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Safety Sign
Safety Sign
I'm getting really wound up about the ever more intrusive "Health and Safety" bureaucracy - to the point of reluctance to do public kite events in the worst infected countries- like the UK, Australia and New Zealand.
Partly this is from concern for their safety- the commissars that is - because the next time some egregiously dickhead official gets in our way, I'll likely feel duty bound to deck him- or her (not wishing to break the law by being sexist). Nor is this an inclination that is likely to fade with age- and a walking stick will give me longer reach and something to hit with.
But it's not that I'm generally inclined to violence or want to do unsafe things (yeah right).
Quite the opposite.
And this is the point; to my view, much of the 'safety' legislation we are now subjected to is likely to be causing more injuries and deaths than it's preventing..
Underlying most recent 'safety' drives is a doomed attempt to make the world idiot proof. If a GPS tells you to turn left and you end up in a river because the bridge is quite clearly missing, this is not your fault because you were "entitled" to believe the GPS- which will be good to know if you're now dead I expect.
And children at school are not permitted rough and tumble, are shielded from everything unpleasant (including truths about themselves often enough) and are led to believe that all furry animals are their cuddly friends. Someone needs to tell the policy making tossers that within a few years these unprepared kids will meet real-world tygers of every stripe- burning bright in the forests of the night, need I add.

Osh Free Zone
Osh Free Zone
But 'health and safety' is not only worryingly dangerous in the longer term but often fails even in the short term. Andrew Beattie says that in the UK, road bumps placed to slow traffic down and make it "safer" actually cause more deaths than they prevent by costing ambulances the crucial seconds that are often the difference between life and death for emergency patients.
And I'm pretty sure that a recent New Zealand regulation requiring extensive scaffolding and safety railing to be erected around even single story buildings when anyone is working on their roofs is causing a net increase in death and injury. This isn't just because roofers are now required to wear "safety boots" rather than softer less slippery footwear that is safer, but because the work of erecting such scaffolding is not risk free, and by a quick calculation appears likely to kill more people than there are available to be saved.

And it's not just failure to consider proximate effects like these that is at issue.

More fundamentally, there is an apparent total failure to consider economic consequences of 'safety' legislation and the overwhelming cumulative effects that this can have on a population's life expectancy- the ultimate and only reliable measure of what safety is all about.
Like it or not, there is a causative relationship between economic activity and age at death- richer people and richer countries have higher life expectancies- for clear and obvious reasons. From looking at gdp/capita versus life expectancy in various countries over time, for middle rich countries, 1% growth in gdp (gross domestic product) appears to add more than a month to every citizen's life. In poorer countries the relationship is stronger, in richest countries (which NZ isn't) this trend appears to flatten,. So, safety legislation that reduces productivity by even a percent needs to save a huge number of lives directly if it is to ever offset the lives that will eventually be lost to the reduction in prosperity. After 10 years of 1% lower growth rate than would otherwise have been achieved, gdp will be 11% less than it could have been , which effectively kills an extra 600 people per year in a country the size of NZ if the 1 month per 1% of gdp is correct. But there are just not this many lives available to be saved per year by more safety regulations..

Clearly therefore, productivity effects should be considered when evaluating proposed new 'safety' laws.
Clearly, they aren't being.

Worst of all, there appears to be no effective medium-term mechanism for reversing mistaken policies when failures become apparent- because by then there is a huge institutional ego tied to the new rules, with many careers and vested interests convincing themselves that they're doing it 'for the public good'- and at great sacrifice to themselves. Nor are penalties for so called unsafe practices applied evenly.


ST Ray Wakanui Feb 15 Rear View
ST Ray Wakanui Feb 15 Rear View
Last year a NZ farming couple were fined $20,000 each under health and safety legislation for riding quad bikes without crash helmets. There had been no accident or incident- they were minding their own business, in private, on their own property. If they had been employees rather than the business owners they would probably have faced no penalty at all from the law (though their employers would have). If they had committed the same offence on a public road they may have been fined $150 each- or let off with a warning.

I can think of no other explanation for this inconsistency than the longstanding antipathy that many NZers have to business. Work safety is a convenient stick for them to hit business people with- notwithstanding that NZers are much safer at work than they are at home or at play. More accidental injuries and deaths occur domestically and in leisure activities, by far, than in the workplace- even correcting for hours.

Hence my anger at the 'safety' commissars. OSH (Occupational Health and Safety), in NZ at least, appears to be driven by some relic echo of 19th century class warfare rather than the public good and is now possibly killing more people than it's saving- though probably more through lacking basic numeracy than by malice..

But personally, I'm really focussed on safety, real safety, not the OSH version. Otherwise I wouldn't still be alive and with a nearly complete set of body parts after a lifetime of doing dangerous stuff.
In almost the reverse of the message currently preached by OSH, in my view, staying alive and avoiding injury are about being prepared, ever vigilant, and taking personal responsibility for your own safety at all times. I learnt this approach from my father, who did 90 + years of woodworking, most of it when guards and protective gear were non-existent, kept all his fingers, and had no significant accidents. He would tell me, ad nauseum; "before you do anything, think of the worst things that can happen, even unlikely ones, and have a plan". When I was a kid, we went to Sydney, and the first thing he said as we entered our hotel room was " if there's a fire, how do we get out? " There wasn't, but the lessons stuck. Around machinery and kites it has saved me many times. This may be a bit a weird but I deliberately leave the belt guards off two of my machine tools as an ongoing reminder against complacency.

ST Ray Dubai Side View
ST Ray Dubai Side View
So by now, everything unexpected that could happen to me already has, and I'm fully prepared if it happens again? Well no.
Last week a maxi ray kite pulled an unexpected and life-threatening move that I was somewhat lucky to survive.
I was inside changing some thru cords while it was upside down.
The wind was smooth and maybe 50km/hr- enough to be a bit worrying, so I'd had a think about what could go wrong, and anticipated two possibilities: That it might flip over and launch with me inside, and that it could break free and we'd tumble away.
So while stuffing around with the thru cords I kept an open knife in my sometimes spare hand ready to slash myself out in either of these eventualities.
Neither happened and I finished the job, went to the tail zip to get out- and closed the knife.

ST Ray Wakanui Feb '15
ST Ray Wakanui Feb '15
Bad move: The ray suddenly and violently launched while still upside down (my weight at the rear providing the necessary angle of attack). I was tumbled down into the tail with just enough time to contemplate being bashed against the beach like a rock in a sock on the first loop.
Fortunately the tail ripped open and I squirted out- sort of a re-birth or maybe more like the elimination of waste produts- what's the word for this?.
Anyway; I'm pleased to be alive and uninjured and with yet another murderous kite's plot foiled and filed.
And with, at last, a reason other than price to appreciate Chinese fabric.

PETER LYNN, PASIR GUDANG, MALAYSIA, 1 MARCH '15
PS SSSLs: 9 more prototypes since last month. Latest 5 cell "47" series are definitely more reliable in stronger winds. The complete diary of SSSL development, with photos, is now posted on peterlynnhimself.



Octopus
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