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Signoff: David Taylor

HAVE you noticed how stupid some people are? So stupid, in fact, that they'll risk life and limb on a construction site because they can't be arsed to switch a concrete mixer off before sticking their head inside to see how the mortar's coming on.

All right, I exaggerate a bit ? but only a bit. And in fact I wouldn't put that past some people. So who'd be a health and safety officer in the construction industry? Come to that, who'd be an employer?

The reason for this week's grumpy outburst is a story in last week's Construction News about a labourer on a Scottish site who reached into a mixer while it was running and had his arm twisted half-off.

Pretty stupid, you might reasonably conclude.

But while this particular victim might have learned his lesson and will think twice before doing it a second time, how is an employer in any industry expected to guard against such obviously dangerous behaviour. Come on, we've all got hair-raising tales to tell. I've got one about a window-cleaner.

Arriving early at the office early one morning, I was greeted with a cheery wave from a window cleaner as he plied his trade outside. This star tled me because we were on the third f loor at the time. He was standing on the window ledge.

As the union health and safety representative at the time, I felt it my duty to play the Samaritan and coax him back inside. 'Ain't got time to chat ? I've got all the others to do, ' he said.

No common sense, you see? At a recent industry event I was asked by a keen young civil engineering undergraduate what advice I (presumably in my capacity as an unqualified scribbler) had to offer someone seeking a career in construction. Put on the spot like that, I could only think of one really sound piece of advice: 'Keep clear of the rotating knives, ' I said.

'What rotating knives?' came the puzzled reply ? as if it bloody well matters which ones!

THERE might be lots of stupid people in construction, but I can dispel at least one myth: that the construction industry is still in the Stone Age when it comes to information technology.

Actually, I'm not the one to dispel the myth ? it was blown wide open by the Mobile Data Association, the mobile phone companies' trade body.

It turns out that people in construction send and receive more text and picture messages than any other industry. It's not that surprising, though, when you think about it.

Construction by definition is a mobile industry ? the product is your workplace. So lots of people are out on site and they need to send information backwards and forwards between site and office. Mobile phones ? especially with cameras ? are ideal for this.

They're also good for taking snaps of idiots sticking their heads in cement m ixers so you can send them to you r mates for a laugh.

FINALLY to a tale that neatly illustrates construction's underlying humanity.

No contractor can pass up the chance to prove its commitment to conservation. So it was that earlier this week I received a heart-warming press release from highways contractor Ringway, which has donated several road signs to North Somerset Council.

The signs warn motorists that thousands of toads are currently crossing roads near the Gordano Valley nature reserve en route to their annual spawning grounds.

Ringway spokesman Phil Hucker is quoted saying: 'Ringway has been hot on road safety for many years, so why not toad safety as well?' Good point. Nobody wants toadjuice on their BMW, so hats off to Ringway for doing us all a good turn.