allowed to use our critical faculties?
The 21st century is the era of not-too-high, not-too-fast, not-too-heavy, not-too-dark. Not-too-anything, in fact.
I remember being in a group of journalists reporting from an airport. To comply with health and safety regulations, each of us was ordered to wear a high-visibility vest. It was a thing of beauty in retina-melting yellow.
We looked like a gaggle of nuclear ducks and I was the biggest quack in the pond.
I needed to record a quick 'piece-to-camera', so for a brief moment I took off the hi-vis to save viewers the horror of seeing this garish yellow monstrosity. As I grabbed the microphone and turned to the camera, I was immediately spotted by a distant health and safety official. He trundled over and ordered me to stop recording and put the hi-vis back on.
“How did you spot me?” I asked him.
“Easy," he announced, "you weren’t wearing your hi-vis yellow vest so you stood out like a sore thumb.”
Inside my head, the needle on my irony detector twitched towards red.
Defeated and perplexed in equal measure, I retired to a nearby building where refreshments were being provided for the media.
“Cup of tea, please,” I said. “But not too hot.”
After all, if you can’t beat them, join them.