TREVOR BARNES ON HEALTH AND SAFETY ‘MADNESS’

Where exactly was common-sense while ‘appropriately-trained personnel’ had to be summoned to fish the body out of three feet of water?

 

[Image courtesy of Tomorrow Never Knows via flickr.com ©©]

Remember those fire fighters who, on 9/11, went up the stricken Twin Towers against the flow of people trying to escape, in order to help their fellow men and women? If you do, and were as impressed as I was, you’ll doubtless have been shocked and appalled by their fellow officers across the Atlantic in Hampshire called out  not to two burning skyscrapers in Manhattan, but to a three foot deep ornamental lake in Walpole Park, Gosport.

It was here that an inquest has just heard that 41 year old Simon Burgess had had a heart attack while wading out into the lake a year earlier to collect a bag of crusts, whisked away by the wind, that he’d brought along to feed the swans.

Onlookers, seeing his body floating motionless on the pond, immediately dialled 999 and an emergency operation began.

Emergency “services” were soon on the scene but, in contrast to their New York counterparts, this lot not only failed to perform anything remotely approximating to heroics but actually stood by doing nothing of any practical help at all while a man floated face down in the water a matter of feet away from them.

True, they were doing all sorts of other things, rolling out yards of incident tape to clear the public from the scene, unloading waterproof immersion suits, summoning three medics in an air ambulance, and generally faffing about on radios calling for properly trained back up. Busying themselves, in short, with tasks peripheral to Mr Burgess’s real needs which were simple; to be hauled out of the water as soon as possible and to be given resuscitation, if possible, on dry land.

But, no, this was not deemed possible, for it seems the men of Hampshire’s finest had not been trained to enter water more than ankle deep. And this boating lake, glassy calm on an English spring day, had a perilous (nay life-threatening) draught of just over three feet. - thigh-high more or less but judged high enough to sweep burly firemen into Davy Jones’s Locker.

Where exactly was common sense during the 37 minutes it took to summon the “appropriately trained” personnel to fish the poor man out of the water? Especially when at least one police officer and a couple of members of the public seem to have been overruled having volunteered to do for free what our public services were being paid for for dithering over.

In the event the coroner returned a verdict of accidental death saying that there had been a remote chance that Mr Burgess could have been saved had the emergency services intervened sooner.

He might also have added that, as an example of our risk-averse society, the incident could hardly have been bettered and, more to the point, that health and safety madness makes cowards of us all.

Image courtesy of Tomorrow Never Knows via flickr.com ©©

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