Health and Safety

It’s absolutely never about ‘health’. It’s always about ‘safety’.


‘Health & Safety’ is the catch-all term for everything that could possibly go wrong in the workplace. It obviously springs from the legislation and executive of the same name – but in practice, the instances of the ‘health’ bits of Health & Safety are non-existent. It’s always just ‘safety’.

You can’t leave that there.

Why not?

It’s Heath and Safety.

Well no. “It” isn’t “health and safety” at all. It isn’t “health” or “safety” either. It is, most likely, just a possible risk in relation to people’s safety. More specifically, “it is a breach of health and safety regulations, but only those regulations which are specifically in relation to public safety.” Admittedly that’s a bit of a mouthful.

That doesn’t stop the corporate emails warning people not to do things for reasons of ‘Health & Safety’. A phrase unthinkingly churned out with the regularity of an irritating playground retort. “I know you are, but what am I?”

Because reasons.

A whole industry exists around Health and Safety. Companies whose sole, life-sapping purpose is to produce workshops and ‘learning materials’ covering topics such as ‘how to not block a fire exit with the sort of mountain of paper files that no longer exists anywhere’.

It’s a thrilling half day in anyone’s working life.

Who can tell me what the risks are in this scenario?


That’s right. They might trip over that extension lead, hurtle headlong through that plate glass window thereby severing a major artery, knock those computer monitors into those fish tanks, electrocuting their colleagues and presenting a fire risk.

Any other issues?

Countless corporate videos have seen struggling Lycra-clad ‘comedy’ actors demonstrating hilariously-exaggerated health and safety scenarios played out in the workplace, teaching vital subjects such as ‘how to lift a box’, like a sort of corporate Laurel & Hardy but an awful lot less funny even than that.

And who hasn’t spent a fun, interactive, afternoon in front of a PC doing a wearisome Health & Safety “quiz”, the failure of which can only be achieved by deliberately choosing the least likely answer? I sat through a three year degree course and you’re asking me multiple choice questions about fire exits?

Health is about disease. Hospitalisation. Germs. Viruses. Colds. Communicable unpleasantness. Pregnancy. Infection. Ebola. MRSA. Immune systems. Fluids. Rot. Frightful sordidness. Nobody bothers about these. Except in hospitals, hopefully.

Safety is about falling off things. Tripping down stairs. Having a pot of paint fall on your head when you walk under a ladder. Leaving a chair on a walkway or trailing an electrical cable across a stairwell. Bad backs. Ergonomics. Hot water. Coffee lids. Electrocution. Irradiation. Slips. Broken bones.

So what are those mythical things that represent both a health and safety risk simultaneously?

A bucket of anthrax spores balanced precariously over a toilet cubicle door? The biological risk worsened by the threat of concussion?

A badly adjusted and positioned office chair, whose twin evils of location and ergonomics cause simultaneously a ‘trip hazard’ and a debilitating period of backpain-related sick leave? Yeah, slackers. Take an ibuprofen.

In most cases, and as with most things, the appeal to health and safety can be safely dispensed with in favour of ‘common sense’. Sadly there is no legislation or government quango responsible for that, nor corporate departments dedicated to its promotion.


Crap Slogans


No brand is complete without a crap, ungrammatical slogan.

You might expect that people whose living is made from the creation and maintenance of ‘brands’ might, as a point of personal pride given their awful choice of gainful employment, have even so much as a flimsy grasp of the mechanics of the language in which their trade is plied.

You might expect them to want to create brand constructs that don’t set the teeth on edge or have their potential customers mentally correcting their howlers.

You might. But you will be disappointed. Because the essential component of a modern brand is a nonsensical slogan, usually consisting of a verb and an adjective.

Drive confident.
Eat fresh.
Live strong.
Think different.
Leave happy.
Play thirsty.
Think small.
Travel well.
Fly right.
Be direct.
Think smart.

It doesn’t take much to correct any of these, of course. But we shouldn’t have to, any more than we should have to explain communication essentials to anyone who engages as follows:

How are you?

Yeah, I’m good.


Of course, you could always just say ‘as soon as possible’, which would have the advantage of being actual English.

Yeah, I’ll revert to you soonest.

Quite aside from the wearisomely inaccurate use of the word ‘revert’, it seems that the entire corporate world is falling for a strange new use of the word ‘soonest’.

All of a sudden, it means “as soon as I can” whereas previously, assuming soonest was ever a word, it must have meant something like “the most soon”.

Hmm. Soonest isn’t a thing because It was never really a word in the first place. Not one you’d ever use anyway.

And now it’s a word that doesn’t even make sense. Which is, I suppose, some kind of progress.







Signing off an email with ‘Best,’. That’s not a thing.

The old ‘yours sincerely / yours faithfully’ protocols were clearly on the move long before business email replaced letters created in the typing pool.

They were replaced by a number of things: regards, best regards, cheers, or just nothing at all. Or a range of accepted alternatives.

But nowhere in the rule book does it say that signing off a missive with “Best,” is acceptable. Best what? Best of luck? Sunday best? Best wishes? All the best? Pint of best? And is it really so hard to write the pertinent phrase? Those seven missing characters saving you important time, are they?

Clearly they are, at least for the very worst type of correspondent. The sort of person who causes the red mist to descend with their ludicrous informality and their downright rudeness.


Talk track

PowerPoint presentations are no longer just presented. They now have a “talk track”.

No, I’ve no idea exactly when it happened, but in the time since PowerPoint slides stopped being presented and started being talked to, there has been a further mutation in the awful corporate lexicon.

It is a development which provides additional confirmation that everyone in offices fundamentally believes they are working in media, tv and probably film, rather than whiling away the precious hours until death on a nondescript business park just outside Swindon, or wherever it is.

Shall I add this into the slides?

No, the slides are a bit busy. Just include it in the talk track.

And by talk track, let us be clear, we just mean “the things you will say when you present it”.

So “include it in the talk track” is just a new, blustery, way of saying “say it”.

Not for the first time, I get a strong sense that we have broken the world.

The art of the possible

20140522-193935-70775299.jpgUsually, no actual art involved.

“Can we explore the art of the possible?”

Ah, there goes the cry. Making unremarkable things sound like there may be genuine artistry involved is a new business skill.

Exploring the art of the possible requires no more than a discussion of what’s easy. It lends a futuristic, blue-sky*, out-of-box* dimension to a process of doing exactly the same thing and hoping it looks different.

In that sense, asking “what is the art of the possible?” is the same as asking “what’s possible?”, or “what do we normally do?” Questions so unworthy of being asked that you may as well just not ask them. Presumably the reason you’re sitting in a meeting in the first place is because there are things you can do, as opposed to things you can’t or won’t. They simply don’t need an artifice of artistry.

It’s also the same as saying, “I am a moronic airhead who has adopted yet more meaningless meeting-filling vocal clutter as a radical alternative to having any actual ideas, borne of existing in a curious corporate bubble for so long that everything I say and do and indeed my entire existence is entirely bereft of any meaning”. That’s a bit of a mouthful though.

And no, to complete the picture, you are not trying to “boil the ocean*”. We know this too.




Why say a short word correctly when you can get a long one wrong?

“We are going to have to discuss your renumeration”.

“Yes, but first of all let’s invent an entirely new concept that sounds like it might be an imagined branch of mathematics; a bit of maths that sounds like it might have something to do with money but in fact doesn’t exist in the slightest.”

Renumeration: not a thing.