Health and bloody safety: what is the point? It permeates all sections of life. You can’t even put a light outside your own home without breaching some law or other. OK, so some of it is OK, like putting warnings on fireworks not to swallow them when alight – that’s you or the firework, but I bought a mouse for my computer from Sainsbury’s only to read:

Microwaved mouse

It is dangerous as it never occurred to me to cook the damn thing, but now the idea is in my head  .  .  .

And I bet you’re wondering what might happen if I did.

There used to be an advert on TV where a person was injured through using the ‘wrong type of ladder’. So what was so different about the one he used? Was it to be used only for going sideways? Or did it only have an up, so meaning the user had to jump down? I mean, ladders must be serious stuff.

I am in some way guilty of being H&S mad. I was in civilian clothes and walking to police HQ for a meeting, deciding to go via a pleasant way through a little park. Near to a children’s play area, with swings and such, there were a few trees in a little copse. Standing behind the tree, so that he could not be seen by people in the play area, was a man dressed in dark clothing smoking a cigarette somewhat furtively.

There were young women with children in the area so it was well worth a stop, as the term was. I went up to the chap, identified myself as a police officer, and asked him what he was doing ‘loitering near a children’s play area’.

He was immediately embarrassed. He stumbled in reply, then dropped the cigarette to the ground and stubbed it out.

“It’s not what you think,” he said.

“What am I thinking,” I asked.

Just then from behind me a woman called out loudly. It frightened me and I took a step back.

“He’s my husband,” she said. “I sent him away because he’s smoking. I don’t want [child’s name] seeing him.”

I apologised for intruding, but both of them were very supportive of what I had done. “It’s a relief,” the woman said. “To know CID are looking around.” I was in communications, but the explanation of having swollen neck glands so I couldn’t do up my top button would have confused matters I felt.

The swollen neck glands used to be a fairly regular feature, a virus the doctors said. In other words, they hadn’t a clue. I had a little trick I used to use with a colleague if we were on a crowded train. He would ask what was up with my neck. I’d say I had mumps, and the crowding would ease.

One morning I woke in pain and my head turned to the left. Any attempt to move it meant excruciating agony. I was working away at a training centre and one of the other instructors ran me to the hospital. We were regulars at the A&E, taking students who had done something silly and broken various bits and were on nodding terms with the doctors, although that wasn’t an option for me that day.

He told me something (he gave me a name, but he didn’t seem certain as to what it was, just that it was) in my neck had gone over the gland when I was relaxed asleep and that it needed to be twisted back. I told him it was agony and he said not to worry, he’d use a local anaesthetic.

The needle gave no sensation. After a few seconds he held my head in his hand and twisted it. There was a sort of twang and everything felt better. That is until he let go of my head.

It all but fell off. I had no muscle on the right side. No matter how much I concentrated on leaning my head to the right, I’d soon forget and it would flop over to the left.

“I always have a laugh when I see people do that,” he said.

“Was there another way?” I asked.

“Not one that is as much fun.”

He’d treated me before. I’d dislocated two toes playing badminton. Another instructor and I used to challenge any two students to a match. If they won, we’d buy the class drinks. We were good and would always choose the cross country day for the match.

We hadn’t banked on an England under 21 player joining the job and we were pushed all around the court. Until my injury.

It was remarkable how quickly the toes swelled up. I was taken to casualty by ambulance and ‘my’ doctor looked amused as he studied them.

“We have two options,” he said. “The choice is yours. Firstly we can give three injections of local anaesthetic.” He pointed to the base of each dislocated toe and the place where there used to be a gap between them.

“It takes a while.”

In came a nurse who smiled at me. She was distracting.

“Or we could just snap them into place. I take hold of the two toes and just pull them.”

He then grabbed hold of both toes and pulled them, they snapping back into place with sweet agony.

“Thanks for choosing the quicker method,” he said as I laid back onto the bed after sitting blot upright when he’d mangled my toes.

I could sue the doctor now of course.

I took over a shift that had a black African chap on it, Tony. We had a chap called Fred for whom personal hygiene was not seen as much to bother about on an early turn. His nickname was black Fred. When the black chap, Tony, joined the shift his nickname gave everyone a bit of a quandary. He was a lovely bloke and washed so it was inevitable he was awarded Fred in order to differentiate him totally from black Fred. So we had two Freds on the shift, black Fred who was more or less white, and Fred who was always black.

Worried about my career  I asked Fred, the black one, not black Fred, if he minded the little joke. He was adamant that he enjoyed it. He was more worried about how black Fred, the white chap, would feel. So everyone was happy apart, possibly, for black Fred, the white one, whom nobody cared about as he was smelly.

But not our new superintendent. He dragged me into his pristine office, with no odd files about, always a warning sign, to say that calling black Fred black Fred was racist and unkind. It was apparent that he thought the one we called black Fred, the white one, was the black Fred, the black one. I didn’t feel the need to dissuade him and the conversation became surreal. In the end I put him out of his misery and told him that we called Fred, the white bloke, black Fred because of his nails and the black PC, Tony, Fred because he took care with his appearance and hygiene. I left him in his office, matter resolved. Or so I thought.

I was called back in and told that calling Tony Fred was racist because we called Fred black Fred. I told the super that if we stopped calling Fred, the black one, Fred because of fears of racism, Fred, the black one, would get very upset because it smacked of racism. In the end I was ordered to order the PCs not to call Fred, the black one, Fred, which I did. So the PCs would call Fred, the black one, Fred and black Fred black Fred but not in the super’s hearing.

H&S and being PC makes life very confusing.

PC and health and bloody safety

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