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Signoff: David Taylor

I WAS JUST beginning to wonder what had happened to all those Government-backed organisations that were supposed to be transforming the construction industry from a wasteful, strife-torn dinosaur into an harmonious engine of employment and prosperity.

Now I know.

Constructing Excellence now embraces all those reforming bodies and is about to become self-funding.

A lot has been going on behind the scenes and now the reforms envisaged by Sir Michael Latham and Sir John Egan are a reality. The industry has embraced the agenda and we now have a sustainable process of improvement driving the industry towards greater productivity, better health and safety and wider co-operation.

Does that mean all those primitive habits that held back construction for so long are now banished?

Well, I think so. And let us not be diverted by the occasional T5 worker kipping on the job or the spectacle of two tuxedoed steelwork bosses brawling on a London street.

These things just happen.

ANOTHER piece of welcome reform is the merger of the HSE and the HSC. Explaining the merger, an HSE spokesman quite rightly observed that a lot of people don't know the difference between the Executive and the Commission. I do.

The Executive employs inspectors who run around frantically trying to stop accidents before they happen.

The Commission, on the other hand, employs clever people who sit behind desks and decide how to make the world a safer place.

No, I'm making it all up of course. I haven't a clue what the difference is and never have had.

However, the fact that they're now being combined without any job losses and will henceforth be known simply as the HSE suggests to me that there never was any difference.

THIS IS turning out to be a great year for the Christmas killjoys. Last week we had the advent calendar br inging sad tidings of great woe. This week we have the mirthless health and safety officers warning of the dire threat posed by Christmas festivities.

This is the sort of defiantly unsociable attitude that puts a spring in my step and a song in my heart.

And the best thing about this week's Scrooge is that he's in-house!

I was delighted earlier this week to discover that the Construction News offices have been leafleted with an Xmas Safety Workplace Guidance Sheet, produced by our very own facilities management department.

This is a double bonus because until now I never knew we had a facilities management department.

The guidance sheet (illustrated with a drawing of a dazed-looking snowman with a potty on his head) outlines the main areas of risk - nearly all of which involve fire.

First of all, don't make a display of your Christmas cards - card burns.

Second , your tree should be made of fire-resistant material and its lights checked by a qualified electrician.

For good measure, do not bring your tree inside the building. For optimum safety, throw it away.

Third, computers are 'a no-go area for Christmas cheer' - an assertion I can vigorously refute, citing the bounteous crop of dodgy viral videos I've been sent lately. Never theless, we are warned 'ABSOLUTELY NO TINSEL' around our computer screens because of the risk of an electrical fire. Ah yes, those tinselinduced computer fires have become as much a part of Christmas as mince pies and mulled wine.

Finally, there's the matter of cable management and the use of two-way adapters? That's right, fire and a tripping hazard.