As any responsible operator, we pay great attention to health and safety requirements. With regular testing required for funfair attractions and daily inspections whenever they are operated, our industry has one of the best safety records in the country. We also throw in additional testing beyond what is required by the H&SE.
Many people regard the HSE as an extension of the nanny state, a sort of legitimised semi Gestapo type organisation tasked with interfering. Having seen the shortcuts some of the cowboys take. I don’t think you can argue against needing a formalised organisation to make sure the rules are applied.
Unfortunately, like many times in life, the inspectors demonstrate that no matter how highly educated or trained they are, some of them are what can charitably be described as idiots.
In the days when we still used to operate at public events. We used to attend the ‘Hoppings’, Europe’s largest travelling funfair at Newcastle Upon Tyne. We were there one year and I was controlling a flying chairs ride. You know the type, the kids sit in a suspended chair, and as the ride rotates, the chairs fly out.
Now, the safety guidelines required a lap belt. Which is what we had, but I was always worried that smaller kids could slip under this belt. So we fitted additional straps that came between their legs and attached to the lap belt to make a 3 point harness. This wasn’t a legal requirement, it was an extra we added.
Now, we only used this extra strap on smaller kids, as obviously it took extra time to fit when you were busy. One day a strap had worked loose. So I removed it, and only used that seat for bigger kids. We had 20 in all so this wasn’t hard to arrange.
An Inspector Calls
Anyway an inspector from HSE, pulled me to one side and told me she wasn’t happy with that strap missing. I explained to her that it was an extra, and that if she looked most kids weren’t using them. And I would only put large kids on etc etc etc, well you get the idea.
Her rather snotty reply was that she would shut the ride down if it was not reattached, as if they were fitted then all of the seats should have them. I thought for a moment and then asked, “If I remove the other 19 so none of them have them would that be OK?”
“Yes” was the reply. Hmmn so rather than have 19 seats with additional safety, she was now telling me she preferred none of them to have it. In the end I went and found a screwdriver and reattached it.
An Inspector Calls Again
Not 2 days later the same bloody woman was back. Now, there is a large book full of guidance for funfair ride design. One of the recommendations (note the word recommended), is that rides have a maximum of 3 entrances. On our chairs ride, we had 4 small gates, 2 to allow entry, 2 to allow exit. When not in use they were closed, so technically we only had 2 open at any time.
This genius came up and kicked off about there being 4. For some reason her grasp of the English language wasn’t good enough for her to understand that 3 was recommended, but not a legal requirement. I found that trying to reason with this idiot wasn’t working. In a fit of temper I grasped a large section of the safety rail surrounding the ride. Then threw it up the fair. Technically this left me with 2 small gates, and a large 20ft gap in the fence.
“1,2,3” I counted, “3 entrances, does that satisfy you?”
“Yes” was the FU***NG idiots reply. SO instead of 4 safe controlled gates, we now had a gap a whole herd of kids could run through into a fast moving ride.
After bringing my blood pressure under control, I calmly retrieved my section of fence, refitted it. Told the woman to go forth and multiply, and either fetch the Police to me. Or someone from her organisation who was in charge of the communal brain cells that day.
To give her, her due, she did what I asked and fetched the Police. I explained all that had transpired. To give him his due, he told her to go forth and multiply as well.
The moral of the story is, give someone a smattering of power and they will look very hard for reasons to abuse it. Power corrupts, and absolute power is even more fun. They are indeed what a friend of mine refers to as educated idiots, in that they possess a degree or two, but no actual sense.