Monday 10 May 2010

A little story...

This came from a colleague in the museum sector. This is a micro example of what people have to deal with when they try to do things.

"Once upon a time there was an independent museum situated in the heart of the Peak District with lots of things to see and do including woodland walks and a sculpture trail as well as the museum’s collections and exhibitions. The museum’s Education Manager wanted to develop its provision for families who made up 80% of its visitors. She signed up as a supporter of Kids in museums, ensured that families were at the heart of the museums HLF bid and looked for simple and cheap solutions (because the museum had no spare cash) to help a family visit go smoothly. She bought some kiddy steps for the toilets, because she could remember how much easier they made a visit to the toilet with three small children who wanted to wash their own hands. As soon as the steps were placed in the toilets she was brought to task as to what they were for, why we had to have them and how we were going to stop them being used for ‘other things’. She was somewhat surprised to be told that they were ‘access equipment’ and came under the working at height regulations. As such each would require a unique number and be entered into the access register which was inspected by the local council every year. They would also have to be chained to the wall to prevent them being moved for other purposes.

Another man came to see her and said that he wanted to see the paperwork that showed why they were good practice/a good idea and the risk assessment for their use. The baffled Education Manager asked colleagues from other museums if they had come across any problems and they hadn’t. She asked colleagues t6hat she used to work with at RoSPA (the Royal society for the Prevention of Accidents) and when they had stopped laughing they suggested that if there was a risk assessment that could be produced if necessary they didn’t see a problem. She asked the HSE who confirmed that anything which isn’t fixed that aids anyone to reach anything by allowing them to step up comes under the working at heights regulations (and that is anything higher than the floor).

So, in order to safely introduce kiddy steps to the toilets she will have to write a risk assessment and, because our Health and Safety Committee say it is the most important document, a Safe Systems of Work Manual describing the procedures for the safe usage of said equipment. She could only assume that a copy had to be available in each toilet for the toddlers to read before ascending to the dizzy heights of the sink.

However, if the step is fixed and immovable there is no problem, this magically makes it completely safe and impossible to fall from. A lower sink is also fine – which she knew, but was trying to look at the cheaper simpler option without refurbishing all the toilets at the museum.

The Education Manager, disillusioned and very sad, crawled back into her cave."

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