back to article Builder-in-a-hole outrage sparks Special Projects Bureau safety probe

Last year, I uncovered the perfect antidote to the internet in an entertaining dig-a-well project, which went down, well, well with those who subscribe to the tenet "man cannot live by IT alone". However, one aspect of the project did cause a bit of a health and safety furore among our beloved commentards: the moment when …


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  1. DavCrav

    I put some plasterboard up and laid some loft insulation last week. Can I have an article too?

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      It depends. Just how much safety gear was involved?

      1. DavCrav

        "It depends. Just how much safety gear was involved?"

        Full boiler suit, safety goggles, face mask and gloves. I didn't need a miner's lamp though as there was a strip light already there. Enough, or should I load up with more when I'm putting the floorboards on top? I must admit that I didn't do a proper risk assessment...

    2. AndrueC Silver badge

      I put some plasterboard up and laid some loft insulation last week. Can I have an article too?

      I got IPv6 working at home last night. Can I have an aspirin?

      1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

        Yes, take two, and a large brandy.

    3. Graham Dawson Silver badge

      If only you'd somehow contrived to include a raspberry pi...

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      My uncle used to say " If you can't do it right, do it rustic". Glad to see he's still right.

  2. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

    But, But, But...

    Was he wearing suitable sun-block protection on his bare arms?

    We must know!!!!!

  3. Anonymous Custard

    Risk assessment?

    Shouldn't he also have a wad of fully completed (in triplicate) risk assessment forms in his hand? Or at least stuffed in a suitable pocket for use in breaking falls and possibly for lighting aforementioned fag in the woods?

    And is the mask due to being in your proximity and the remaining effects of the chickpea diet?

    1. Tom 260

      Re: Risk assessment?

      In the end what'll kill you in Spain is the Risk Assessment itself, get a paper cut from it, it gets infected, and you find the pharmacies no longer have any stock of antibiotics - since most of them haven't been paid by the regional governments since last summer!

  4. hplasm
    Thumb Up


    is there such a word as 'Underkill' ?

    1. Dr_N

      Re: Excellent!

      "Underkill"? isn't that what happens when workmen get buried at the bottom of a badly shored up excavation?

      1. John Colman

        Re: Excellent!

        Well, technically it is... They were killed, they are under, "underkill"!

      2. Anomalous Cowturd

        Re: Excellent!

        No, that's called backfill.

        Mind your backs.

  5. Kingston Black


    does it work?

    Icon - mouse over it...

  6. Huntsman

    Much Better

    I recall posting a comment after the original article about the wall. I think it looks much better now, you'll be pleased to know.

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: Much Better

      I'm delighted to get your seal of approval. The brickwork was always meant for rendering, so it's not so important how it looks.

      1. MondoMan

        Re: Much Better

        And there I was, thinking "rendering" was the process of turning horses into glue...

        1. Robert Helpmann??

          Re: Much Better

          No, no, no... whales to oil.

          1. Martin Budden Silver badge

            Re: Much Better

            no no no... polygons to blockbusters.

  7. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Killjoy statistician Nazi here

    2012 Spain: 555 deaths at work, 462,060 injured (source). Total population 46 million.

    2011/12 UK: 173 deaths at work, 591,000 injured (source). Total population 63 million.

    1. Mostly_Harmless Silver badge

      Re: Killjoy statistician Nazi here

      Fair comment, but relatively speaking how much opportunity is there for a UK worker to get killed on the job nowadays? So many of the potentially fatal occupations (factory work, mining, etc.) are a bit thin on the ground and the working population are largely deskbound ....last I heard, nobody's even been RSI-ed to death

      1. Tom 7

        Re: Killjoy statistician Nazi here

        I got a paper cut from the safety manual once and then it broke my toe after they laminated it all to prevent paper cuts and I couldn't hold it.

      2. graeme leggett Silver badge

        Re: Killjoy statistician Nazi here


        On the other hand, the press likes to tell us that Spain has the highest unemployment rate in Europe so that's skew the data one way. Then we'd also have to account for all those too old to work in the UK.....

        too much maths for a Friday.

    2. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Re: Killjoy statistician Nazi here

      One thing about those stats. From the moment you leave your front door, until you get back to it, any accidents you have in Spain are "Work related" (if it wasn't for work you'd still be in the house, watching "fisica o quimica"!)

      Also bare in mind that each weekend they publish how many lemmings were killed on the roads that week, and for things like bank holidays, they celebrate afterwards that there were 10,000 less deaths on the roads this weekend, compared to last year's mad rush to celebrate the extra day of weekend.

    3. Kubla Cant

      Re: Killjoy statistician Nazi here

      European attitudes to all rules and regulations, including H&S, seem to be like this:

      - For the Germans, any rule is a good rule. The more stringent and unreasonable, the better. Zu Befehl! I am only following orders, etc.

      - For the Club Med countries, rules are suggestions that we might follow if it doesn't interfere in any way with our lifestyle.

      - For the British, rules are things to worry about.

      1. Anonymous Custard

        Re: Killjoy statistician Nazi here

        @ Kubla Cant - I think you're mixing them up with traffic lights and other road markings.

  8. Big O

    No flare gun? What if everything else fails.... and then it's dark? What then?

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Massive oversight

      Jesus. I hadn't thought of that. I'll get straight on the case.

      1. Anonymous Custard

        Re: Massive oversight

        And where's his ear defenders, to protect from any future verbal about being down an unsupported hole?

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      I thought a flare gun was for dealing with hippies in purple loon pants...

      1. Annihilator

        "This isn't one of your church picnic flare gun firings Flanders, this is the real thing!"

  9. petur

    The way to do it safely

    Dig a hole for one ring and put the ring in, and another one on top. Then start extracting earth from inside the rings and watch the whole thing sink slowly while digging. Put another ring on top when you can.

    Digging the complete hole first is just madness because of the very real risk that the whole thing will collapse with you inside. Dead.

    1. Jonathan Richards 1

      Re: The way to do it safely

      Is that you, Marc?

      1. petur

        Re: The way to do it safely

        No, but interesting link.

        I just posted my opinion based on experience digging a well myself, still scratching my head about those downvotes :/

    2. Intractable Potsherd

      Re: The way to do it safely

      Sounds slow and prone to the very real risk of going very wrong. Proper assessment of the material you are digging in will give a good idea of the likelihood of collapse. Let people do jobs the way they want to, but make sure the liabilty reflects that. If Rui wanted to it that way, and no-one else was at risk, who are you to preach? That's why I downvoted you.

      That said, there is no way I would have gone down there - not because of the risk, but claustrophobia,

  10. Christoph
    IT Angle

    "worked out some kind of tenuous IT link"

    A live webcam so you (and we) can check on what the dogs are doing?

    1. Rob

      I 2nd it

      I like this, it's about time we tried to redress the balance of flippin cat videos on the interwebs.

  11. GreyWolf

    Ref doghouse and "tenuous IT link"

    Obligatory reference to Raspberry Pi. Camera driven by Pi, image analysis to ensure that the automatic dog-feeder that you install will feed the correct amount to the correct dog. You might as well get the R-Pi in its idle moments to record Radio 4 on iPlayer and play the programs back to the dogs time-shifted to Central European Time. And check the temperature inside the doghouse and spray water onto the roof when it gets unpleasant for the dogs.

    1. The Axe
      IT Angle

      Re: Ref doghouse and "tenuous IT link"

      Sound sensor on a Pi. When dog barks, Pi connected to a GSM module sends a text to your phone so that no matter where in the world you are, you will know someone is attempting a break in. Or the local boars have invaded.

  12. JaitcH
    Thumb Down

    Safety is never a joke

    The picture showing a man standing in a completely unsupported pit is sickening. I have witnessed a 'hole' collapsing, along with a trench, in Toronto, notwithstanding they were lined with heavy sheet steel.

    As a contract employer likely you would have been likely held criminally responsible for the mans death, had the hole collapsed, and undoubtedly been made to make financial support payments to the surviving widow and children.

    Then we readers would be able to laugh - at your stupidity.

    Hope the well dries up soon.

    1. Colin Miller

      Re: Safety is never a joke

      Standing astride the well head, surrounded by wet concrete doesn't strike me as terribly sensible either.

      1. SolidSquid

        Re: Safety is never a joke

        Falling in the wet concrete, even deep wet concrete, is far less likely to be fatal than the hole collapsing on him though. Plus there's equipment you can rent specifically for this job to avoid the risk, the only reason not to use it is not wanting to spend the money

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Safety is never a joke

      Luckily you're here to take it seriously enough for all of us.

    3. Intractable Potsherd

      Re: Safety is never a joke

      JaitcH, I often agree with you, but your small mindedness on this ("Hope the well dries up soon") is really rather disgusting. I doubt Lester threw Rui down the pit, and it is probable that, had Lester tried to stop him, the answer would have been along the lines of "It's alright, I know what I'm doing!"

      Just because you witnessed something unpleasant once doesn't give you an excuse to be objectionable about it. I'm willing to bet that I've seen at least as many unpleasant things as you, but it doesn't lead me to be pompous about it.

  13. dotdavid

    Woah there

    "The black plastic behind the fence is protecting the roof of the new dog house, pending tiling."

    Forget about the health and safety issues... you can't leave animals in such an inadequate enclosure! What if PETA found out?!

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: Woah there

      Bloody hell. The only things the dogs don't have are a sofa and a plasma telly.

      1. Richard 120

        Re: Woah there

        That's a terrible waste of power, surely you need to replace their old CRT job with something less power hungry, I know you have your issues with power, or is their place a "separate residence" on a different spur?

      2. Rob

        Re: Woah there

        You'd better sort it out then Lester, even the Silverback Gorilla at Longleat had a flatscreen TV and Sky subscription (although I think he passed away last year so not sure if they left in there for the next occupants).

    2. AceRimmer

      Re: Woah there

      PETA would confiscate the dogs and have the owner prosecuted for animal cruelty.

      Then, after 6 months of failing to rehome the dogs, they would be put down. Humanely of course

      1. Havelock

        Re: Woah there

        With PETA, the dogs would be dead before they left the property!

      2. Captain DaFt

        Re: Woah there

        Actually, it used to be less than a week, might still be. But most pets that get checked in, don't check out.

    3. Aldous

      Re: Woah there

      Given PETA's track record they would "Liberate the Dogs" and then have them put down. IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT LESTER? PLASMA TV NOW!!1111

    4. Andrew Moore

      Re: Woah there

      You do know that PETA stands for People Euthanizing and Terminating Animals don't you?

      1. Parax

        Re: Woah there

        I thought it was People Eating Tasty Animals.

        See the domain name dispute.

  14. SirDigalot

    bet you can get

    more power to that dog house than the other place you posted about...

    1. Anonymous Custard

      Re: bet you can get

      That would be his house?

      Of course, after the last time of being well and truly in the doghouse, the power, plasma TV and comfy sofa are all now required for the next time of being sent there for his own comfort perhaps?

  15. Sparc

    Health and safety sometimes taking an extreme in the UK. Looking at these pictures, Rui should be your friend for life.

  16. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. AceRimmer

      Re: That well

      He'll have to fill it up first

    2. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: That well

      What's the 2 metres of liquid in the bottom then? Please enlighten me.

      1. Richard 120

        Re: That well

        With any luck you've hit a whisky spring.

      2. Andrew Moore
        Thumb Up

        Re: That well

        "What's the 2 metres of liquid in the bottom then? Please enlighten me."

        Tinto Verano?

        1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

          Re: Re: That well

          I do hope so. Time to stick a bucket in and see what's what...

          1. Esskay

            Re: That well

            Judging from the time stamps, I'm guessing Lester's post came in a tad late...

            1. Dr_N
              Thumb Up

              Re: That well

              "Judging from the time stamps, I'm guessing Lester's post came in a tad late..."

              I'd say it was bang-on-time for comedic effect.....

      3. Dr_N

        Re: That well

        "What's the 2 metres of liquid in the bottom then? Please enlighten me."

        Is it donkey piss...?

  17. ukgnome

    Missing equipment and H&S nightmare

    I find the picture of the nice builder chap in all his PPE quite frighting, he is clearly missing a grubby cup of super strength builders tea!

    Also I note that you have pink plastic patio chairs, don't you know how lethal they can be, a total H&S nightmare waiting to happen?

  18. Jim 59

    Great stuff.

  19. BristolBachelor Gold badge

    Well, well, well

    Punchline: 3 holes in the ground.

    I don't remember seeing the original instalment, but this is what I've got just north of Madrid: 2 official wells; both built from brick; the type with 6 round, through holes instead of a frog on top. These are laid side-on to allow the water through. The wells are 4 m deep; one is 2m in diameter, the other is approx 4m x 10m rectangular. The lowest I've ever seen the water table is 2m below ground; the highest is just above ground. God knows how they built them, or how many people died in the progress. I have a 2hp pump from the wells, and the water level in the wells doesn't even change after pumping out 40m³ of water.

    The 3rd "well" is the original plant room for the swimming pool. It is half underground, and in the winter it fills up to the level of the water table due to small pin-holes in the concrete.

    On the subject of H&S, you should've seen how they emptied the propane tank of 800L this week to take it away. Admitedly, they did manage to get most of it in the lorry; some just made the nieghbourhood smell funny, and the rest created the largest flame and loudest roar I've ever experienced.

    1. xyz Silver badge

      Re: Well, well, well

      Well if we're comparing sizes, my well is 250m deep, 200mm dia bore job down to an underground river (Catalonia). I'm dying to send a fishimg line down there, with either a camera or a hook with a worm on the end to see what prehistoric monsters live down there.

    2. graeme leggett Silver badge

      Re: Well, well, well

      Whenever I hear propane tanks mentioned, I always remember the film they showed me ona caourse at the Fire College about BLEVE

  20. SoaG

    Dogs in IT

    Two words:

    Physical security,

  21. AutonomousCustard
    Thumb Up

    Better than BOFH

    It's articles like this and the comments they prompt that keep me reading El Reg.

    Shouldn't there be 4 other blokes watching Rui whilst he works?

  22. Danny 14


    What about an axe for zombie? You always need a decent axe.

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: mmm

      I reckon a chainsaw would be better.

      1. Long John Brass

        Re: mmm

        Ever seen a chainsaw start first time? I haven't

        Chainsaws also run outa gas

        Axe for the win!

  23. Steve Knox

    Safety Gear!?

    Rui's also carrying a mobile phone, an emergency Personal Locator Beacon, plus a GPS tracker...

    The radiation from them things'll kill 'im!

  24. kempsy

    It's all good fun until somebody dies

    We have had two deaths around here (pop. approx 85,000) in the last six months due to people being buried in holes/trenches - one of which was in a trench only about 4 foot deep. A nasty statistical blip I am sure you would agree, but one that does make you more sensitive about the risks. It might be common sense to know when to enter such a hole and when not to, unfortunately common sense ain't that common.

    1. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

      Re: It's all good fun until somebody dies

      Indeed, and I've witnessed plenty of things over the years where you have to wonder what the people involved were thinking.

      The problem is that Rui has probably been down lots of holes like that, and so have his mates, and they've all come up alive - ergo, no problem. But as you point out, just occasionally it goes wrong and then it's too late. The reason we (in the UK, dunno what the situation is in Spain) have bodies like the HSE is to deal with people who really ought to know better. In many cases they do know better but it's either inconvenient or too expensive.

      The biggest problem we have is that there are some extremes and some stupid stuff done in the name of "elf n safety". "Elf n safety" does **NOT** prohibit anything (well hardly anything). It certainly doesn't prohibit school kids playing conkers. And it certainly doesn't mandate "hi vis everywhere".

      However, lots of stuff is done (or banned) in the name of elf-n-safety because those responsible don't know (and often don't want to know) how to manage any potential risks. So instead of applying sensible rules, they just do stupid things - imposing "hi vis everywhere" rules, banning stuff, and so on.

      But that is not what health and safety is about.

      It's about simply looking at the risks inherent in an activity - and working out how to minimise/mitigate/manage them. It might be that the ground conditions are such that Lester's hole was highly unlikely to collapse - but I suspect the risks aren't as low as Lester or Rui think. But the risks are fairly easily mitigated - the techniques for doing so are well known and not hard - but they probably do come under the category of "inconvenient" or "too costly". And besides, elf-n-safety is just a bunch of busybodies out to stop all activity right ?

      I'll leave with this thought ...

      Have a look for the poem "I Chose to Look The Other Way". Try to imagine how you might feel if, at some point, you find yourself in such a position.

      Think you know what it feels like knowing that by inaction you could have contributed to someone's death ? Knowing that had you taken a different course, then someone might still be alive today ? Really think you know how it feels ?

      Now find someone who is in that position. I really really don't think they'll describe it how you think. All I'll say is that I strongly recommend you stay on the side of wondering what it feels like. It's a one way street and there's no coming back - there have been people who have committed suicide because they couldn't live with it.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "a wooden lid for the well in due course"...

    ...perhaps rather AT ONCE?

    (kids? dogs!)

  26. Rusty 1

    Ionising radiation

    What about ionising radiation? You sent Rui out there, to the wall, without an ionising radiation detector, or appropriate protection?

    You, sir, are a nasty piece of work.

    Oh, and what about knee protectors?

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