Monday 2 April 2012

Standards - not a dirty word

I've written before about the issue of competence. It's one that exercises me greatly in my day job. My day job is concerned with improving the competence of electricians and given that here are tens of thousand of fires of electrical origin ever year in the UK, some of which claim lives, you should be alarmed to hear that the vast majority of electricians are technically incompetent.

That is, they do not posses the necessary understanding to comply with Regulation 16 of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, which states, reasonably enough, that,

"No person shall be engaged in any work activity where technical knowledge or experience is necessary to prevent danger or, where appropriate, injury, unless he possesses such knowledge or experience, or is under such degree of supervision as may be appropriate having regard to the nature of the work.

I didn't need to look that up - I quote it verbatim several times each week.

I only use electricians as exemplars, because their competence is an area in which I have a pre-eminent expertise - I'm fucking brilliant, me - but I have no doubt whatsoever that the principle of majority incompetence extends far and wide and into every field of human endeavour. You are almost certainly less than perfectly competent in what you do and part of that shortfall is not knowing what you don't know, or not caring about how what you do affects others. (Most people 'cards in' fall into the latter category, seeing their job as a means to a pay packet and not as meaningful in its own right.)

But, at least electricians and many other trades and professions have regulations to fall short of. And training to attempt to meet those standards. Standards that are sometimes hard to meet. Standards that are often changed, with little notice and for no apparent reason. Standards that are sometimes quite difficult to understand in the first place. And most people - ignorant or otherwise - seek to put in a fair day's work for a fair day's pay.

What excuse do politicians have?

Pictured: Last week's political news.

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