25 minutes, a council worker and a crane. All to change a light bulb 10 foot off the ground.

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How much tax payers’ money does it cost to change a light bulb? A small fortune if you take the work of one council worker in Bognor Regis Town Centre as precedent.

Onlookers claim that the man, a contractor for the local council, began his arduous task by assembling what might well be the world’s smallest safety enclosure around the lamppost; thoroughly protecting the perilous two feet around the offending object. One can only presume this was a measure against the potential for falling debris to blight the onlookers below.

Having satisfactorily ensured the safety of the general public, the workman moved on to manoeuvring the cherry picker into position so that the bulb, suspended at a vertigo inducing 10 feet above the ground, could be removed and replaced. This took a further 10 minutes according to bemused onlookers.

Critics have bemoaned the birth of a new health and safety world for a long time, but this new instance of H & S at its very best has sparked fresh disapproval. An onlooker, Ollie Brough, who works for an insurance company, is reported to have commented:

“It’s health and safety regulations taken to the next level. Goodness knows how much it costs to work so inefficiently. Whatever happened to good old fashioned ladders? Twenty-five minutes to change a light bulb. Ridiculous. Surely there must be a better use of taxpayers’ money?”

A Southern Electric spokesman said: “Safety is our number one priority. These days we have to risk assess every process.” (Although apparently this statement wasn’t risk assessed…)

This incident follows a similarly ludicrous example from earlier in the year, when we heard that Stoke City Council’s maintenance contractors had banned the use of ladders for any task whatsoever in favour of scaffolding. Introducing this policy increased the council’s bill for scaffolding alone from £423,000 up to £1.4million. In the meantime, the council was reportedly gearing up to make 700 staff redundant in order to fill the £36m gap in their finances.

26th July 2011