Friday, August 24, 2012

British Bureaucrats Ban Paper Fasteners

When you think of dangerous office equipment, what comes to mind? A pointy letter opener? A paper cutter? A 29-cent ballpoint pen? An industrial-sized paper shredder and you're wearing a tie? Or maybe a heavy duty stapler and an administrative assistant who's sick of your crap?

If you're part of the Manchester (England) NHS Trust, it's metal paper fasteners.

Yes, paper fasteners. Those dagger-like strips of metal that are pushed through holes in office paper, and then folded and clipped, to create an official report.

According to a story in the Metro UK, officials at the Manchester NHS (National Health Service) declared that they would no longer use paper fasteners after a staff member received a small cut on their finger from one.

It's important that we understand that these are paper fasteners, even though the original story had said "paper clips," and the entire western hemisphere went bat crap crazy that yet another British bureaucracy would ban something so useful, ubiquitous, and un-dangerous.

Personally, I think the original ban was on paper clips, and when all of England howled in outrage, the officials had to find a way to not look that stupid.

Of course, it didn't help that when they originally sent out their memo — "Due to recent incidents, NHS Manchester has decided to immediately withdraw the use of metal paper fasteners." — they included a picture of a paper clip to show what they were talking about.

What's unfortunate is that no one was really surprised by the ban. There was an underlying "just when you thought they couldn't get any stupider" subtext to the whole thing, but there was not a lot of surprise at the decision.

I mean, this is the part of England where mail carriers are not allowed to ride bikes because of a risk of back injury; humping around a 70 pound bag of mail apparently carries less risk. And a school in south Manchester banned real soccer balls last fall, after a child was hit by one, because up to that point, no child had ever been injured on a British playground by anything ever.

The funniest part of all is that these paper fasteners — or clips — have been banned in hospitals, surgeries, and medical clinics.

The same places where they have needles, bio-hazardous waste, x-ray machines, scalpels, saws, and seriously heavy drugs.

Given the staggering number of things that can kill you inside a hospital, the executives focused on a thin piece of metal that, if you really worked at it, could give someone a small cut. Meanwhile, they still have not banned things that stab, cut, slash, amputate, cause cancer, shock you, crack your chest open, drain your blood, stop your heart, or stop your brain.

Also, you can still use pens.

One NHS staffer told the Metro UK, "I can only assume top brass think that they’ve employed idiots who need nannying through the working day."

Another one said, "We should just be lucky the safety memo didn’t run to two pages, that might have proved a bit tricky."

The Manchester NHS is just another organization in a long line of bureaucrats who examine a single issue within a vacuum, and don't stop to consider the stupidity of their decision, or think about how it will sound when they're done.

Banning paper clips — excuse me, paper fasteners — is about as silly as banning paper because it causes paper cuts, or pencils because you might poke yourself. There is always something that can cause damage to some part of the human body.

As I sit at my kitchen table writing this column, I can see seven things that could cause something more serious than a small cut. But no one has ever warned me about the dangers of accidentally maiming myself with computer cords, pens, coffee mugs, or a wireless mouse.

So I'm left to wonder why the Manchester NHS felt it was necessary to ban a small piece of steel (or a smaller piece of wire, if the original stories are to be believed), because one person in the entire history of the Manchester NHS cut themselves slightly on it.

I wonder if anyone has ever thought about banning British bureaucrats on the grounds that they're a danger to themselves and others.

All this outraged howling is giving everyone a sore throat.

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