back to article Health & Safety is the responsibility of Connor's long-suffering girlfriend

Much discussion of health and safety concentrates on the opportunities the discipline affords our little Hitlers to little-Hitle. But when I did some work on an industrial site recently – this is the most relaxing environment to get your head around a mischievous lump of functional JavaScript, by the way, you absolutely must try …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: H&S is the responsibility of Connor's long-suffering girlfriend

    Ah! I wondered why we hadn't heard from Dominic recently. Did he have a accident with some power tools?



    (sorry, I just thought it was going to be some sort of guest-spot/crossover comments piece :)

  2. lee harvey osmond

    Unit testing?

    I am reading Verity's piece, and thinking, the general tone and style is very familiar. Even some of the vocabulary. Hang on, didn't I write this piece myself elsewhere? Let me check my screed collection ... no I didn't.

    Now, either Verity is reading my stuff and thinking "nice way of putting that, I shall steal it" or (infinitely more likely) I have been steadily absorbing Verity over the years, to the point that even I'm starting to notice.

    Well, we can check that.

    "I think, reading the article, that someone is aiming for a kick in the unit testes."

  3. Dan 55 Silver badge

    E. Search through the code, find each of the 50 different calls to this function have been commented, #ifdef'd out, or replaced with something else. Leave it untouched because maintaining compatibility in case one of those calls is put back in is important and open a bug in the bug tracker which nobody else will see so they can't say they weren't warned.

    This is a variant of B.

  4. Alfred

    While making a minor correction to some code, you notice a massive flaw in some adjacent code. Do you:

    A: Check the blame log to see if you did it, and if not, forget you ever saw it.

    B: Having no time allocated to fix it, tell the tester on the sly how to trigger it, so that in six months time when testing comes around it'll get officially found and someone will then be given the hours to fix it.

    C: Make a note of it to use as ammunition in the next finger-pointing blame game.

    D: Not wanting to have to deal with the egotistical incompetent who wrote it and will take correcting it as a Machiavellian power play, leave it there but write a working version of the same, and change every use of it to your new version.

    I have done all of these :(

    1. william 10

      I always, fix it - take the arse kicking from my boss. Then try and smile polity which always seems to comes out as smugly every time a similar issue is detected and ignored which brings complete chaos to the company.

      I have learnt that it does not matter how brilliant I my have thought my code was at the time, once it comes into contact with the real world it will nearly always be found wanting. So it's much quicker to take the pain and fix everything and if that requires a re-write then so be it, the band aid approach always seems to dig a bigger hole for the company.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I would:

      E: Work up an exploit and sell it in The Markit,

      .... Because Fuck'em I am not paid well enough to clean up after monkeys and besides my job is going to India real soon now so one needs to bolster the retirement fund!

  5. DropBear Silver badge

    IT safety question, third revised BOFH edition:

    "In the project you work on, you run into input processing that is blatantly lacking any sanitization. You should:

    a) Carefully note down the details for that time you'll want payback as the disgruntled employee they just unwisely made redundant

    b) Rewrite it with the exact same flaw in assembly, making sure scenario a) can never happen as nobody else will be able to touch that code

    c) Mosey along over to Stackoverflow and reassure some clueless noob asking a related question that this is the best way to do it for performance reasons

    d) Dutifully mention the vulnerability later that day to the boss's wife, during the obligatory cigarette-after in bed

    e) Absolutely do no such thing, as smoking in bed is a well-known fire hazard, and we're VERY safety-conscious around here

    f) Fire is absolutely not an issue, you had that halon system installed in the boss's bedroom long ago exactly for safety reasons - your own, clearly

    g) All or none of the above, at your leisure

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another option...

    Pester management to get a decent static analysis tool so that these horrors can be outed!

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Another option...

      Static analysis tools and decent debuggers always cost too much money. They prefer you to spend hours finding memory leaks which have plagued the software for years with printfs.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: Another option...

        You don't know how many developers:

        1) Don't know about profilers and other analysis tools

        2) If they know they exist, never tried to use one - even if free (or purchased).

        3) If they tried to use one, they found it requires learning. Too much learning.

        4) printf() and syslog() calls are easier to use - that what was taught at programming 101, and many never went beyond. Or they learn to code when profilers & C. were a new and very expensive tools, and never bothered to upgrade their skills later.

        It's exactly like safety risks - too many are too lazy and too used to risky practices to avoid them. Until it's too late...

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You can never have too much process

    h) Add a new audit process so that every code checkin has to be reviewed by 3 layers of management to ensure that the dreaded pointer-to-stack-memory bug can never happen again. (Turn down the request for an automated static analysis tool on grounds of cost).

  8. Roger Greenwood

    General Approach

    This question is to test your general approach to work and see if you fit our culture.

    Your boss is always going to find a fault, so when given a new task do you:-

    a) Complete the job as best you can, knowing that a fault will be found, you will be castigated, but at least you did your best.

    b) Do the job as quickly (and as slack) as possible, knowing that a fault will be found but at least you will have the time to fix it.

    c) Do the job well, but leave some faults that are easy to find to keep QA happy.

    d) Start the job but get your updated CV out there immediately.

    1. Number6

      Re: General Approach

      We learned (c) at uni. For part of the course we were in project teams and had to do regular presentations on the progress of the project. It was soon learned that if we did an immaculate job, they'd ask hard questions, so the trick was to leave some small flaw in there, brief the whole project team on its existence (so we could all competently field questions on it) and let the review team find it. Once they'd found something wrong they were happy and stopped digging and so didn't ask the hard questions.

  9. AdamT

    A - too complicated

    Answer (A) is far too complicated. I think it should read:

    A - Put "FIX ME !!!!!" in the general vicinity of the bug. Leave the company.

    No further clues should be provided so that the person who finds it next isn't quite sure what you found or whether you actually had any idea of what needed fixing or how to do it.

    <based on a true story>

  10. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    Trained in money-laundering

    Anyone who's ever worked at a financial company will be over-familiar with the obligatory Money Laundering Training. I think I've done it seven times. Despite the promise it appears to hold out, I've yet to be approached by a dodgy geezer with money to clean. In fact none of the jobs involved any contact with members of the public or their money.

    My favourite question was one which asked "In which year did the Money Laundering Regulations become law?" Fortunately, another question made an unguarded reference to "Money Laundering Regulations 2007", so I was able to ace that one, though I still can't see how knowing the year would help me as a crime-fighter.

    Investment banks appear to have whole departments dedicated to devising and enforcing training on a six-monthly basis*. Experience suggests that the best strategy is to go through the training module really fast so that the answers are still in short/medium term memory when you do the quiz. Thereafter everything is forgotten.

    * Oddly, there never seem to be any courses entitled How to Avoid Buying a Load of Worthless Investments and Causing the Bank to Go Bust.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Trained in money-laundering

      I've had H&S training for stuff that isn't even a part of my job. I wonder if management signs random people up to random courses so they can be seen to be "educating the staff" or somesuch?

      There's a part of me that wants to choose all the really dumb responses just to see if anybody notices . . . but I don't as I'd probably get even more training in irrelevant rubbish.

      1. lee harvey osmond

        Re: Trained in money-laundering

        Ummm... H&S ... so you never had to deal with the H&S zealot who stuck 'fire door -- keep closed' and 'fire exit' signs on every door of the building, even the toilets, even the toilet cubicles?

        Those signs were lethal -- they kept falling off and hitting people.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Trained in money-laundering

      Haha - The dum-dum's at HSBC obviously got that training the wrong way round - or maybe not, since they got off with 2-3% of the (Stock Holder's Money) err - profits in settlements, nobody went to jail and everyone got their Bonuses!

      ohhh - me struggling long time!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Trained in money-laundering

        Ooh poor manglement had to defer their bonuses ... a bit

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Trained in money-laundering

      My wife has done this a number of times and still hasn't set up a fringe bank in the Isle of Man or Gibraltar. I don't think it's working.

  11. Detective Emil

    Sales opportunity

    I look forward to being able to purchase Stob H&S toilet rolls through Cash'n'Carrion.

    Mine's the one on the hook on the door.

  12. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: H&S.

      The issue is no amount of training will stop idiots to act like idiots. I see lot of people - many with a university degree - do very silly things like leaving plugged PC power cables on the floor, because they disconnected a PC and are too lazy to disconnect the other end of the cable too.

      Once I told one of them "hey, do you know what happens in case of a flood - or even someone washig the floor??" - the answer was "this room is in the center of the building, floor and walls of concrete, it can't be flooded, don't be silly!". Some months later he discovered there was a rainwater pipe running along the ceiling.... it got blocked and flooded that room.... I didn't need safety training to know electricity + water = danger... but others - even after training - are simply too lazy and too negligent to avoid risks.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: H&S.

          Sorry, it's not training - especially that kind of silly training, mostly designed to ensure a stream of consultants are paid for it.

          It's just common sense as you said. Something even the "lowest denominator" should know in 2015 (I don't work in an environment with people just arrived from the tropical forests of New Guinea), but the appalling number of people who put themselves into troubles they should know how to avoid tells too many people are simply negligent idiots. Still an appalling number of fatalities could be avoided - even after training - if people connected the brain before using the hands.

          Fatalities are decreasing more because technology improved than idiots decreased. There are far more reliable and automatic safety devices today, than forty years ago.

          BTW: nothing happened in that room because *I* removed the cables... even if it was not my duty. The safety officer didn't check anything - he made training, it was enough, paper security, instead of real one.

          Meanwhile, I still see most IT offices designed with lighting that violates basic health rules, but nobody cares - it's expensive to light offices properly, thereby who cares about health when it's more expensive that some silly training once every two years?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: H&S.

            Ah. What you've done there is confused training with the avoidance of liabilities.

            If you've been told how to do it safely, and you don't, it's your problem. If they haven't it's a lawsuit. So it's cheaper to throw everyone in a room and tell them not to pick up heavy stuff badly than it is to defend a case where someone did it and hurt themselves.

            This does go both ways, if you see an unsafe condition and report it to your line manager they are then personally liable for it as well as the company, unless they kick it up the chain.

            There is a lot of crap flying around about health and safety, and an awful lot of it is pure bollocks, if you have assessed the risks and mitigated commensurate to the risk you're doing pretty well. The HSE is also very helpful on the phone, if you're not sure if there are guidelines to the operation you are carrying out, give them a bell and they're usually happy to tell you what to look for.

            In fact, they have their own Mythbusting section of the site here

      2. Annihilator

        Re: H&S.

        "Once I told one of them "hey, do you know what happens in case of a flood - or even someone washig the floor??" -"

        Yes, the MCBs would trip. Same thing would happen if the cable were still plugged into a PSU and the building flooded.

        Besides, as the A/C points out, it's about transferring liability from company to employee.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: H&S.

        Here we would have to worry about colleagues sticking the "PC-end" into their mouth and sucking the lectrons out to see what they taste like!

      4. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: H&S.

        "I didn't need safety training to know electricity + water = danger... but others - even after training - are simply too lazy and too negligent to avoid risks."

        Doesn't your country's H&S require suitably sensitive trip switches that the power will cut at the first drop entering the connector?

        Hell, the ones we have are so sensitive that very humid days can trigger 'em!

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: H&S.

      What they've done or tried to do, is remove the Darwin Factor. Then the next generation requires even more training.

    3. James Anderson Silver badge

      Re: H&S.

      Be a more useful statistic if they adjusted for the fact that the construction workforce is a fraction of what is was 40 years ago.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: H&S.

      >>Isn't it ridiculous! Ha ha, stupid rules put in place which are obvious. Waste of time and effort. Except >>it's not for the hundreds of people still living each year, who would've been killed 40 years ago.


      Interesting graph on Agriculture. "the worker fatality rate is higher than any other industry section;"

      Looks like H&S safety is not so effective there, or perhaps all these genetically modified crops and farm animals are offsetting improvements..

  13. IHateWearingATie

    Ah, I remember this one

    ... my usual option was:

    j) Try and fix it and put in a worse hack than the original problem. After forgetting to check the code out and back in properly so some poor sap has to merge the code later.

    Maybe that's why I'm not allowed near anything more complex than powerpoint these days.

  14. John G Imrie


    After checking out some code you notice one of the file s produces a syntax error. A quick blame on the code reveals it to be your boss after one of his all night hacking sessions.

    Do you.

    A) Quietly inform your boss, then fix the code so you look like a loyal employee.

    B) Inform all your co workers so you all have amo during the next pay review

    C) Update your CV as this is the second time this week this has happened, and it's Tuesday.

    D) All of the above

    The correct answer will be posted later.

  15. Mike Smith

    You are trying to fix a chimp-written piece of PL/SQL spaghetti that keeps crashing with an exception that it ought to have handled. After the tenth time of nearly taking your workstation apart with a hammer from frustration, you find that the 18-year-old 'highly-experienced offshore development partner' who cooked the spaghetti omitted to put in a default exception handler, which means that the crash occurs approximately 2,800 lines away from the actual fault. Do you:

    A: Put the default handler in and keep schtum

    B: A, then add more ropey code to dump an inventive range of expletives to the system log at random intervals, along with the developer's name;

    C: B, then find the developer responsible, escort him to the basement storage room to ensure your new LART's voltage isn't set to a fatal level;

    D: C, and take the QA feebs along as well;

    E: All of the above.

    1. gloucester

      @Mike Smith:

      Since your options A-D as listed include their predecessor already, E would be logically equivalent to D, unless you are repeating actions, in which case presumably because:

      A - multiple handlers required for nested code;

      B - you're riled, hence more expletives;

      C - the development partner is doubly responsible, plus deniability defence: "after the initial accident I thought a second go might act as CPR your honour".

      1. Alan W. Rateliff, II
        Paris Hilton

        Nah, he just wrote his options the same way the code was written. A severe case of Code Madness. (It's always some kind of "Madness.")

  16. Doctor Syntax Silver badge


    The other day whilst checking a physical library - the sort that has a door on the street & books, some not tatty, on the shelves - I noticed that the publicly available PCs are still running XP.

    1. Sandtitz Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Library

      Take a pick:

      a) the library has zero budget to buy new computers, but they're covered by the expensive-as-hell MS custom support plan since they're required to maintain the computers.

      b) the municipality IT admins have notified their bosses multiple times for several years now.

      c) the computers are 233MHz Pentium II models with 64M of memory. Not replaced with new ones since nobody seems to use them anyway

      d) the systems are behind NAT, they're locked down and are running Chrome, FF or some other supported browser.

      e) the systems are locked down and can be used only to search and browse the library resources.

  17. hekla

    Got off lightly

    This seems to be a very benign OH&S induction.

    On one work site it required 2 half day sessions one in the PM and the other the following morning.

    The questions on the test did not have obvious answers and some of the building contractors were failing on the first test and doing it again.

    The plant was not operational, so the other 3 half day sessions were not required, on starting operation it would be back to the beginning and do all 5 sessions.

    OH&S induction needed to be completed and signed off before access to the work place was allowed. I have heard there was one site with an 8 session induction.

    1. YetAnotherLocksmith

      Re: Got off lightly

      My response is: Are you paying me for that time? No? Then do you want that door fixed/property secured before you go home or not?

      (If yes, that's great. But they've *never* said yes.)

  18. Zot

    Instead of fixing the problem immediately

    ...You should write an elaborate and complex Neural network system that lays over the crappy code to help it function correctly! [true story]

  19. GBE

    Option R: upgrade from crash to re-entrancy problem

    The obvious answer is you change the stack variable to a static variable. That way it won't crash. Instead you'll have much a much more subtle re-entrancy or race-condition problem

    to deal with.

  20. TheNeonSpirit

    H&S Certification

    I had to take a H&S certification a few years back, so I am currently a CSCS accredited Computer Systems Installer for my sins.. Before taking the exam, a multiple guess affair, I was handed a study guide which contained a number of questions and answers.. I incorrectly assumed these were sample questions of the type that may come up, in fact they were the actual questions in the exam, a subnet from the guide comprised the certification, all that was required to pass was a 1/2 decent memory..

    The most concerning, to me, element of this was whilst awaiting my turn on the test computers there was a young man nervously passing back and forth thumbing through his study guide. As one point he muttered to himself "I better I pass this time, if I fail a 3rd time my boss will be unhappy*"

    *unhappy wasn't the exact phrase..

    1. Number6

      Re: H&S Certification

      Isn't a half-decent memory all you ever need to pass an exam? Either you've memorised all the questions and answers or you've memorised enough of the subject matter to know what you're doing.

  21. martinusher Silver badge


    That bit's easy....

    Declare the variable static, put in a comment, send out a mail/tweet to responsible person indicating there's an issue & suggest rummaging around the rest of the code for similar constructs.

    Obviously in many organizations you've got layers and layers of management trying to second-guess your work so sometimes the best approach is to fix and say nowt (except the comment). But then you shouldn't be working in a place like that unless you really can't find a job anywhere else. Since Pratchett is still on everyone's mind I will remind them that the Auditors, a central feature of the book "Thief of Time", are drawn from real life.....there's plenty of 'em out there but unlike the book you're not going to get rid of them by just throwing chocolate at them.

    (BTW -- C++ won't fix the problem, it will just prevent it from passing muster. Introducing it into the code mix may (will?) cause a cascade of new issues.)

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And one the office workers obviously needed to take as well...

    After a period of rain, the river is in flood and your task is to measure the water depth. Do you:

    A) Climb down the muddy riverbank and wade into the middle of the river;

    B) Stand on the perfectly usable bridge over the river;

    C) Hide in Land Rover because you heard a dog bark in the distance and it might be loose and hunt you down.

    The correct answer was "C - do nothing, because you can find a risk in absolutely any situation"

    All of the above was only slightly paraphrased from a real H&S training session (Mandatory for all staff, of course, but nothing that might have been useful to the 90% of staff who were pen-pushers [or electron herders])

  23. hugo tyson

    It's all about liability

    We have to do stupid "how to sit on a chair" training. OK, it's supposed to be "how to set up your workstation" meaning monitor, mouse, keyboard. It's designed so that any moron can pass by picking the middle one of the answers. "Do you set your chair a) too low b) middle c) too high" but in pictures. It's designed to take a certain time by making you mouse over things to see popups for a certain time before you can press "next". The only thing it does is relieve the employer of liability for your bad back or RSI. It's utterly utterly pointless.

    1. YetAnotherLocksmith

      Re: It's all about liability

      "The only thing it does is relieve the employer of liability for your bad back or RSI. It's utterly utterly pointless."

      And there you have it.

      I do jobs with other self employed people, & we get told to do things that would be illegal or deadly all the time! Quite often we get out of it smoothly by asking the 1d 10t call center muppet to tell the engineer (who works for the same company they do) to do it - & suddenly, we get to *not* face down a dog/touch a cable to see if it is live/break a window/face down a nutter.

  24. gibbleth

    Uninitialized pointers

    One company that used to be one of our vendors at a previous job solved the problem of uninitialized pointers by doing a code sweep and having each and every pointer in each and every function point to an array allocated on the stack. Not only did this produce stonking stack use, but it led to some very interesting subtle bugs that only occurred in AIX, when the invalid pointer was accessed after return. It became my job to 'fix' this hopeless situation.

  25. Michael Maxwell

    Not that Connor?

    And here I thought this was going to be about how John Connor's girlfriend was going to ensure the world's health and safety be preventing the Terminator.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    H & S?

    I top all of you, working inventory in a pc in the same floor plan as a gas-powered forklift, in a warehouse with no windows.

    Even the forklift operator gets whoozy from time to time. And our HS is worried if we are using helmets!

    "Yes, I will be using my god-damned freaking helmet when I pass out from the fumes from that god-damned forklift buzzing around my back, thank you very much!" is what I wish to reply.

    Anon for obvious reasons.

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