Friday, October 30, 2009

I Had A Brand New Combine Harvester

At the Tory Party Conference I recorded a three minute video on the stand of the Institution of Occupational Safety & Health about my first job. I'm not quite sure they got what they bargained for, as I related tales from my childhood, helping my Dad on the farm and driving a combine harvester unsupervised at the age of eight. I reckon I had the most perfect childhood anyone could ever have had. What a shame that health and safety rules would stop me having it nowadays!

Click HERE to watch the video.


The Flying Spaghetti Monster said...

Oi can't read and oi can't wroite but that don't really ma'er, 'cos oi come from Somerset and oi can drive a tra'er

The King of Wrong said...

A good phrase I've heard - in the context of slagging off MOD procurement - is "the government needs to learn the difference between bad decisions, and good decisions that go wrong".

Most "H&S gone mad" issues come down to the same thing. Cutting through a live wire is a bad decision; cutting through an isolated wire that becomes live due to a mouse nibbling the insulation (or a lightning strike) is just an accident - even if the outcome gets filed in the same statistical bucket.

Overprotection and hysteria about negligible risks just means that when an accident does kill someone, it's from a chain of events so improbable that it looks like something from Final Destination.

Tone Made Me Do It - He's a Bad Influence said...

I thought that it has been illegal to work on a farm (or anywhere) till you were 13 since Victorian times.

What was the name of the great reformer who made child labour illegal?

Andy DM said...

Last year, 121 people went to work and were killed in accidents there. It's thanks to Health & Safety legislation and the sterling work of the HSE that figure is so low. The year before the Wilson government passed the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, 651 people died at work, over 300,000 people were seriously injured.

I agree with the King's comments that some accidents are so unlikely that they cannot be prevented, but lots of accidents can be prevented with a little bit of thought. Going to work now is 6 times safer than it was in the 1970s. I can't understand anyone, even Tories, thinking that's a bad thing.

Ralph Hancock said...

The main purpose of health and safety legislation is not to ensure health or safety at all. It is to protect employers, and in particular state agencies, from lawsuits when something does go wrong and someone is hurt, as inevitably happens sometimes despite the most onerous rules. If the employer was following approved procedure, he is safe.

Lettice Lygon said...

I lost an eye in a harvester accident.

The next visitor to the "all you can eat" salad bar thought it was a pickled onion.

The King of Wrong said...

DM Andy: Cheers!

The 1970s and now aren't strictly comparable, of course - back then we still had some heavy industry. It's difficult to get maimed by a keyboard, despite the RSI/CT claims, and nobody's losing lives or limbs to shop tills.

Nobody is complaining about laws like HASAW 1974, though. Those are welcome and rid us of abusive and dangerous working practices. That law was in force before I was even born, and - like the anti-discrimination acts from the same era - are just How Things Are Done.

It's the more modern laws that tend to be an issue - regulations on Manual Handling (laws to tell me how to lift stuff?), or Personal Protective Equipment (should I wear goggles to cook bacon?), COSHH (don't drink the mercury), Electricity at Work (apparently the PAT sticker's magic wears off after two years and you become unsafe), Reporting of Injuries (keeping and filling in accident books)...

There's a whole industry grown up around what was originally a perfectly sensible idea and, through the inevitable empire building, it has to justify its existence. The usual sort of statistical nonsense gets trotted out, even the occasional zero-tolerance bod with lines like "if it saves just one life..."

The result is that we now have people unable to do completely safe things because the insurers are so risk-averse that they can't allow anything without a mountain of paperwork, and it simply isn't worth the hassle to deal with it.

The biggest victims, of course, are small businesses. Ten years ago I had to have multi-million-pound liability cover for my business - which didn't deal with the public in any way and employed just me. I shudder to think what the cost and paperwork would be now if I wanted to provide a service directly to the public.

Hamish said...

Respect and envy Iain.
I didn't get to drive a tractor (Ferguson) on my uncle's farm until I was 14.
Tractors are very reliable these days, but combines and potato diggers still give a lot of trouble.
So, hand on heart, at the age of 8 could you fix the harvester when it jammed?

Paul Burgin said...

There is of course the nature of litigation, which is partly why the Health and Safety laws have grown. No one wants to be sued and to lose money and reputation, so they need to show that they accounted for every eventuality

Ted said...

Reminded me of this!

TO ALL THE KIDS WHO WERE BORN IN THE1930's 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's !!

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us.

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes.

Then after that trauma, our baby cribs were covered with bright colored 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 hitchhiking.

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags.

Riding in the back of a pick up on a warm day was always a special treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle.

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.

We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank soda pop with sugar in it, but we weren't overweight because......


We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.

No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no video tape movies, no surround sound, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms..........WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.

We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many 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!

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with 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!

This generation has 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

And YOU are one of them!CONGRATULATIONS!

You might want to share this with others who have had the 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, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave their parents were.

Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn't it?!

JuliaM said...

"The main purpose of health and safety legislation is not to ensure health or safety at all. It is to protect employers, and in particular state agencies, from lawsuits when something does go wrong and someone is hurt, as inevitably happens sometimes despite the most onerous rules."

Also, to provide employment for yet more civil servants...

Anonymous said...

As a Councillor I attended a Residents' Association AGM, where the guest speaker was ay oung man in his late teams, involved in voluntary youth work.

He said the biggest enemy of young people these days was 'Health & Safety'as it cramped all their leisure activities!

Dave H said...

If this is a machine that combines three stages of harvesting and doesn't harvest combines, why the heck isn't it called a 'combined harvester'? Major grammatical fail.

Probably down mass illiteracy at Massey Ferguson. Bloody Yanks.

Max Atkinson said...

I'm another farmer's son, though a few years older than you. When I was 8, combines hadn't quite arrived, and the problem was how to gather in the sheaves now that horses had (nearly) gone and tractors had arrived.

With a horse, the workers loading the trailer could tell it to move forward and stop at each stook. But the economic dilemma was that it didn't make sense to pay an adult farm worker to sit on a tractor and drive it and the trailer from stook to stook.

The obvious answer was to get us kids to drive the tractor from stook to stook, and that's what we did every harvest. And we thoroughly enjoyed it, just as much as you sound to have enjoyed driving a combine.

As an added bonus, it meant that we knew how to drive - if you could drive a 1940's Case tractor, you could rive anything - long before we were ever allowed to drive on the road. As a result, I passed my driving test at the first attempt, exactly 4 weeks after my 17th birthday!

Kath said...

Health and safety is a nuisance until something goes wrong....

The King of Wrong said...

Kath: "Health and safety is a nuisance until something goes wrong...."

Health and safety isn't an emergency service. When something goes wrong, you're still just as injured - but now you have a bunch of paperwork to do as well.