No Place To Park A Mixer

August 10,
2010

For a company that preaches health and safety to high heaven, the
National Trust management at Tyntesfield seemed to waver the right to be
included in this scheme.

At the end of my time at on the
estate, I had fewer work facilities than when the Trust took over, six years
previously.

 

On week one of employment with the
Trust, a member of the health and safety team came to Tyntesfield and measured
all the assembled staff for work clothing, boots, and PPE. That was the first
and last time we ever saw him. Six years on we were still waiting, so if any one
sees Ted, tell him my waist is now 34”.

 

As more staff arrived, there became
a shortage of space to store things, such as chemical suits, Wellingtons and wet
suits. All these items ended up piled high around an office that was designed
for three people but six people actually shared. This office also doubled as the
kitchen as well.

 

The office we had was not our first
choice. We had an office that worked, but the management moved us out. In total,
we moved office four times. At one point we were only one move away from getting
travellers rights.

 

All this was going on while the
manager stared out of her nice office through the rose tinted windows, in the
ivory tower section of Tyntesfield.

 

We had no workshop to speak of,
nowhere to store tools, in fact we had bugger all. The National Trust health and
safety officer condemned our working space time after time and despite strongly
worded letters, the management would stall on rectifying things with pathetic
excuses.

 

I could only use my workshop when it was not raining. This was because the water would come in and run over the power. Large chunks would routinely fall from the plaster ceiling and after the health and safety officer received so many near miss reports, she closed the workshop citing it was too dangerous to use.

 

Needing a space to do my job was
essential, so off to the property manager I went.

 

When can we expect repairs?
We
don’t have the money.
So where do I work out of?
Do you really need a
workshop?
It’s a good place to make and repair things don’t you
think?
Could you adapt to doing without?
You mean mobile
maintenance?

 

- This is where I must inform you
of the works vehicle I had. It was a Piaggio pick up, the same model that
whizzes around Italy selling ice creams. Lucky me I the Noddy version with four
wheels making it the deluxe model. This is the only van that needs a confine
spaces working permit to drive and would travel to the moon on a pint of derv.
It had the carrying capacity of a thong on a eunuch -

 

Yes that’s it mobile working!
No
it’s not practicable and anyway, I always had a workshop so I want mine
back.

 

A short time later I was summoned
to the office. We have found you a workshop the manager proclaimed. It’s the
shed in the old head gardeners private house garden. To say I was stunned was an
under statement, but off I went to play the part of the proactive team
member.

 

The shed in question was a brick
built lean to that was designed to house two spades, one rake, a bag of compost
and a small bag of clothes pegs.

 

On my return to the office, I told
my self I would not under any circumstances raise my voice in objection to this
preposterous proposal. I didn’t need to as I could not get a word in edgeways to
the garbage that was being spouted to me. I said enough, we will see what the
unions have to say.

 

As I couldn’t use my workshop /
stores, I asked my manager where I could store all my tools and plant equipment.
You will just have to use your initiative I was told. This I did. I waited for
the management to leave the estate for another one of their soirées and promptly
filled the office meeting room with my tools.

 

It seemed a shame to block the
whole room off, so my cement mixer and stand went into the property manager’s
office. I thought it fitted in quite well as I tastefully placed it in a
position that enhanced the office to give the whole room a new look. Feeling the
place could do with some positive energies also, I made especially sure the
cement mixer balanced the energies according to Feng Shui.

 

The following day I was summoned to
the office.

 

What the hell is that doing in my
office?
Not much it’s not plugged in
I want that mixer out
Where should
I put it?
I don’t care, it can’t stay here
But it’s a great conversation
piece

 

It was at this point she lost her
temper and so I wheeled the mixer into the meeting room next door.

 

Then there followed a bit of an
argument.

 

Clear this room, it’s for
meetings
Where shall I put it?
I don’t care, find somewhere.
No you
tell me where. I can’t find anywhere and we have been asking for permanent
storage for five years now

 

As she couldn’t answer the
question, the tools stayed there for some time.
Health and safety was always
an issue at Tyntesfield. The management would preach it and yet introduce
dangerous working practises. This brings me on to my next story.

 

A certain manager that resided on
the estate was eligible for call outs should there be an emergency at the main
house.

 

As he only lived a ten minute walk
from the house, the management decided it only right he should use the big 4×4
when on duty to drive there.

 

The only problem was he had never
in his life taken a driving lesson. He had no provisional license and was a lone
driver. All he had was a book of instructions on the operational procedures of
cars.

 

The first time I saw him driving
was negotiating the car around visitors in the reception area. I stood with
baited breath as he managed to reverse out of a sticky situation with a sort of
hopping motion.

 

Other staffs were actually appalled
that this practice was going on and yet I was the only one to voice
concerns.

 

This is what happened when I raised
the issue with the property manager.

 

I was not aware manager x had a
driving licence?
He hasn’t but he’s allowed to use the 4×4 to get around the
estate in the course of his duty
Pray tell me, what plonker decided to let a
novice driver loose on the estate surrounded with visitors?
He is only
allowed to drive around when the visitors go home.
What about people living
on the estate?
What about them?
Well wouldn’t they be at risk?

 

I also brought up the fact that the
tenants themselves have visitors and even when we are closed, the public still
let themselves into the estate for their own private wander round. It was not
unusual to have lots of children running around from a variety of these
sources.

 

All my concerns were of no concern
to her. She informed me that the area manager had instigated this idea as a
health and safety move to ensure the safety of manager X as he tended his
business.

 

My parting shot was – so you
decided to put the lives of many at risk for the sake of one person!

 

I phoned health and safety at head
office and was told the same as another concerned member of staff. I have a copy
of the Email that a certain manager called shifty sent to the health and safety
at head quarters.

 

It reads – forgive me for asking,
but as a hypothetical situation, can a member of staff drive a National Trust
vehicle with no driving licence?

 

The answer was definitely no as
they would not be covered by the insurance.

 

I bet shifty is now wondering,
where the hell did he get hold of that Email?

 

A couple of days later, I was
summoned to appear before the property manager. She was not best pleased. You
have really done it this time! The area manager is fuming at what’s happening.
Health and safety have been on to him and manager x can no longer
drive.

 

Good said I, common sense has
prevailed.

 

It was then threats started to be
issued about my position and how very precarious it was. Oh dear said I, put
that in writing. She never did, but I made my objections to her out bust very
clear.

 

What I never asked for was the copy
of the risk assessment that must have been done by the higher management prior
to implementing the practice of the novice driver. Had I done so, then I might
have rubbed people up the wrong way.