Leave your hat on

Don Miguel Rojo, I want to talk to you.
Don Miguel, I hear you’re hiring on men.
Well, I might just be available.
I gotta tell you before you hire me…
I don’t work cheap.

[A Fistful of Dollars]

But trainees do.

So cheap that they don’t have to wear hard hats on a construction site, or the scaffolding they are working on doesn’t need to be netted.

These are government trainees working on a government site, a hospital in fact.

It’s OK, because anyone working around the bottom does wear a hard hat.

The Government can confirm that all Gibraltar Training Centre employees and trainees are provided with the necessary Personal Protective clothing and equipment to satisfy the requirements of the Factories Act. As a training provider, the Centre ensures that all its employees fully comply with current and local Health and Safety Regulations by undertaking an induction period at inception stage and also undertake an independent Health and Safety test in accordance with the guidelines set out by the UK Main Awarding Body.

Moreover, trainees undertaking periods of on-site attachment are inducted on site to familiarise themselves with the site orientation, nature of development works and are instructed to follow the policies set by the Main Contractor. The GHA Project Manager responsible for the KGV refurbishment works carried out a risk assessment and its findings were that there was no need to use debris netting on this particular project. Scaffolding has been predominantly erected as a means of access to assist painters and decorators who are exclusively making use of it to decorate the main facade of the KGV Building. It is therefore not a requirement to include netting as there is no risk of falling debris, objects or heavy tools/equipment. The painting and decorating trainees are working at different heights along the platforms and are protected by overhead scaffold boards and consequently there is no need for the use of safety helmets either.

However, plasterers and bricklayers working around the site in open spaces hacking and making good wall defects at ground floor level are permanently using safety helmets. The Government in general and the Construction Training Centre in particular take this opportunity to reassure the public that it is fully committed to provide a high quality comprehensive range of learning opportunities relevant to the construction and built environment to assist the young generation and raise local standards. Furthermore, there have been no reports for many years of any incidents or near misses on the building sites where trainees have been working.

So, for starters. Scaffold clips? Scaffold tubes? Hit any of those with your head? Poke your eyes out? Anyone who has actually been on scaffolding will know what it is like – and it is very, very easy to bash your head. Or your face.

We don’t need netting because it is too expensive no-one is working above. Really? So there is absolutely no risk of anything falling onto anyone? From anywhere? No decorators using tools?

I wonder if they are wearing hi-vis jackets? Safety boots?

How many sites do you see around Gib that have signs saying?:

No hard hat.

No safety boots.

No job.

Gib government – what are you talking about, seriously?

Twenty years ago as a press officer I wore a hard hat when I went on construction sites. These trainees are not just visiting, they are meant to be working on a site.

This is an appalling way to train young people in a trade – ostensibly – for life.

As for the reference to the Factories Act? This is not the nineteenth century – first factory act in the UK passed in 1802. The UK has specific construction site inspectors within the Health and Safety Executive. Factories are not construction sites.

And – I have read the Gib Government Factories Act – 1956. This is a construction site.
There is an awful lot about colour-washing walls in factories – of which we have a lot in Gibraltar in 2012, 56 years later no less – and matches, and steam boilers, and laundries, and steam pressure, and asbestos and, where is the bit that says you need to wear safety clothing on a construction site in 2012?

We have a new socialist government looking after workers. Or do we?

Here is good scaffolding with good practice being carried out by the workers on site.

Gib Government –
1) You still need to change your press releases, and
2) You may wish to wander around a building site.

Here is Joe Cocker, from Sheffield, Yorkshire, who sang “Leave Your Hat On,” in the 1986 Adrian Lyne film 9½ Weeks during the striptease scene. It was later sung by Tom Jones on the Full Monty. Written by Randy Newman incidentally.


20 comments on “Leave your hat on

  1. The smart ass comment would be, “well its a hospital, so they would not have far to go if something did hit them”.

    Painters and Decorators (with the exception of very careful Master Partner of course) can easily knock over a tin of paint, and as anyone who has carried even a small one home can testify, they are quite the lethal weapon. Not sure I’d like to be hit by a paintbrush falling from 30 feet to be honest, let alone some of the other pointy ended tools they may use.

    I expect tory led coalitions to seek to reduce the cost of health and safety laws, but I’m a bit surprised that a centre left administration is not following them for the sake of saving some money.

    Note to Gib Government: You need someone new to write your press releases, and I know just the lady…


    • The smart arse reply would be: Actually KGV is a mental hospital so if they got hit on the head even more appropriate, although if they fell off the scaffolding they would have to travel to A&E.

      You are right about the tins of paint too. Lethal things. Take your toes off, knock you unconscious etc etc. Pointy ended tools? Scraper? Putty knife? Filling blades/spatulas? Hammer? Screwdriver? Pliers? Caulk gun? Paint kettles? Rollers? Roller poles? Roller scuttles? Painting ain’t just putting on a little bit of paint with a brush. Master Partner (!!) has used all those tools on the last outside scaffolded job.

      I read the press release issued by the govt and seethed but waited for MP to return home to ask if I was going over the top. He had the same reaction. He spoke to a colleague decorator today who had also read it – and – same reaction again.

      No idea if it is a money-based issue, but basically, young trainees are not being taught best practice, and H&S is not being regarded as the priority it should be.

      Oh!! You have forgotten your journalism primer lessons. It is ok to refer to women as women. I don’t aspire to be Lady Roughseas, so you can call me a woman not a lady. Or even a person, or a journalist, or a press officer or – well, whatever ;) Thanks for the vote of confidence though :)


  2. tried to watch the video, and when i clicked on the arrow, i got the following message. i hope it’s not a copywritten, because i am copying it here without knowing to whom it should be attributed:
    This video contains content from EMI, who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds.
    that aside, i am quite surprised at the ‘no safety helmet’ ruling at your end. we call them hard hats over here. i always assumed they were prerequiste to working on a construction site here, so looked it up for comparison. turns out there is no national regulation, but each individual province has its own procedure.
    in my home province of BC, there are specific guidelines laid out bythe Occupational Health and Safety Regulation as posted on the worksafe BC website, and safety clothing and headgear is required for all workers on construction sites who are responsible for getting their own. in fact there was an interesting story published in the worksafe magazine jan/feb 2001 edition about a freak accident which could have ended tragically but for the hard hat. the author is Heather Prime if you want to duck duck go. posting the link will likely end up putting me in your spam box, so i won’t. :) but if you key in the following words, you will get the post: heather prime worksafebc jan feb 2001 hard hats
    reading your post, was actually reminded of that famous image of lunch during the construction of the RCA building at Rockefeller Center in 1932. have you seen it? if not, searching ‘rockefeller center lunch photo’ at Wikipedia should take you there.
    enough rambling from me. time to say good night. have a great day!


    • I get that copyright thing quite a bit too, but it’s still working ok at my end.

      It seems to be down to individual sites here, but there is an inspector comes round and they do stop jobs if people aren’t wearing the correct safety gear so I don’t understand the above quite frankly. I don’t see why the government can get away with saying that the trainees don’t need them. Cost? As I suggested above? Providing hard hats, safety boots and high vis jackets for all trainees? When Partner started on the current firm, he read the induction sheet, signed it and immediately asked for the gear to be issued (he’d been wearing his own up to that point). Friend who’s spent seven months in the UK though said that he had to provide his own, which he wasn’t happy with. We call them hard hats too, not sure where the safety helmet crept into the govt press release from – an official term maybe?

      I’ll key in those two ‘links’ and have a read, thanks for that.


  3. Doesn’t this stuff drive you crazy? That’s dangerous work.
    Seriously how much can hard hats and equipment cost – preventative sure saves on other costs. When you see stuff like that here, it’s usually undocumented workers newly arrived and desperate for money.
    This is why the border must be tightened – not because of prejudice like so much of the upper states believe/ have been told – These poor people slip in here and are exploited horribly and treated as disposable. It’s creating a shadow world that dangerous.
    The workers are afraid to complain, have no insurance if hurt (although hospitals will treat them for free if they show up – but many workers are afraid to do so). And worse, many work and then are not paid by contractors – or paid too little/ part of what they are owed (and told to come back for the rest – right, they never get it all). Some contractors transport workers away from where they live and do not offer take them back home.
    And there are laws here to protect workers…oh, these are undocumented guys, so the rules don’t apply….common decency doesn’t apply?
    Grrrr. (sorry for the rant)


    • Undocumented = illegal, yes?

      For a minute I thought you were talking about Gib then, and our cross border workers.

      Seems this situation is the same all over the world. Doesn’t take much to provide the right gear for staff and ensure H&S. The problem is the desperados who are willing to risk their lives – which wasn’t the point of my post, but happens here exactly as you have outllned. I’ll make illegal workers the topic of a separate post.

      Thanks for ranting :)


      • Sorry, I got off topic a bit. People should be treated fairly and provided safe working environments if they are hired .
        I thought Gib has had problems with immigration, too. I didn’t know that employers there would hire ones not authorized to work – it’s a smaller place and could be supervised more easily?. Yeah, it’s the desperate ones who sneak in illegally/undocumented that are at risk. The legal guest workers generally are treated better and know that the companies have to meet standards here.
        Human trafficing is another dangerous component. But that’s another post
        Always thought provoking pieces here…even if I tend to latch on to part and get sidetracked.


  4. Not off topic at all when we are talking about a number of general issues. I thought it was fascinating because of the proximity of borders in our respective homes, even though so far away, that there were so many similarities. And you are right, everyone ‘should’ sign a contract of employment or, if they are self-employed they ‘should’ be officially registered. Of which more later…. Thanks for leaving tracks.


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