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BOFH: Their bright orange plumage warns other species, 'Back off! I'm dangerous!'

It's for your own Health and Safety

BOFH logo telephone with devil's hornsEpisode 9 I'm already in a bit of a foul mood when the Boss calls me into his office for "a quick word". The office Health and Safety enthusiast is there too so I know the meeting will be neither quick nor a single word.

"It's about the ladder," he says.

"What ladder?" I ask.

"The ladder in the hallway yesterday," the H&S freak chips back. "With no cones around it."

"There was no ladder in the hallway yesterday," I reply.

"Yes there was," he continues, "it was under the wireless thingy."

"There was no ladder in the hallway," I repeat.

"Yes there was – and you were on it," he snaps back.

"No I wasn't!"

"You were, I saw you!"

"Ah you're right – so there was. What's the point?"

"There were no cones out."

"And yet you still managed to see me. And the ladder."

"That's not the point."

"What is the point?" I ask.

"Someone might have accidentally walked into the ladder."

"But you could see me and the ladder."

"There were no cones."

"But if I'd put cones out, at the recommended 3 metres from the obstruction, 500mm apart, I'd have blocked the corridor."

"It would have kept people safe."

"Not if there'd been a fire it wouldn't – the corridor's part of the fire exit path. Are we allowed to block that with cones?"


"Perhaps you should be doing it after hours," he suggests.

"What, and risk a fall or a heart attack with no one noticing until someone turned up at work possibly hours later? That sounds reckless. I can't believe you'd suggest that!"

"You have an assistant."

"But what happens if HE had a fall and I didn't notice because I was up the ladder in the ceiling space?!"

"You could have someone just keep an eye on him," he suggests.

"THREE lots of overtime. I like the way you think!"

"I think we may have drifted a little off topic," the Boss blurts, knowing the penal rates in the contracts the PFY and I organised. "Let's just get back to the ladder."

"So a 6ft ladder with an almost 6ft me on it – which is somehow less visible than a 3ft cone?"

"The cone is orange," The H&S enthusiast points out. "It's a warning colour, and means danger."

"Which is why I always carry a carrot for self-defence," the PFY chips in.

Lead balloon.

"And I think I saw a pumpkin follow me home the other day," I add.

Still nothing.

"So the issue isn't the size of the object, just the colour?" I continue.

"The issue is visibility."

"But you could see me. And the ladder!"

"But not if my attention was elsewhere!"

"So the real problem appears to be employing people who don't watch where they're going?"


"ALRIGHT, so I think we have some learnings from this meeting about colours and visibility and now you've raised it I'll personally assure you that we'll be implementing them as soon as possible! Health and Safety is our highest priority!" the Boss blurts loudly, drawing the meeting to a close before any personal grievances can arise.

... The next day ...

"What the hell are you wearing?" the Boss asks.

"What? You mean my orange trousers, orange shirt or my orange shoes – which, incidentally, I purchased with our Health and Safety budget? We're all out of orange face paint, though – the PFY used it all – so I'm not 100 per cent safe just yet."


"Well, yesterday afternoon we did a little bit of analysis on the commonality of workplace accidents in the building and it occurred to us that we are present at a truly staggering number of workplace accidents! 75 per cent of accidents overall and 97 per cent of serious accidents. That being the case, we thought that wearing orange would highlight some form of danger in our vicinity and that people would be more careful around us."

"Why's the stairwell painted orange?" the Director asks, popping his head around the Boss's doorway.

"Almost 38 per cent of serious workplace accidents occur in stairwells. We painted them last night – because of the danger. We ran out of paint before we could do windows, which are an even higher – 44 per cent!"

"So what, you're just going to go around painting things orange?" the Director asks.

"Ladders were the first thing we painted but we realised they were only involved in 0.5 per cent of workplace accidents – and painting them orange would have no effect anyway."


"Both those accidents were where a ladder fell out of a window onto an accountant – so orange or not, they'd never see it coming."

"All right – so you're suggesting that painting dangerous things orange will somehow make the workplace safer?"

"Bound to."

"Won't people just see orange everywhere to the point that it fails to become noticeable?" the Director asks.

"I shouldn't think so, I mean we..."

Our conversation is interrupted by the arrival of a completely orange PFY.

"There's been a terrible workplace accident!" he gasps. "You know how our H&S person doesn't take the lift?"

"9 per cent of serious workplace accidents," I murmur.

"Ah, yes," the Boss says.

"Well, he was coming up the stairs as I was going down the stairs and when I said good morning to him he got a fright and had a bit of a tumble."

(That story sounds so much better than "waited in a dark corner of the stairwell then shouted 'Boo!'")

"Right – so I want those stairwells back to grey as soon as possible!" the Director snaps.

"I don't know we'll be able to do it today, but we might be able to bash it out in overtime," I say. "Because Health and Safety is, after all, our highest priority!"

Still time for the PFY to welcome the head beancounter to work then...

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