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Safety Begins At Home
by Charlie Wade

The Royal Society of Health and Safety Inspectors’ dinner dance was the highlight of Ray’s moribund life. It was neither the friendship nor companionship he liked, but the planning and execution of the event. It was without doubt, the safest (and possibly the healthiest) dinner dance in the world, being planned and coordinated by the society’s most elite members.

At his table, Ray inspected the knives (regulation level three sharpness, the potential risk of minor cuts minimised), the forks (category two bluntness, a small risk of piercing) and the table cloth (50% wool to minimise slippage.)

Satisfied, he surveyed the room. His colleagues were mingling, drinking and walking with clipboards. A few of them inspected various items with tape measures and approving nods. He noticed Greg Nappel, the society’s president, begin his approach to the stage.

The background noise in the room, played at precisely twenty eight decibels, faded. The minglers and drinkers took their tables, some of them inspecting the chair legs before they sat. Ray watched Greg walk to the stage then climb the reinforced, two-handled ramp clearly labeled, ‘For Trained Operatives Only.’ Then, he walked to the ergonomic podium, its height previously adjusted via risk assessment to not cause Greg any discomfort.

The microphone hissed as he spoke. “Good evening ladies, gentlemen and Health and Safety operatives.” The same joke each year, but it always got a laugh. “Before the annual ‘Safest Safety Worker’ competition, I’d like to say a few words.”

Then, just as Greg put his hand on the podium, it happened.

Richard Binwell, the North East Region’s most senior Health and Safety Inspector, had inspected the podium for safety fastenings, rough edges, electric and static earthing and blinding by reflection from the hall’s spotlights. However, he hadn’t checked the topple point: the point at which if pressure was applied, the podium would topple. It wasn’t his fault. It wasn’t on the checklist. It wasn’t on his clipboard.

Via a combination of poor footing, pre-speech sherry and a heavy hand, Greg’s weight on the podium tipped it. Losing his balance, he leaned further forwards, helplessly grabbing for the podium as it fell.

His weight now too far forward, in one last desperate attempt he lunged for the podium. Mis-timing it, he pushed the podium and fell after it. Falling from the stage, the podium landed first on the head of Western-Super-Mare’s safety representative, then onto the lead table, knocking over two bottles of wine.

In the rush to stand up, the other members of the lead table capsized it onto its side, squashing the representative for Norwich. The falling Greg landed in a pool of wine, closely followed by the ripped power cables from the microphone and podium lights.

The fatal fizzing shock he received created panic amongst the onlookers. Two were crushed to death in the stampede, while sixteen others gained minor injuries including finger dislocations, broken limbs and trampled toes. Poor Ray somehow received a freak castration after falling knackers first into a pile of category three forks while others trampled him in their haste to flee.

The Newspapers had not only a field day but a whole field week. The annual dinner dance was cancelled indefinitely and a period of mourning set aside for the ex-president and the other deceased.