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Signoff: David Taylor

GETTING hit in the groin by a recoiling concrete pump nozzle is just one more unthinkable injury to add to the list of hazards present on a large construction site. Dodging a fast-moving, grout-soaked sponge ball might sound like harmless fun but it's probably very unpleasant if you're walking down the road minding your own business.

This, and the accompanying fountain of liquid concrete, all happened at once on a construction site the other week, proving that the apparently harmless business of pumping concrete is anything but.

The concrete pumping sector is very professional now, but it wasn't always like that. There was a time when you could spot an off-duty concrete pumping contractor by the jingle of his spurs and the rakish angle of his Stetson.

In the early days concrete pumping was an overpopulated sector with several small firms fighting to win the work with which to pay for their extremely expensive plant.

I learned this when a colleague of mine, a young and enthusiastic newshound, was asked to produce an overview of the sector. Tipped off by one contractor about the rumoured hardships of another, he got on the phone to ask the struggling owner about his cashf low problems. He never found out ? although he did get a very generous offer to have his front room filled with concrete.

IN TRADITIONAL mythology our average building labourer fills his stomach in rather the same way ? only instead of concrete he fills it with eggs, bacon, sausage, beans, tomato, mushroom, fried bread and black pudding, washed down with a quart of hot sweet tea.

I use the term 'mythology' advisedly because it emerged recently that building workers don't eat like that at all. Building materials giant Lafarge has carried out some research which paints a very different picture. It is a picture of a lean, healthy, dynamic workforce which breakfasts on fresh fruit and low-fat yogurt.

This is very positive news, though slightly puzzling. I'm puzzled as to why a massive global cement producer should be delving into the breakfasting habits of construction workers, unless it does indeed have plans to fill us all with concrete, which I doubt.

Another puzzle is why construction workers should abandon the fry-up for a light and healthy alternative.

The only explanation I can think of is mechanisation. In the old days you needed those fatty carbohydrates to fuel the hard physical labou r that comprised your working day. Today, you'll maybe have a small bowl of mixed organic grains with yogurt, a couple of fresh figs, a soupcon of organic guava juice, then you'll hop into the luxury air-conditioned, vibration-isolated cab of your state-of-the-art digger, press the 'double-espresso' button on the built-in coffee machine, pop a Coldplay CD into the stereo and spend the rest of the day twiddling with your joystick.

Better make that one fig ? don't want to get fat.

YOU MIGHT think that we could do with more t ransparency in the world of commerce. But instead the Government is considering more secrecy. The idea is to make it difficult for animal rights campaigners to get hold of shareholder lists and put the wind up small investors with whose money global companies finance scientific research ? or 'mass murder' as it is somet imes known.

At the same time, the police are trying to crack down on f raudsters using share registers to scam Balfour Beatty shareholders.

This is all a bit long-winded. I've got a much better idea. Why don't we just get rid of shareholders by nationalising everything?