‘elf and safety gaan mayd

Full Disclosure: The author was in previous employ a Health and Safety Champion which meant he ran around in his pants and a cape until complaints to HR stopped it. He also might have done an Institute of Safety and Health (IOSH) Course on “why not to juggle full grown tigers” or similar. Oh and been a fire warden as well. It’s a miracle nobody died.

Filling Petrol in Kamanjab to 5l Water Container

It has become quite a common area of derision in the UK for hackneyed commenters to screech about ‘elf and saafty gane maad.

This is along with the other favourite of political correctness gaaan maaad.

Children no longer allowed to practice throwing flaming darts at each other in the playground? It’s ‘elf and saaaafety gaaan maaaad, innit?

Public funds no longer allowed to be used in a celebration of slavery and the pygmy massacre of British India? It’s political correctness gaaaane maaad I tells ya!

Often of course such crackdowns are more a result of a litigatious society running out of control (ok then; gaaaannn maaad), with people just trying to limit insults to the four surviving members of the pygmy tribe (and to avoid litigation) or just simply made up on a slow news day (What’s that??!? They’re cancelling Christmas and calling it Ethnic Winterland Multicultural Day? They’re banning Santa? Arrrrrr!).

The nature of the real cause of all this, the legal risks, are normally overlooked by tabloids adorned as their pages are with adverts proffering the services of cheap four-times-struck-off Dodgy Bob’s no-win-no-fee services (Did you once fall over blind drunk? Have a bit of a sore knee the next day? Let’s sue the brewery, the pub and the council at once! One may well settle out of court and after fees you will probably have enough for a beer or two) next to the Littlejohnings and other faux-outrage.

Also overlooked are the massive decreases in deaths and maimings at work during the last century following the introduction of various things such as the Factories Act and the dreaded Health and Safety at Work Act.

In simple terms this legislation has forced employers to stop treating people as disposable commodities and give some sort of thought to the risks they expose their employees to. With the expected results that it is now safer to work in industry than at any time before. This is a good thing.

In fact real HSE prosecutions are few and far between, you basically have to shoot an innocent person in the head to end up in criminal court. A minority certainly compared to civil no-win-no-fee type actions for compensation.

But to shamble forward to my actual point…

Namibia Needs Some ‘Elf and Safety!

Having come from a society which if anything is over-protective and over-cautious (Wales being the obvious exception to this) it is a bit of a shock to come to Namibia where everything is under-protective and over-dangerous.

The environment is bad enough – pretty much everything tries to bite you, scratch you, fornicate with you (not in a good way) or lay its eggs in you.

Stuff here – plans and animals – are tough. Proper rock ‘ard. As one quick example take the cows; in the UK we have nice black and white placid things for the most part whereas here it’s all massively horned battle-scared great big ugly and mean-tempered buggers. They have to be just to survive.

With the environs out to get you maybe it’s little surprise people-based health and safety is not taken as seriously. Or really considered in the slightest.

It’s quite common to see petrol being filled into water containers (above), pumped by people smoking, a dozen people (some standing) on the open back of a bakkie at 120+ km/h and workmen using a combination of “scoffolding by the grace of god” and sheer luck working atop leaning towers of beer crates.

In my own experience we have done network cabling in the office. We had only one step-ladder (a venerable old thing) and this wasn’t tall enough for many sections. No matter, utilizing a combination of chairs, tables (with chairs on top), putting someone up into the ceiling and then moving the ladder from under them to another point we got the job done.

I had to force myself to overcome ingrained horror at using chairs-on-tables as a method of working at height but I managed and, more through luck than judgement, everything was completed without any major injuries.

Now this is of course all for the fun of living in a less-regulated and somewhat risk-welcoming society but I can’t help but think some, just a little, regulation and care for the workforce might, in my humble opinion, be a good thing. Nice though it is to be able to climb over, swim in or drive up anything and everything you want without warning signs and over-zealous officials it is my choice to camp at the site that requires a stomach-churning descent past burnt out cars and skeletons but the workman using beer crates as support probably has little choice if he wants to feed his family.

After all if you make it through without getting killed at work there is more opportunity to loose your life in some horrific but natural way; snikebite, eaten by lion, rutted to death by rabid kudu, swept over unprotected waterfalls, gored by cattle or even a pedestrian old illness like cholera or measles.

Danger Gaaaaannnnnneeeee Mayd I tells thee!


What was intended to be a sober and thoughtful discussion on the relative merits of risk aversion turned, as usual, into a diatribe of waffle and hyperbole. Oh well.


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