A tale of tea, TV and misused PPE (Part 2)

In the first part of this blog Diving Safety and PPE specialist Nick Bailey lamented the inappropriate use of PPE he’d spotted in one of the many home building/renovation shows that currently infest the telly.
He’d picked the home renovation show as the first part of a relaxing evening’s viewing. As we return to the story, Nick’s next choice – a programme about classic car restoration – is about to begin…

During the opening minutes I am told that the car in question is owned by someone who has had it for a number of years but doesn’t have the time, money or skill to renovate his pride and joy. Fortunately a couple of cheeky chaps (the show’s presenters) know how to do the work and, without the owner’s knowledge, take the car away to a workshop to prepare the ‘surprise’ revelation at the end of the show.

We cut to the workshop. Here the main presenter talks to his co-host, who does the restoration work. The co-host has a beard, which means that he can’t use a filtering face piece whilst working on the car; but being in a workshop there should be local exhaust ventilators (LEVs) fitted to take away the hazardous material produced by the work processes. Now, as this car is of a certain vintage the brakes and the clutch will likely be of a type where asbestos was used in the linings. Will the co-host follow HSE’s useful guidance on removing asbestos friction linings? Well, to be fair, this is probably not the message the programme is trying to pass on. We only see snippets of the work being done (and to me, it looks as though there’s more to do than a single worker could handle. Perhaps there’s a sneakily hidden team of vehicle restorers all working on the car at once when the camera isn’t looking).

Anyway, the engine needs stripping down to its individual parts to make sure that there are no worn or broken bits that will stop the car running. Our worker has his hands in thin nitrile gloves but they are being torn frequently. There is dust in the air from the removal of old paint from the body. The interior of the car has, at some point, been wet and there is fungus growing within the carpet.  No protection is worn as the mouldy old carpet is removed to be replaced with new. Next, is cut away from the car’s body to be replaced with new and as the welds are made the worker has the welding mask in place protecting his eyes… but he’s not protected from the surrounding fumes.

Meanwhile, the main presenter is out and about sourcing rare spare parts as cheaply as he can so that the car will be ready for its unveiling before the owner. Returning with his treasures, the presenter finds that the car is ready for a fresh paint job in the spray booth. We viewers don’t get to see the paint being applied to the car but this is an art in itself, and also a potential health and safety risk that we’ve researched in the past.

As the programme concludes the two presenters reveal the immaculately restored car to the stunned owner and tears of joy flow…

If I’d been watching the last two programmes with members of HSE’s PPE team we’d probably have spent most of the evening peevishly debating what we’d seen on screen, grumbling about the show’s scant regard for safe PPE use and generally putting the world to rights on what we’d have done differently.

Still, at least my last choice of programme for the evening – a show about the history of the Roman Empire – shouldn’t contain anything controversial in the way of PPE misuse. Right?

Promisingly, the programme opens amongst the buildings of the ancient city of Rome and our learned presenter effuses on the history enshrined in the majestic architecture around him. Tonight’s episode will delve into the catacombs below the city and look at how the fossors (an old word for ‘gravediggers’, in case you’re wondering) enlarged the area available to bury the dead. As the presenter and his guide work their way through these subterranean tombs, the viewers are treated to shots of ancient bones piled up in alcoves. In other words, the presenter and crew are strolling through a confined space in which decomposing bodies have been stored for centuries; there’s also the possibility of a low oxygen atmosphere with hydrogen sulphide (corrosive, poisonous and generally nasty) seeping from the walls.

It’s a good job, then, that the presenter is wearing a filtering face piece. But my relief is short lived when I notice that the mask he’s wearing has the exhaust valve towards the top and all the printed information at the bottom. Gaaaaaaahh! He’s got it on upside down!

That’s enough for me. All my supposedly relaxing night’s TV viewing has done (apart from winding me up) is to convince me that maybe there’s a need to better inform TV production companies about the perils of PPE misuse and show them how they can become exemplars of good practice in the TV programmes they make.


What do you think? Have you witnessed poor PPE use on TV? Why not share your thoughts, opinions or questions about Nick’s blog by leaving a comment below?

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