Write on one side of the paper!

When living and working in South Africa some thirty-odd years ago, I ran the Engineering side of a construction company. I supervised the tendering for work, as well as the overall supervision of the various sites we had under control. I was the ‘appointed person’ for all engineering installations, both electrical and mechanical, which meant that, in Law, if anything went wrong, my name was at the top of a very short list. This meant that I had to ensure that all work was carried out safely, to relevant standards, with no ‘shortcuts’ allowed. My ‘Health & Safety’ policy document consisted of one sheet of paper, which stated that there are no accidents on site, there are only omissions and deviations from set, stable, established routines. If anyone departed from those set routines, he would be dismissed on the spot.

One of our sites was engaged in the cabling and installation of high- and low voltage electrical equipment which would supply power to homes in a Black township named Tembisa. The consultant, the guy who looked after all our contract phoned me up and casually stated that he was worried about certain high-voltage cabling and switching procedures which he had observed from a distance on site; and was giving me the opportunity to set things right before he was obliged to take note and action!

When I write about high-voltage cables and switchgear, I am writing about a force which can kill instantly, as well as burn and disfigure horribly if practices are not rigorously observed at all times. I arrived on site, found out what was happening, and what had been done; and proceeded to give final written warnings to the two senior men on site, as well as firing on the spot the highly-skilled high-voltage cable jointer who had placed his labourer, an ordinary Zulu in our employ, in the gravest danger. The jointer thought he was indispensable because his skills were in short supply, but he walked away because he broke the rules, which were developed and written long before he was born. The contract was delayed, a bit, but I had no choice, because I had found I could not trust a man who had stated that he always worked by the rules.

So what do readers think of the people who wrote, and then allegedly checked several times before printing the massively-faulted Business Studies examination paper, or the equally-bad Geography and Computing exam papers? When kids these days sit down to an exam, they know that their future is standing before them, and if they falter, their whole way of life can be massively altered or downgraded. What would you do if the first question you come up against on the exam paper just doen’t make any sense, because of either bad preparation, bad writing or simply ignorance? Your confidence is shattered, because you haven’t understood the question, and you reckon all your preparations have been for nothing! Multiply that feeling by a hundred thousand, and ATw readers will get some idea of the damage done to these kids who were hoping to get a smooth start in their exams.

But how many of the AQA staff will face dimissal? With British employment law the way it is these days, I reckon a grand total of Zero!


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