2011 Christmas special: Report on professional development session, 2-5 April 1461

Posted: December 23, 2011 in Towton, Trivialities, rants & other ephemera

Report on Professional Development program held 2-5 April 1461, to address some pressing concerns arising from the Battle of Towton.

It is important to stress from the outset that the purpose of this intensive four day program was not to point fingers and lay blame. We are all responsible for what goes on in the workplace, and this includes Occupational Health and Safety. It is our view that, while we got some things right, we could have done better across the board. We seem to have forgotten something very important – a safe working environment is everyone’s responsibility. In light of this, it was decided that an urgent PD session should be held as soon after the incident as possible, with a view to doing better going forward, with ALL parties represented, so far as was practical.

Up until the incident at our Ferrybridge sub-branch, which we will not be dealing with separately as, by and large, it involved events similar to those that occurred at the Towton office, we had 85 days without a workplace accident. This admirable record wasn’t just broken at Towton, it was smashed. OH&S has looked into this and we were, frankly, shocked by our findings. It is clear that staff members have little regard for safety, their own or that of others.

This report is divided into five sections reflecting the timetable: Occupational Health and Safety, Conflict Resolution, Workplace Bullying, Industrial Relations, focusing specifically on Unfair Dismissal and Selection Panel Training, and a final session of Resolutions and Recommendations.

Occupational Health and Safety

The following concerns were addressed:

1. Lack of mandated breaks;
2. Use of equipment (eg longbows) not rated for Blizzards;
3. Dangerous tools and equipment (eg very sharp swords, heavy axes);
4. Lack of protective gear;
5. Lack of weather appropriate clothing;
6. Dangerous animals (eg horses) loose in the workplace;
7. Overcrowding in sickbay/low level of co-ordination among First Aid Officers.

1. Lack of mandated breaks

Studies clearly show that optimal performance cannot be achieved when staff members are physically and mentally not at their peak. Forward planning in such matters as adequate transport is essential when large groups are moving between work sites. Several nameless and frankly unwashed staff members claimed that they had been required to walk, and that they were not able to enjoy their mandated fifteen minute break upon arrival at the Towton office. This is unacceptable. Processes need to be put into place and strictly adhered to in the future. A form has been generated that will help track individual staff members’ break times. These are to be signed off by the staff member and two (2) Senior Managers. (Senior Manager is defined as anyone holding the rank of baron or above. The requirement for two signatures is reduced to one (1) if the Senior Manager in question is a Duke or a Marquis. If the Senior Manager is a King, an imperious wave of the hand is sufficient.)

2. Use of equipment not Blizzard-rated

This particularly affected our Lancastrian Department. A small avalanche of complaints has been received in this regard, most stating that the arrows from these bows did not reach their intended target (ie, the Yorkist Department). The Yorkist Department, on the other hand, stated that their bows were fine and they didn’t know what the Lancastrian Department’s problem was. A committee will be formed to look into the feasibility of establishing a Blizzard Rating rubric. The Earl of Warwick asked if this was to include Mist and Fog, but it was decided there were too many variables for this to be practicable, such as Mist Raised by Magic from a Very Great Distance by a Witch.

3. Dangerous tools and equipment

A number of accidents, many unfortunately fatal, were recorded, the immediate cause of which was the use of dangerous tools and equipment. Razor sharp swords, heavy axes, things with pointy bits are NOT suitable tools for the workplace. An independent inventory and review of all equipment is to be carried out and anything that is deemed likely to cause physical injury is to be removed and banned from the workplace and safer alternatives distributed. There were several strenuous objections to this, mostly along the lines of “If you take away our swords, what’s the point of us”? but these were dismissed. What staff do is not the concern of OH&S, making sure they do it safely is.  We must all operate within the parameters set down in the OH&S Policy and Procedures Handbook. There are to be no exceptions to this! Threatening us with sharp swords, heavy axes and things with pointy bits isn’t going to change anything. Copies of the Handbook will be distributed to every member of staff, just as soon as the monks have returned from RSI leave.

4. Lack of protective gear

Standards have slipped of late and many staff members were wearing protective clothing that was both obsolete and old. It was stressed (once again) that padded jackets and leather coats offer little or no protection. One of nameless and once again unwashed, who under the current anti-discrimination laws we were forced to invite and not sneer at too much, stated that proper equipment cost money and could it not be provided by the Company, or at least be made available at a subsidised rate. Most members of Senior Management sneered at this suggestion. It must be understood – provision of proper protective gear is YOUR responsibility. Running to your immediate superior and complaining that they haven’t given you a coat of chainmail will not be tolerated. The nameless and decidedly unwashed staff member was taken aside during lunch and given a sound thrashing for his impudence. While management doesn’t condone this, it is the responsibility of each Senior Manager to keep their subordinates in check and it is our policy to allow each Senior Manager to do so in a way he thinks fit.

5. Lack of weather appropriate clothing

See 4. above.

6. Dangerous animals loose in the workplace

A presentation on the Practical Use of the Horse Park was given. Several members of Senior Management protested at this, saying that their horses were essential equipment that allowed them to move quickly and effectively between the workplace and Wales. This was greeted by howls of “Fight on foot, you soft southern shandypants!” by members of our Northern Branch. One of the nameless and (you’d think they’d have at least heard of soap) unwashed was heard to mutter that he didn’t know why he was being asked to sit through a presentation about horses and horse parks as he’d had to run away as fast as he could at the risk of being trampled by several members of Senior Management on their way to Wales. He was taken outside and given a sound thrashing.

7. Overcrowding in sickbay/low level of co-ordination among First Aid Officers

The First Aid Officers were overwhelmed and could not keep up with the flow of injured staff members. The remedy for this is twofold: changed work practices (as outlined in points 1-6 above) and the provision of intensive training for First Aid Officers. We need more volunteers and the more First Aid Officers we have, the better the report on our Strategic Plan will look. On a related matter, the Fire Wardens were deeply disappointed that the practice fire drill scheduled for the day in question was not well attended. This may have been partly due to the blocking of emergency exits and partly to an erroneous belief that fires simply don’t happen during blizzards. OH&S assures all staff that fires can happen anytime and it costs nothing to be prepared.

Conflict Resolution

This was to be conducted by Humphrey Duke of Buckingham, but he was unavoidably deceased. It was pointed out that this has been the case for some months and that our Records Management Department really needs to get on top of things. Sir John Nevill offered to take the session in his absence, but it was felt that he had a conflict of interest, in that he is very much interested in conflict. We attempted to contact Margaret of Anjou to run the session, but she was unavailable, citing a ‘family emergency’. Finally, George Nevill, bishop of Exeter and (currently) Chancellor, agreed to do it. His advice, which took the form of an eight hour sermon, boiled down to one thing: Let the Yorkist Department run things and everything will be fine. This motion was carried by general acclamation by the Yorkist Department. The Lancastrian Department abstained.

Workplace Bullying

A number of complaints, mainly from the nameless and increasingly unwashed, has been received suggesting that they weren’t rostered on and had been coerced into coming to work under threat of death. While we find this difficult to believe, we must allow for the possibility that some members of Senior Management have resorted to bullying tactics. This is unacceptable! A Rostered Day Off is sacrosanct. And if a staff member calls in sick they must not be bullied into coming to work unprepared. It’s worth quoting from one of the complaints. “I don’t even work for the Lancastrian Department. I just know a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who does. But I had to turn up anyway and now I have a bloody great hole in the side of my head!” There was general agreement that this was unfortunate but just one of those things. A Getting People to Do What You Want Without Threatening to Kill Them PD session will be run next month. All members of Senior Management, in particular anyone whose last name is Percy, are urged to attend.

Industrial Relations

1. Unfair dismissal

Henry VI has lodged a complaint with the Tribunal asking that his recent dismissal be overturned. He states that he was not given sufficient notice or grounds for the dismissal and he has not yet received his payout and is having difficulty accessing his superannuation. At this point, the Earl of Warwick interjected with “Not given sufficient grounds or notice? We’ve only been telling him since 1455!” After some robust discussion, he agreed to look into the matter further, with a view to getting back to us by 1470 at the latest.

2. Selection Panel Training

The new King was appointed without the position being advertised; without the convening of a Selection Panel; without being required to send in an application and a resume; and without being interviewed. He was appointed on references alone. Popular acclaim, and an eight hour sermon by Bishop George Nevill, are not the appropriate processes and procedures. The Duke of Gloucester pointed us to page 228 of the Human Resources Manual, stating that a new King can only be appointed on the death of the previous King and that it was Henry VI’s fault for not being killed in an appropriate manner. Someone from the Lancastrian Department threw a copy of the OH&S Policy and Procedures Handbook at him, but he ducked and it hit the Duke of Clarence, knocking the beer right out of his hand.

Recommendations and Resolutions

The following recommendations and resolutions were made:

1. The Lancastrian Department should stop snivelling and come to terms with Workplace Change.

2. The Yorkist Department are a bunch of usurping thugs and need to go back to where they came from.

3. The Bishop of Exeter is a splendid Chancellor and should be confirmed in the position for life.

4. All women in a hundred mile radius should be brought to Edward IV so that he need never be alone ever for the rest of his life.

5. The Earl of Warwick should be proclaimed the Greatest Man that Ever Lived and be given leave by the College of Arms to have this emblazoned on his banner.

6. Henry VI would quite like to be King again some day.

A quick word from the Head of the Counselling Department

Our doors are always open if you want to, you know, pop in for a bit of a chat about things.


(My thanks to Martin Heskins for inspiring this post.)

  1. Susan Higginbotham says:

    Love it! Merry Christmas!

  2. Will Glover says:

    I’m laughing and there are tears in my eyes. I’ve probably spilled my coffee. How am I supposed to get work done around the office with such brilliantly funny material to read??? Merry Christmas.

  3. Kate says:

    This was an awesome post! So well written. Cheers!!!!

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