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Signoff: David Taylor

PRESIDENT Harry Truman famously had a sign on his desk reading 'The Buck Stops Here'.

Great slogan, that. It told the American public that however much those in authority tried to shirk responsibility, the man at the top would always stand up to be counted.

Since then, of course, buckpassing has continued as one of the guiding principles of all politicians and, for that matter, businessmen the world over. Despite the popularity of buck-passing, there are few more undignified spectacles than the sight of somebody high up in author ity ducking and weaving as they attempt to off-load blame onto some poor sap lower down the pecking order.

I'm afraid it happens in commerce, too. Even in our own construction industry. I mean, nobody actually rejoices when somebody falls down a lift shaft. But at the same time, nobody wants to admit something they did contributed to the incident.

And there's never been anything to compel them to do so.

Hence we've had the distasteful spectacle of senior managers who were collectively responsible for a death on their site slipping through the net because none of them, individually, can be fingered by the law as 'the controlling mind'.

Now, at last, the Government has done what it said it would do almost 10 years ago and published a Corporate Manslaughter Bill that will hold companies to account for fatalities caused by their collective negligence.

It would be nice to think company directors will soon be proud to declare: 'The Buck Stops Here' - instead of muttering 'Shit Happens'.

OF COURSE, everybody has to take responsibility for their own safety as well as the safety of others when working in a hazardous environment. Take plant operators.

They sit in the cabs of immensely powerful machines. They hold the power of life and death over their fellow workers - it's no wonder we all want to recruit the best-trained and most experienced operators.

But that's the problem: there aren't enough top plant operators to go round. Worse still, it seems that the calibre of instructors these days leaves something to be desired as well.

Where have they all gone? I think I know. They've all gone to Diggerland.

The plant-themed adventure playground, brainchild of millionaire hirer Hugh Edeleanu, has been advertising for plant operators with 'skill, judgement and nerve' to climb aboard specially modified mini excavators within a gladiatorial ring and try to overturn their opponent.

This goes against everything a responsible operator is taught.

But what's that compared to the adrenaline rush, the roar of the crowd, the dazzling pyrotechnics? You don't get that on a construction site. At least you shouldn't.

MEANWHILE in these sweltering climes, suspicions were running high over the Construction Products Association's curious lack of contactability on the hottest day of the year so far last Wednesday.

As the mercury edged 36 deg C, the association, it assured members, was without telephones or email but hard at work and added: 'We promise you (despite some scur r ilous accusations) that we hadn't decamped to the nearest beach for the day.'

My mole tells me - somewhat ironically - that the culprit was const ruct ion work in the basement of the association's headquarters at the Building Centre in central London.

He said: 'There's always some k ind of work going on. Some of us who have worked here for a while are wonder ing when the Building Centre is going to become the Built Centre.'