We often hear Jeremy Clarkson merrily criticising the pitfalls and inefficiencies of modern excessive health and safety regulation and standards; but the cliche is just so true. Huge teams and large amounts of manpower potential are wastefully employed conducting unnecessarily detailed risk assessments on mundane activities. Even our Young Enterprise team was not allowed to sell coffee, a potentially hugely lucrative idea, on the grounds of a health and safety risk. But apparently it’s not enough: the already heavily guarded 3-pin British power plug somehow isn’t good enough for my school’s Science labs. Allow me to introduce you to the most ridiculous power plug on the market (actually they’ve stopped producing them; I wonder why. No market maybe?)
The design is supposedly meant to prevent people from electrocuting themselves. The idea I guess is that the exposed part of the plug is buried deep inside the socket when connected. But the standard British power plug already has plastic insulation around the base of the male connector, preventing contact with a stray finger by accident; you’d have to try very hard to electrocute yourself, even then with only 240V. Another supposed advantage is immunity to inundation: the copper contacts are above the socket when plugged in, preventing water from creating a short. But then that begs the question: why not simply have normal sockets pointing … God forbid … downwards?
This is a typical example of the way kids in Britain like me are generally padded and protected from reality even in secondary school, both physically or mentally. Exam results are now no longer of any significance since the median boy in my year at St Paul’s got 10 A*’s and 1 A at GCSE; it’s simply a matter of not making careless mistakes and my 12A*s, 4 of which were among the top 10 in the country, suddenly look distinctly less impressive. And someone in close contact with application selection at Cambridge effectively openly confessed that they will discriminate against good schools: mediocre applicants from bad schools will be considered better than good applicants from the top schools. At school societies sometimes we have guests travelling from afar who we want to house; yet even after a committee member agrees to house the guest for the night, the poor speaker has to have his/her criminal records checked and bypass the kilometres of red tape which seem to hold our country together. In reality, the standard employer will probably take the person who got a 1-2 stamped with the brand name of (insert prominent University here) almost regardless, and the gas company house Putin for a year.
On the other hand is it possible that all this regulation actually necessary? We always hear about products with minor possible safety risks being swept off the shelves with great gusto and groan but a possible mirror image of this is China; take the milk situation for example (chocolate is now also unsafe). I’d personally argue an ‘ideal’ balance can be struck with far less over-protection in the UK, and that China is simply the reverse extreme. But whatever the case, I remain adamant that the Electrak power plug is one of the most ridiculous solutions to a non-existent problem I have seen in the field of electrics health and safety for a long time.