Fenger Pointing

Becky Fenger | May 19, 2010

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Becky Fenger

For safety's sake

Every time I think our government bureaucrats have set a new record for silliness, I get wind of another story out of Europe that tops our efforts.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Labor, is the primary federal agency charged with the enforcement of safety and health regulations in the workplace. OSHA can get carried away with itself. When I was young, my parents were forced to mount signs in farmers' fields, informing their quarry workers: "Warning: Cow pies may be slippery when wet." (Dried, of course, they were found safe enough for cow pie-throwing contests.)

I was reminded of that directive when I read an article in February by author and columnist Mark Steyn in National Review magazine. He marvels at the muddled thinking emanating from Britain's Health and Safety department. How else can you explain the signs at the White Cliffs of Dover warning one not to lean over the cliff? (And don't forget, the stuff that makes them white could be slippery!) Primary schools that forbid the children to make daisy chains because "they may pick up germs from the flowers?" The decorative garden gnomes that were ordered removed from outside a homeowner's front door on the grounds "she could trip over them when fleeing the house in event of its catching fire?" Perhaps the looniest of all is the order for fire extinguishers to be removed from a block of flats by the Dorset risk assessors "because they're a fire risk!"

But the kicker came when Steyn traveled to the British Isles to attend a relative's funeral. He describes the scene as a picture-perfect English country setting with "mossy gravestones, the shade of a yew tree, and cattle grazing across the church wall." (Any signs about slippery cow pies on that wall, I wonder?)

Mourner Steyn ran straight up against Health and Safety when it came time for the pallbearers to carry the coffin into the church. They produced a contraption that Steyn says looked like a cross between a Wal-Mart cart and a gurney. You see, the pallbearers weren't allowed to carry the coffin (the only real job they are there to perform) because Health and Safety can't have them tripping on the uneven ground leading up to the church. Not safe, don't you know?

This makes sense, I guess, when one realizes that the staff at Health and Safety's headquarters isn't allowed to arrange chairs for a meeting. They could injure themselves while moving them, so a "porter" must be booked two days in advance. The mind boggles.
By the way, I think I'll call OSHA and ask them again if they know about the Oreck vacuum cleaner so powerful that it can pick up a bowling ball. That sounds pretty dangerous to me.

Speaking of saving lives, Dr. Conrad Murray, free on bail from charges that he killed super star Michael Jackson with an IV anesthetic, is credited with stabilizing a U.S. Airways passenger on a flight from Houston last Saturday by hooking her up to an IV. No sweat. If anyone is adept at such, it would be the good Dr. Murray.

In an update on the "Holy Wars," Vatican lawyers announced they shouldn't be financially responsible for lawsuits against any bishops who may have ignored sexual abuse by parish priests. The reason? Bishops are not technically employed by the Vatican, so they can't be held at fault. You may get away with that cop out, papal attorneys, but not for eternity. WWJD?

"Reforming the financial system without fixing Fannie and Freddie is like declaring a war on terror and ignoring al Qaeda." – Wall Street Journal editorial, May 6