You might have heard reports of a garage here in Limerick that was visited by an inspector from the Health and Safety Authority.
It’s a small, one-man operation, and the mechanic had a couple of topless calendars in his workshop. Pirelli, and that sort of thing.
The inspector didn’t like the calendars.
Take ’em down, she told the garage owner.
Excuse me? replied the mechanic.
Take ’em down or I’ll close you. You dirty, dirty, dirty man with all that filthy pornography on your wall.
It’s just a few calendars, said the mechanic. Classy, arty photography. By top snappers! It’s Pirelli. And anyway I’m the only one working here.
Working indeed, said the inspector. Thinking dirty, dirty, dirty thoughts, more like it. Well I’m not feckin havin it, d’ya hear? Dirty man. Dirty!
But, said the mechanic, everyone has the same calendars. They’re famous.
Dirty, dirty, dirty people, said the inspector. Dirty feckin men! Men, d’ya hear? Dirty evil thoughts. Dirty.
I thought you were the Health and Safety person, said the mechanic.
I’ll tell you what to think, said the inspector. And I’ll tell you what not to think. Dirty, dirty, dirty thoughts. Dirty!
The HSA later wrote to the mechanic about his “display of pornographic material at the place of work”. The HSA confirmed that the mechanic had been sent a written warning relating to “dignity at work issue”.
I was fascinated by this threat to close down the business because the mechanic had a couple of nudie calendars in his workshop, and so I sent the following query to the HSA.
Can you please advise in a general sense what criteria your inspectors employ to determine whether displayed material is pornographic or otherwise?
Can you also please advise what training your inspectors receive to assist them in making this determination.
Also, can you please advise to what extent such a determination relies on an inspector’s privately-held views on such matters?
The reply soon came back in the form of a press release.
In the course of the Health and Safety Authority inspection referred to in the Irish Examiner article today (March 3rd), it is clear that the garage owner had a very unsatisfactory experience. A range of issues were highlighted and we will be in contact with the garage owner to clarify the specific issue in relation to the display of nude/topless images and to confirm to him that the removal of the images as indicated in our correspondence does not apply. We fully accept that the HSA acted in an over-zealous manner in this matter. In relation to the headline in the Examiner that the garage owner may face closure as a result of this issue, this is completely without foundation.
So there you have it. The mechanic can continue harbouring dirty, dirty, dirty thoughts, the filthy pervert.
The language of the HSA statement is interesting though, isn’t it? The garage owner wasn’t intimidated, threatened or bullied. No. He had a very unsatisfactory experience. This is just as well, since the person giving him the unsatisfactory experience is also responsible for prosecuting bullies.
I was still a bit confused though. What is this dignity at work business? Is it part of a health and safety inspector’s remit?
I wrote to that HSA again, and they confirmed that dignity at work is not covered by any H&S legislation, and therefore the inspector was acting well beyond her brief. She was, in fact, using her power as a HSA inspector to enforce her own personal views of what is tasteful on a small trader, and if he didn’t have the presence of mind to contact a newspaper, he might well have found himself facing prosecution.
I wonder what other personal views this inspector has imposed on businesses using the threat of HSA action?
Did she tell people to smarten up? Shave off that beard? Give up drinking? Lose weight?
You’re a fat bastard as well as a dirty, dirty, dirty man. If you still have that belly in six months, I’m closin’ ya down, ya dirty filthy man.
I’d like to know what other small businesses have been warned about things outside the remit of the HSA. This inspector’s previous prudish activities need to be examined.