Health & Safety

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At my previous workplace, I was one of the fire wardens. I got training, I sat through endless, tedious Health & Safety meetings, and I carried out six-monthly floor inspections. Six months into the role, I realised just how badly the UK deals with fires and safety, which is quite astonishing, given the history of this country with fires, and the oppressive obsession with safety advice littered all over the place.

The training I received comprised an hour-long seminar on how fire works, followed by a practical class on how to put out a fire in a trash bin using one of the many types of fire extinguishers that exist. The meetings nearly always revolved around overly stretched discussion of the previous meeting’s minutes, on who was supposed to act on them, and whether they did so or not. If they did not, great: fodder for the next meeting. When I carried out the inspections, I was given a completely pointless checklist to complete, including gems like “are there flammable materials obstructing the hot air vents?” or “are electrical cables kept to the minimum necessary, and uncluttered?”. The answers to those two were yes and no, and they never changed over the five inspections I carried out.

Ultimately, the whole H&S business in the UK is a byzantine exercise in blaming the next in line in the most convoluted way possible. There is a palpable obsession with regulations that are clearly pointless and devoid of any common sense. This is if you are lucky and you spend all your life in an office, and never at home, because the residential buildings are essentially poorly managed campfires waiting to be set ablaze.

When I discuss these matters with Italians who are far more expert than me in fire safety regulations, they are often bemused, to say the least. All this happens in a country that saw many great fires throughout its history. One should think they learned something along the way.

Clearly they have not.

Learning to write

A post shared by Andrea Franceschini (@ilmoppe) on

One of the gifts of my profession is learning how to write. It’s a lifelong process to which there is no end, but many beginnings. I began many times, in many ways, for many reasons, and in many languages. I wrote prose and poetry, fact and fiction, letters and songs.

I am not one for funerals. I don’t like them, I hardly ever attend them. Save for family ones, I attended three so far, one of which was last week, for one of my PhD supervisors. I know very little about him, but the way he taught me how to turn ideas into words gave me glimpses into his love for literature and philosophy and knowledge and science, and life.

One of the gifts of my profession is learning how to write, and one of the gifts I received from Chris was him teaching me how to do it. So thank you, Chris.