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How did we survive?

Our correspondent writes ...

If you were born in the 1940's, 50's, 60's or 70's you'll appreciate how lucky you are to be alive today given the dangers you were exposed to in the days before health and safety nuts developed their obsession to stop all unsafe practices!!

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank alcohol while they carried us. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a tin, and didn't get tested for diabetes. Then, when we grew our first four teeth, we chewed our baby cots which were covered with bright coloured lead-based paints. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes we had no helmets, not to mention the risks we took later when hitchhiking.

As children, we rode in cars with no seat belts or air bags and riding loose in the back of a van was always great fun. We drank water from the garden hosepipe and NOT from a bottle. We shared one soft drink with four friends, all from the same bottle and no-one we knew actually died from this.

We ate cakes, white bread and real butter and drank pop with sugar in it - but we weren't overweight because WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!! We would leave home in the morning and play all day. No one was able to reach us all day and as long as we were back home when the street lights came on we were OK.

We would spend hours building go-carts out of scraps and then ride them down the hill at speed even though the carts had no brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's or X-boxes; in fact we had no video games at all. We did not have 99 channels on cable or satellite TV, no video tape movies, no surround sound, no cell phones, no text messaging, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms. Instead we had friends and we went outside and found them - whatever the weather.

We fell out of trees, got cuts, bruises and grazes, broke a few bones or teeth yet no lawsuits resulted from these accidents. We played with worms and made mud pies from dirt yet the worms did not live in us forever. We made up games involving sticks and tennis balls and, although we were told it would happen, we never actually poked out any eyes.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them.

Local teams had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with the disappointment. Imagine that!! The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law and gave us a good hiding for our troubles!

But did all this do us any great harm? Of course it didn't!

This generation produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever! The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW DEAL WITH ALL OF IT! If YOU are one of the people who survived all this trauma ... CONGRATULATIONS!

You might want to share this article with others who had the good luck to grow up as kids before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives for our own good(???). And while you are at it, show it to your kids so they can see how brave their parents were.

Editorial comment:

I worked for several years as a safety officer in the oil industry. Although my boss actually believed you could reduce accidents to zero by implementing a very expensive safety incentive scheme, I preferred to believe that accidents would always happen and that some people would lose their lives. I felt the best we could aim for was to make employees more aware of the risks.

Naturally, bribing employees by giving them cash incentives to avoid accidents automatically ensured many accidents were either covered up at source or not reported. Those that were reported could often be adjudged non-blameworthy at head office level meaning they didn't count in the statistics. Just one of the methods my boss used to fudge the true figures. Were he alive now, I'm sure he would have made an excellent statistician for the Labour Party!

But I'm one of those children of the forties who took all those risks with leaded paint and bicycles. I even had a bad accident when I crashed my bike into a lorry and went straight over the top landing on the road at the other side. I was lucky. I landed on my unprotected head and this, along with many other near misses, probably gave me a good understanding of safety for later life. The fact is ... I survived! But when I read about the tricks the current health and safety morons get up to with their constant obsession to interfere in all our lives and take away all life's small risks, I'm truly glad I'm retired. If it had been this bad when I was in the business, I would have quit anyway. Taking away every single risk is like destroying the joys of youth.

Visitors' Comments

John Seaton, London writes:

Sir - I am a 49-year-old man who has worked as a scaffolder since 1976. A couple of years ago, health and safety plus the imposition of a card system called CSCS came into full operation on not only my trade, but all others in the building industry. The imposition of these two government schemes has now left me out of work. I will explain.

As regards the CSCS scheme, when it was announced a couple of years ago that it would become law, I phoned up the relevant company dealing with it to inquire as to what it was all about. I was told that firstly I would have to attend a 2-week course at a cost of 900 to pass the first stage, whereupon I would get a 'trainee scaffolder' card.

I explained that I have been a scaffolder for over 30 years and know everything there is to know about the trade. They explained that, regardless, I had to partake of the first stage, whereupon I would have to go to work for six months on 'trainee' money to get some work experience!

After 6 months I was told I would have to return to college for another 2 weeks to attend a 'basic part 2' course at the cost of another 900. This would then entitle me to earn better money, but not the full wage because that would only come after another 6 months away gaining more 'experience'. I would then have to return to college for 'part 3 -advanced' at the cost of ANOTHER 900. Then, after all this, I would finally get a card with 'scaffolder' written on it.

BUT, I was told, the college at Erith, close to London where I live, had an 18 month waiting list! Though I could take the courses at Manchester if I wished.......oh, thanks.

When I told them they could stick their courses up their arse and that I would go and drive a bus instead rather than give them 3 grand in cold blood, the jobsworth at the end of the line told me that if I didn't obtain the relevant tickets I would soon find I would have no work at all, as no scaffolding firm would employ me due to threat of lumpy fines imposed on them by the government if their men didn't have the right 'tickets'.

I come to find out that mister jobsworth was indeed right and now I find myself out of work because of this scheme which is nothing more than a blatant money-spinning racket. This scheme is, of course, all tied in with the fascist tyranny of 'health and safety', which has now embedded itself firmly in the building trade.

Consequently I now see 20-year-old 'scaffolders' out there putting themselves and everyone else at risk! But its ok - they have their CSCS cards saying they are scaffolders! Put them on a 100ft high hanging scaffold or involved cradle work and they wouldn't have a CLUE. But experience counts for NOTHING - its all about 'the ticket'.

As for health and safety - to say that these people make life a misery for everyone on a building site is a massive understatement. Scaffolders now have to wear hard hats, yellow hi-visibility jackets, harnesses, steel boots, goggles and gloves. Failure to obey these rules means you are booted off most large sites immediately. Companies now have armies of jobsworths with clipboards patrolling sites and streets looking for H&S violations.

Let me explain the ramifications of wearing all this shit as a scaffolder:

 HARD HATS. a scaffolder is constantly ducking and diving underneath tube, constantly bending to pick up materials and carry them around. For this, he must have his wits about him at all times, including good balance and sharp eyesight. Not only are hard hats incredibly uncomfortable to wear in these situations, they are also 3 or 4 inches off the top of your head meaning that you are constantly banging your head as you manoeuvre through lifts. They also cut down your field of vision dramatically, leaving you with no agility to look up and down quickly because of its presence. The discomfort of it is heightened by the way they make you sweat profusely, especially in hot weather.

Imagine the scenario - I am 60 ft up in the air in 25 degrees of heat, with a plastic bucket strapped to my head! But it's for my own good I am told. Jobsworths with their clipboards should try wearing one of these abominations and trying to do a day's work as we have to do instead of just strolling around. After 10 minutes, they would be crying for their mamas.

HI-VIS JACKETS - everyone is wearing these fashion statements now, as if the whole nation has suddenly developed partial blindness (wouldn't that be against H&S regulations, to have partially-blind people working on sites? oh well). In some cases, like when cranes are present, these things can be useful; the rest of the time they are unnecessary and again, because of their waist-coated design, are forever being caught on things as you work, putting you at danger.

HARNESSES - of all the aberrations, these are the worst. As well as being incredibly uncomfortable, they are also totally unnecessary. It's an absolute HAZARD to wear one of these on a scaffold where agility is paramount. In certain cases wearing one of these and pinning on to other tube as you work is so dangerous that you can almost guarantee an accident.

STEEL BOOTS - again, cuts down movement and agility, as well as being very unsuitable for climbing around on scaffolds.

GOGGLES - what the hell do we need these for? Well, a jobsworth once told me, it's in case a steel tube should snap(!) and a bit hit you in the eye! I had no answer to that one I was so stunned by it

GLOVES - should be worn at our discretion, like when dropping boards etc - most of the time gloves just hinder work because you have to feel what you're doing.

The combination of all this stuff makes the average scaffolder now resemble a deep-sea diver. In very hot weather, the effects of all this are even worse and it's not like we can slow down to compensate.

The companies still want their pound of flesh so we have to work hard in a dirty, frankly miserable job in all weathers, our stress and discomfort heightened by all this crap we are ordered to wear for our 'safety' of course. None of this is about health and safety anyway, its all about keeping insurance companies happy. The H&S fascists care not a jot about our health and safety! On any building site, working indoors especially, you can expect to be breathing in all kinds of dangerous dust which can have a detrimental effect on your health. But but it will be years down the line before you see the results so the company in question cannot be made liable.

Building sites are a hazardous place of course. Just walking around is dangerous because of the rubble and various building materials lying about. But men have worked on building sites for centuries.

In all the years I have worked I have seen maybe 3 or 4 accidents on site. The only accidents I've seen caused by scaffolders have been through human error - like kicking a fitting off the lift etc. Since the increase of bogus claims instigated by lawyers over the past five years, the H&S has been set up to not only defend against the various claims, but also to create a tidy little business for itself - at our cost and our misery. I REFUSE to obey their pathetic regulations. I REFUSE to put my life at risk for my 'own good'. I know that health and safety is NOT ABOUT OUR HEALTH AND SAFETY! It's a money-spinning racket. They know it and I know it. Fuck them!!

I read recently that building site accidents have increased dramatically in the last 5 years as a direct result of H&S interference. I do not doubt it. I was thinking about approaching the court of human rights to put my case forward and to ask them if they think its fair that H&S has now put me out of work? I haven't bothered because I know it's a waste of time.

If you, or any of your readers, could advise me further I'd really appreciate it.

"Many men stumble across the truth ... but most manage to pick themselves up and continue as if nothing had happened."

Winston S Churchill

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