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Health and Safety Executive Renamed to FOBSE (2007)
September 2007. The UK Health and Safety Executive today decided that it will soon change its name to the Fear of Being Sued Executive (FOBSE). In a frank admission, the chief executive admitted that almost all of its rules, regulations and instructions were given out not to improve people's health or their safety at work and home but to reduce the risk of being sued. We spoke to an anonymous insider who agreed to tell us what it's all really about.
"We are replying to the growing band of Ambulance Chasers who grow rich off the genuine misfortunes and blameless accidents. To them, no accident ever happens by itself, it's always negligence or lack of due care and attention. I bet half of them don't even believe in God so don't ever try to invoke that deity as the cause of some happenstance. They always blame someone and our job is to make the UK a blameless place by banning anything remotely or potentially dangerous."
"We started small and until 20 years ago, we were only involved in preventing accidents at work. But then the compensation culture was imported from the USA and now everyone wants to get rich. Schools, Police, Fire Brigades? They are all bags of money just waiting to be plucked by some opportunist. Why just last week we had one family suing their local authority because their kid had ripped his pants on the playground slide. No injuries, just a tear in his pants. But to be on the safe side we're now closing down all playground slides. We've a sub committee investigating the chance of a kid being strangled by swings. Dangerous things swings; odds on they'll be next to go within a couple of years. We want the UK to be the safest place to live in the world, even if we have to ban everything that can cause harm. "
Miners and Spontaneous Combustion
"Ok", he said. " I'll be honest. It's not just about being sued. We're set targets as well. Our budgets are cut 10% each year if we don't meet our targets for issuing new regulations. Why in October, it's inhalable dust in coal mines. "Why yes I know there are only 5 miners in the UK" but it's a great piece of regulation. Why if someone inhaled coal dust and then lit a cigarette, they'd be potentially putting themselves at 1% extra risk of spontaneous combustion. That's quite serious you know. We have one man whose job is just to invent new legislation to prevent spontaneous human combustion. He's really er hot on the subject.."!
"It's a wonderfully creative area of course.", he went on. "All these regulations mean that when printed, well you won't find a telephone directory as thick as our stuff, oh, except for the Beijing telephone directory. ". He continued, "So we have a working party on safety in carrying paper products who have recommended that all phone books be printed on toilet paper for lightness. It's really green because when they're out of date you just put them in the bathroom and er reuse them. The chief executive will get a knighthood for that innovation. Nothing ends up in the er dump if you see what I mean."
Banning Table Legs
"Well yes", he admitted, "Telephone directories made out of tissue paper won't be much use but who uses them anyway except to stop tables wobbling. And under our Tables Legs 2009 regulations that won't be a problem. Do you know how many accidents happen at home with people standing on tables? ". We didn't. "Well neither do I, but I imagine it's a lot, so we're banning table legs from 2012 in England and 2014 in Wales. Tables will have to be solid blocks. Ikea were really keen on that until we told them they couldn't use wood. But they're happy now with our suggestion of large fillable plastic tanks. Just open the flat pack, assemble the tank and fill it with water. Perfect if you have a fire God forbid and need a handy large water supply."
"We did have a bit of a sticking point with that", he said. "How to assemble the flat pack. Hammers and nails are far too dangerous- if you hit your thumb, it's obviously because the hammer was designed wrong, or the nail or both. So you'll sue the shopkeeper who sold it and both the hammer and nails manufacturers for faulty design and we can't have that. So we're banning hammers and nails in 2015. We've done a deal with Lego who will supply the bits needed instead. They were a bit reluctant when we asked them to supply plastic bricks without the lumps on. Do you know how many people sue because they get their fingers trapped between two Lego bricks? We threatened a UK wide ban on selling Lego unless they made their bricks safe. So they're using a type of plasticine that goes hard when wet. We are just so creative. "
"Did you know we have a website for Latex Allergies? The new border police will do anything to keep people from getting hurt abroad and then suing travel agents, and airlines for letting them go there. But if they do escape, I mean visit a foreign country then when they come back, they have to be inspected to see that they're not smuggling anything back that could hurt them or let them sue anyone. So the border police have to search them very VERY thoroughly. But many people are sensitive to latex, not just on the hands but the bits being searched. Allergies where the sun doesn't shine are no laughing matter", he said laughing, "and we don't want our Latex manufacturers being sued, so we're investigating using latex gloves made of tissue paper. Clever use of origami and no staples!
The Future- Closing All Hospitals
"We have a master plan to close down all hospitals. Do you know how dangerous those places are? They let surgeons use sharp knives and your chances of catching MRSA there are ooh nearly 100%. You cannot believe how many people die in hospitals anyway. They'd got away with citing the cause of MRSA deaths as pneumonia for years but some fool whistleblower gave that trick away and the lawyers are now queuing round the block, so hospitals just have to go."
He carried on "London in 2012 is going to be a difficult time for us. London will be full of foreigners, especially Americans and do they love to sue. Newsagents have been warned about selling A-Zs to Yanks." You can just imagine it. "Hey I asked for an A to Zee and you gave me an A to Zed you schmuck, you trying to rip me awff? Honey, phone the lawyer...".
"We think a lot of these foreigners will come from places that we've invaded in the past or ruled or both. So we've decided to remove all traces of our military past from the Olympics. I ask you, 'what bozo invited the Red Arrows to fly past at the Olympics opening ceremony'. Half the audience will be diving for cover thinking they're under attack. Won't that look good! Take it from me, the Red Arrows are definitely banned from the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony. And don't get me started on Javelin throwing.. we'll make the IOC accept rubber sponges stuck on the end..."
On our way out we thanked our insider for all the insights he's provided into their work. He insisted on us donning crash helmets when we descended in the lift. "It's a trial for the future", he said "we think lifts are far too dangerous places, even when they don't crash. You might hit your head on the doors. That's way too risky- people might sue the lift manufacturers or the building owners. So if the trial is a success, every lift user in the UK will have to wear crash helmets. And those Sikhs won't get away with not wearing them this time..."