Sunday, 1 November 2009

'Health and Safety' insanity

Can someone please tell me what is the point of 'Health and Safety'? I ask simply because I'm just so bloody frustrated with the all-purpose answer from anyone who works for anything to do with utilities. It's the saga of Zach's electricity. I spent half a day in his flat a few weeks ago, waiting for the man to turn up and 'do' something with the electricity meter. It's in a room along with every other tenant's meter - gas and electricity. At waist high. All you have to do is to bend over to read it. Nothing dangerous there, I swear.

The meter was supposed to be moved inside of Zach's flat on Tuesday, for 'health and safety reasons.' He waited in all day but no one turned up (at least he didn't see anyone from the electricity company). The appointment had been made weeks ago. I rang them for him to find out what had happened. He didn't have enough juice left on his mobile. 'Someone was there,' I was informed. 'But they couldn't do anything for "health and safety reasons".' What were those, I enquired. 'I don't know,' came the response from the very nice man at the end of the phone. There's nothing unsafe about the meter, I told him. It's got good company with everyone else's. They're not having to be moved for 'health and safety reasons.'

Zach was down to his last £1 on the meter and called out for an emergency add-on. You have to do that, I was told. Not before the last £1. Nuts. The meter man turned up first thing this morning, Sunday. Of course Zach was asleep. The phone rang once to say that someone was there but when Zach got to the door, the add-on man had disappeared. Now he's out of both gas and electricity. Sitting in the chill and the dark and unable to boil a kettle. He's effectively cut off. What a botch of a system.

When I rang the electricity company once again on Zach's behalf and explained the situation, I was told that if Zach had paid his bills, then he wouldn't be in this situation. I agree entirely. But we're not dealing with someone who necessarily thinks like everyone else. He's got problems, I told her. He's not unique. I'll bet there are plenty just like him. She agreed. Then, I posited, this is not a very effective way of dealing with vulnerable people who should benefit by health and safety but who, evidently, are being let down by those very same laws.

Meanwhile we have an extension cable. There's a plug in the hallway of Zach's block and, because the landlords have still not mended the stove, the doorbell, the shower unit or replaced the rotting carpet in the bathroom - not to mention their recalcitrance with dealing with Ratty - he can use some of their electricity while he waits yet again for someone to turn up and add on the electricity because 'health and safety' meant that no one moved his meter without him being there because god knows what could possibly happen to the meter man confronted with a waist high electricity meter.


Olivia said...

Hi Ros
Is it possible to contact you directly by email?

Anonymous said...

Hi Olivia,

Sorry. Haven't had the energy to do the blog for a bit...

my email address is