back to article BOFH: Their bright orange plumage warns other species, 'Back off! I'm dangerous!'

BOFH logo telephone with devil's horns I'm already in a bit of a foul mood when the Boss calls me into his office for "a quick word". The office Health and Safety enthusiast is there too so I know the meeting will be neither quick nor a single word. "It's about the ladder," he says. "What ladder?" I ask. "The ladder in the …


  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hazard creation

    Ahh, the fun of Health and Safety.

    We had a good one here a couple of years ago. Someone leaving a meeting room dropped a cup of water on the floor. It's carpet, so no slip risk, but H&S insisted on popping one of those yellow "slippery floor" sandwich boards right in the middle of the corridor, just to the right of the meeting room.

    Half an hour later, another meeting ends, someone leaves the room and turns right whilst chatting to a colleague, doesn't notice the yellow board, trips over it and is sent flying.

    When you are trying to alert people to a non-existant hazard by creating a much more blatant hazard, you have to ask if you've really thought things through...

    1. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: Hazard creation

      Genuine extract from an accident record:

      Cause of accident?

      Tripped over First Aid box.

      1. Chloe Cresswell

        Re: Hazard creation

        Friend of mine is banned from filling out an accident report at work, it has to be filled out for him.

        The reason? When they had a physical accident report book, he had an accident. When filling out the book, he managed to cut himself on the accident book...

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: Hazard creation

          We got a several hundred page safety manual at work. The somewhat OCD safety guy was informed that I got a paper cut from the manual and a week or so later the post boy got a hernia delivering a laminated version of the same.

      2. Unicornpiss Silver badge

        Re: Hazard creation - ironies abound

        I poked myself in the eye with the tail piece of my safety glasses once..

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Hazard creation - ironies abound

          "I poked myself in the eye with the tail piece of my safety glasses once.."

          I'm not surprised. Most of the ones I've had to wear over the years of site visits, the arms seem to be much closer in than normal glasses and tend to leave marks where they tightly grip your head above the ears. A glasses wearer used to proper glasses could easily mis-judge when putting them on.

        2. rskurat

          Re: Hazard creation - ironies abound

          I've had the same trouble. I think the inexpensive ones are one-size-fits-most, and I have eyes like a hammerhead shark.

      3. wallyhall

        Re: Hazard creation

        It’s not quite as ironic, but we had a set of health and safety training “online learning” videos pushed upon us a few years back.

        The first was slips spills and trips. The first director to complete it proudly announced he had achieved the highest possible score of 100%, only a matter of hours before he slipped on a dead squirrel while walking between the two office buildings.

        I kid you not.

        (Your first aid box story reminded me think of that.)

        The one which really sticks in my mind though was when the new head of HR turns up for the first (and as recall, almost only) visit to the “not the London office” where she caught sight of me sitting on a gym ball at the desk.

        “Why are you sitting on that?” she asked somewhat snappily.

        “Ah you must be the new HR director?” I politely replied. “Lovely to meet you. I suffer from back pain, this is more comfy.”

        “But we supply chairs. You must sit on those. That ball thing isn’t approved.”

        “But my back hurts less on this than the chairs you supply. And I bought it and brought it to work as my own seat with my name inscribed on it.”

        “I’ll see about this...” and with that she charged off.

        Never did hear another peep about it.

        I think she was actually quite a nice person, but took her job VERY by the letter of the book.

    2. Mycho Silver badge

      Re: Hazard creation

      At my last job I took H&S duties for the hundred quid a year bonus. My favourite was when someone had left a plastic wet floor sign at the foot of a staircase and it had folded up, meaning coming from upstairs you couldn't see it until you were standing on it and hope like hell it didn't slip under you.

      Needless to say that one got written up in great detail.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Hazard creation

        I had to fill out the accident book when the old lighting panels in the corridor were switched to LED. The old fixtures were left on top of a trolley in the corridor, and I happened to pass by at the exact moment that someone came out of a side door, so I half-stepped to the right and sliced a good three inch long cut into my arm from the lethally sharp corner of the old fixture.

        Two days later, the trolley was still there, still piled high with razor sharp fixtures, but now the corridor was even more narrowed down by a little line of newly purchased plastic figures linking arms with the words "Danger - men working overhead" emblazoned on their torsos.

        Queue a complaint from the diversity champion that the figures displayed a gross and implicit gender bias.

        Queue a complaint from the H&S rep who pointed out that if the overhead work was actually a danger then the risk assessment should have been filed, and a more appropriate mitigation strategy might be a partial closure of the building. Had this risk in fact been classified as a hazard rather than a danger?

        Next week the trolley was gone and the working practice had been changed to "Take the old fixtures down to the skip straight away instead of leaving them in the corridor."

        Now the next task... persuading them to sweep the corridor properly and check the operation of the automatic firedoors daily before clocking off - they seemed to care little if they dropped a screw during the fixture change and that screw got kicked along the corridor until it wedged under the firedoor stopping them from closing properly, as was revealed by the weekly test.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hazard creation

          at my last place we had to deal with a scald. Nothing odd there.

          Apart from the scald was caused by some opening the box to treat a minor cut, knocking over a cup of fresh coffee over the person that had called the first aider. If that wasn't bad enough for the poor soul, lets just say it was a "delicate" situation trying to cool the afflicted area and her sex life may have been put on hold for a few weeks.

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: Hazard creation

            There was a guy in Israel who had my favourite accident. Wife saw cockroach in toilet and sprayed entire can of insect spray down it. Hubby went for a cheeky combined poo and cigarette break. Dropped lit butt, got burns to naked butt.

            The ambulencemen were laughing so hard that they dropped him down the stairs and broke both his legs. Oops.

            Does laughing at that make me a bad person?

            1. Jemma Silver badge

              Re: Hazard creation

              No, no you're not..

              You could say he was hoist on his own peturd..

            2. Cpt Blue Bear

              Re: Hazard creation

              My Grandad loved to tell the story about the sanitary orderly of some WWII era camp in the middle of nowhere running out of whatever it was he poured into the long drops to keep the flies down. He has a bright idea: petrol. Enter an unsuspecting victim in search of relief. He lights a cigarette while thus occupied and drops the match into the pit. The result: second degree burns to the bum.

              1. magickmark

                Re: Hazard creation

                That story is in one of Spike Milligan's war biography's, "Adolf Hitler: My part in his down fall"

                They had just arrived in Algiers and were stationed in the secret "Camp X" if I recall, and the Latrine Orderly, named as one Gunner Liddle in the books, if I recall correctly, did not have any quick lime so used a mixture of petrol and diesel. Some time later a Sargent Major, attending to his ablutions drops a match down the pit after lighting his pipe and suffers second degree burns on his 'parts'.

                A sort of British loss of face. He was our last casualty before we actually went into action. Next time it would be for real. (p. 146)

            3. ShadowDragon8685

              Re: Hazard creation

              Well... That escalated quickly!

              Oh man, you're not a bad person, you're just human. I'm giggling here.

          2. Jemma Silver badge

            Re: Hazard creation (delicate)

            Fire in the hole?

            We never had any health and safety issues - but there was the director who reversed a 1.6 ton Saab estate over the laptop he'd put behind the back wheel... Twice... In the space of a month.

            ... And the PHB who thought a porn filter was a fine upstanding idea... Until he was the first and only one in the entire company to get caught by it.

            ... Or the new IT director that replaced a £120 quad modem card remote access system (which worked perfectly) with a god-alone-knows-how-much VPN (£x hundred thousand) that only ever vaguely worked with Windows 98, and nothing else in the history of computing before or since - even then you were more likely to get a useful result from Automatic Writing.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Hazard creation (delicate)

              "We never had any health and safety issues - but there was the director who reversed a 1.6 ton Saab estate over the laptop he'd put behind the back wheel... Twice... In the space of a month."

              Sounds like a promoted ex-BOFH who wanted a new laptop and wasn't happy with the first replacement.

      2. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Hazard creation

        I did take the opportunity to make a point of falling over the middle of the pedestrian area sandwich board advert place in the middle of the rod for an opportunist legal company in town once.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Hazard creation

          There was one of those Negligence Claims companies operating from an office block in Stanmore next to the tube station. Their sign, about three feet high made from perspex and aluminium shaped into chunky illuminated 3D letters, for months had the letter C swinging in the breeze held up by one remaining screw. Now if that had fallen on someone's head, they'd have had a claim for being injured in an accident that wasn't their fault.

    3. Rusty 1

      Re: Hazard creation

      A train station I frequently use has a penchant for putting so much salt down in winter on surfaces people walk on that there is a serious skid risk - it's like walking on ball bearings.

      1. doublelayer

        Re: Hazard creation

        A building I frequently walk through has a group that specializes in placing wet-floor signs in the worst possible locations. I think I'm pretty close to knocking my hundredth one over. My favorite is the one they place right at the top of the stairs, on the side you walk down. Instead of moving it about three inches to the right, where it would be up against the banister and basically impossible to topple, they've placed it where people frequently knock it all the way down the staircase. So far, nobody's gone falling down after it, although I do believe the falling sign has hit perspective stair climbers on various occasions.

      2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

        Re: Hazard creation

        Skid risk on grit - Welcome to Calgary's LRT stations in winter.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hazard creation

        Didcot Parkway by any chance?

    4. Tim99 Silver badge

      Re: Hazard creation

      I was attempting to stay awake in a recent hour-long H&S induction, before I was allowed into a business to conduct an assessment of their technical competence. We had been told to comply with a number of important safety procedures including moving our cars because we had driven directly into the marked visitor parking parking spots instead of reversing in. My colleague asked an obvious question, which was: What the greatest cause of accidents that had caused injury or lost time. The answer was that two people had been injured, one seriously with a broken ankle and wrist, and another person had a back injury, both caused by them falling off the kerb outside the emergency exit when they were evacuating the building as a result of the most recent H&S practice evacuation that had been arranged by the person running the induction - He seemed unaware of the concept of irony...

      1. DougS Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Please stop!

        I can't take any more, I'm all laughed out. It is rare that the real world comments are more outrageous and hilarious than the antics of the BOFH and PFY!

      2. Diogenes

        Re: Hazard creation

        a result of the most recent H&S practice evacuation that had been arranged by the person running the induction

        Many many years when I was young and stupid (as opposed to old & stupid now) I was an Officer in the Army Reserve, and had to go to the 2MD pay office at Victoria Barracks (Sydney) to sort out a pay issue . While I was there, the WHS people decided to do a fire drill, and as visibility s reduced, they decided to pop some cans of coloured smoke to mimic the stuff produced by burning. I understand that they discovered a lot of equipment was in places it shouldn't have been, net result a few broken/twisted ankles and arms...

        At my current workplace I have two routes from my classroom/office to the emergency evac area (school oval) . One leads through the centre of the school (which could be on fire), or right past the 2 big propane tanks.

  2. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    hang on....

    So does this mean that the Dutch go really big on the health and safety thing considering their national colour?

    1. Grikath Silver badge

      Re: hang on....

      About as much as the PFY, yes.....

    2. Martijn Otto

      Re: hang on....

      You think we all wear bright orange all day?

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Re: hang on....

        You don't?

        1. Dr. G. Freeman

          Re: hang on....

          Our accident reports have a ticky box for "Annoyed the guy in the orange football shirt".

          Seeing as I wear Dundee United shirts (which are predominately orange) most days, and wrote the accident form.

      2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: hang on....

        You think we all wear bright orange all day?

        Yup. And that you all live in windmills.

        Here's a Youtube link to documentary proof...

      3. harmjschoonhoven

        Re: You think we all wear bright orange all day?

        No, but Thrianta rabbits have to - WWII and all that, you know.

    3. hplasm Silver badge

      Re: hang on....

      Nothing as safe as an Oompaloompa.

      And nothing as hazardous as an Oompaloompa in a cabbage patch...

      1. Bangem

        Re: hang on....

        "Nothing as safe as an Oompaloompa.

        And nothing as hazardous as an Oompaloompa in a cabbage patch..."

        There's no earthly way of knowing...

  3. Horridbloke

    One evening about ten year ago...

    I was staying in a hotel in North Carolina. The fire alarm went off, possibly due to a lightning strike, so I grabbed my beers and eeepc and sat on a bench outside. Shortly afterwards the fire engine turned up. This was very large, very red and very gleamy with all the chrome bits on it. It also bore flashing lights.

    The first thing the driver did upon leaving the vehicle was open a storage compartment, remove half a dozen traffic cones, and arrange them in a straight line a couple of feet from the front of the vehicle.

    I have a lot of respect for the jobs firefighters do. Not so much for the pen pusher who'd decided those cones were needed.

    1. Mycho Silver badge

      Re: One evening about ten year ago...

      I dunno, I wouldn't put it past some prats to think it's okay to box in a fire engine if those cones aren't out.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        I am totally convinced that there will always be some arsehole who thinks it's perfectly all right to park right in front of a fire engine - with or without cones.

        1. Mycho Silver badge

          Sure, but the cones mean what happens when the fire engine tries to leave is their own fault.

          Spoiler: A fire engine that wants to push a fancy fucking bmw out of the way can do so. Ramming it into a nearby lamp post is entirely optional.

          1. Jemma Silver badge

            It's not optional at all, it should be written into the manuals as a general principle with the fireman's equivalent of the Blue Max awarded once you've destroyed 20.

            Mini Clubfoots and C*ntryman score double points.

            The Fiat 500 triple - 4 points if you manage to improve the gene pool at the same time.

            The cretin who ok'd the new 500 for production should have been indicted for cruel and unusual punishment under Human Rights.

            1. Mycho Silver badge

              Disagree completely.

              It needs to be weighed against the risk of depriving the area of sufficient lighting. Sometimes you have to ram it into a ditch instead.

            2. TRT Silver badge

              Fiat 500

              Do you have specifics on that? I tried one in 2009, and rejected it due to the seating configuration which was really basic and basically crap for load carrying - you'd wreck anything that sat over the hinges - but on the whole it wasn't too bad for a little city runabout, albeit at the higher end of the price bracket.

              1. Jemma Silver badge

                Re: Fiat 500

                Where do I start.

                They eat brake pads, discs, and lines as if they're finest caviar.

                The interior is extremely unsafe if you are basically over 5ft - I really want to have both knees amputated in a crash.. Not to mention if you are in the back in an accident you are basically a corpse if it burns. Which means the kiddies in the back will be the equivalent of a hog roast before the emergency services have found their keys. And my 4 door Wolseley is, and I quote, "dangerous". I'd like to introduce you to a fantastic new feature - we at BMC call them back doors.

                The engines are fairly flaky, especially the MultiAirLeaks (from head and intake gaskets). You can guarantee that the owners have not the slightest clue about oils so just pick up 20w50 and go with it (which to paraphrase Robin Williams is "great when you're in a landcrab, but not so great when you've got VVTi") or (and my neighbour actually killed one doing this) top it up to the valve gear.

                Amazingly for a FIAT however, they don't appear to rust.

                They ride like a Bedford truck circa 1938 and the convertible is apparently worse..

                But what makes me want to commit violent murder every time I see one is the turdulicious pastiche of a real classic burbling around the place with an owner who thinks they're the bees bollocks because they bought (or even worse, deliberately leased) the automotive equivalent of an iPhone that's just been run over by an M1 Abrams.

                And THEN they turn up their nose at a proper classic, even the original 500 for being old fashioned (did you actually *look* at your car) and polluting! - or play the "Let's test the Wolseley brakes" game by pulling out 2 feet in front of me on a 50mph road. God alone knows what would happen if I hit one at speed in the 'crab, it'd probably go straight through.

                But worst of all, even than the Italian kretinwagen, is the Mini. You know the one - the tribute that's bigger than my Wolseley and bigger than an SWB landrover. It's like a 30st tranny truck driver doing a cover version of Dolores O'Riorden in a PVC sheath dress and fuck-me-heels (I've actually experienced this, don't ask, but the counselling is going well). Poor Alec Issigonis must be spinning in his grave fast enough to light the whole of the Midlands..

                1. TRT Silver badge

                  Re: Fiat 500

                  Fair comment. I'm glad I didn't go for one really. I thought the drive was OK, not quite as good as my Rover Metro, I also tried a Smart car which was utter shite - the automatic shift was all at the wrong ratios, but it turns out that if you tried to use it in manual there was no power at all at the point you would usually change. I couldn't actually find the engine's power band, it just didn't seem to have any at all.I ended up with a Pious, which oddly drives exactly the same as the Rover Auto excepting it's almost twice the length.

                  1. Shane McCarrick

                    Re: Fiat 500

                    + 1

                    I have the dual inclination to cry and burst out laughing- anytime I see one.

                    You didn't mention its appalling turning arch- I mean, come on- a three point turn, is a three point turn- if you need more than 3 points- you're either an appalling driver- or your car deserves to be driven off a bridge. Occasionally- its a combination of both- in which case- don't exit the car, after driving it off the bridge.........

                    1. TRT Silver badge

                      Re: Fiat 500

                      I didn't actually get to try that. Odd. I thought it was under 10m for both the Fiat and the Smart 4 4. The Rover's was a shade under 11m, the Pious is 11 point something. It doesn't seem to make that much difference, to be honest. The length does, though. The Pious is a total ball ache to fit into most on-street bays around London.

                2. Gordon JC Pearce

                  Re: Fiat 500

                  I was astounded to notice that the new Mini Countryman is just about the same size as the first-gen Freelander, and not a whole lot smaller than my old work's Berlingos.

                  1. TRT Silver badge

                    Re: Fiat 500

                    The best thing about them, though, is the incredibly generous crumple zone. It extends all the way from the back of the front bumper to the front of the back bumper.

                  2. Trygve Henriksen

                    Re: Fiat 500

                    Did you ever see the 'design' of the 2CV that some students hacked up for a competition?


                    Yeah, the comment about the Mk I Berlingo is mine...

                    Some legends are reincarnated with new names but the same spirit.


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