Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Saturday, September 11, 2010

It's Health and Safety Gone Global!

I'm currently staying at Leeds University for the European Work Hazards Conference 2010. You know, the kind of thing that makes the Simon Hoggarts, not to say the Tony Blairs, of the world start chewing the carpet. Trade unionists! Many of them from other countries! Coming over here to talk about health and safety! And agreeing that we need better enforcement of the existing laws rather than more deregulation! But that's ..that's....Communism! Internationalism! Old Labourism!

Yes, the kind of conference where there is little sympathy for Lord Young's recent pronouncements that “people occasionally get killed, it’s unfortunate but it’s part of life” and “do you know anything dangerous in offices?”

This morning there were workplace visits organised, and I went to the Spinal Injuries Unit at Sheffield Northern General Hospital. We also got to see the kitchens where food for half a dozen big Sheffield hospitals is prepared: an interesting visit in many ways but not one that gives you an appetite. The food is cooked at 75 degrees plus, then blast-chilled down to 3 degrees and kept below that temperature all the way through the combination and serving processes until just before the patients eat it. And there is something unappealing - probably even for its intended consumers - about chicken pureed to a mush for those unable to swallow normally and then served up in moulds shaped like pieces of chicken. That just seems wrong somehow. (Though it did spark subversive thoughts of what might happen if the worker on pureeing duty decided to get creative with the choice of moulds and serve up chicken-shaped cabbage, or pineapple-shaped steak.)

Anyway, this afternoon the conference proper began with a series of speakers from third world countries on the dangers of work in India, China, South Africa, Indonesia, Bangladesh and elsewhere. The biggest surprise for me, as a left-wing folk music fan living in Scotland, was that it took a Korean campaigner against the asbestos industry to introcuce me to the work of the late Alistair Hulett.

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