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The Gasman Cometh

Updated: Oct 23, 2019

Contractors are replacing a gas main in my road. The work started in August and was scheduled to last 9 weeks. Well it’s 10 weeks now and only half the work has been completed as far as I can see. This week the work has reached the middle of the road and three way traffic lights have been installed outside my house, along with major parking restrictions. The project manager called at our house to tell us to expect two and a half weeks of disruption ‘and frustration’ (his words). Cue five weeks methinks.

The reason for the gas main renewal is ostensibly to make safe the existing gas network and improve the quality of the service by avoiding a string of smaller individual repair jobs. I get this but the logistical difficulties these improvements are currently causing to our neighbours and ourselves are considerable and our local councillors have been involved to see if they can help to ensure that the contractors progress with all due speed.

However compared to a major gas leak or even worse an explosion with risks to life, the temporary irritations pale into insignificance and no doubt we shall just keep calm and carry on parking a quarter of a mile away. The usual nearby overspill parking spaces are all filled by others in the road who have suffered for the previously mentioned 9 weeks.

So why am I sharing this human angst? We know that some people find taking safeguarding seriously and implementing all our policies and procedures irksome and perhaps unnecessary. For them, it gets in the way, puts barriers up, and requires time and attention that they cannot spare. Our church practice requirements can make them feel frustrated. Like the gas network it’s all hidden away underground so we can forget about it and hope for the best.

But that’s exactly the point. We need our safeguarding policy and practice systems to be smooth and effective, running effortlessly in the course of our normal work and being church. We display our policies for all to see, but much of good safeguarding practice takes place quietly out of the glare of others. Our systems may not be hidden underground – they certainly shouldn’t be – but from time to time we do need to take stock, audit what we do and if necessary upgrade our infrastructure. And that will take time and energy yet still be seen by some as an overreaction. However we shouldn’t tolerate minor leaks and of course we want to avoid at all costs a major explosion where people are harmed by our failures.

‘The Gasman Cometh’ is a song by Flanders and Swann who were a comic musical duo in the late fifties who wrote amusing songs about a wide variety of social and everyday matters. This song refers to a person who calls in a variety of trades people to deal with a domestic challenge precipitated by having no gas. Because the repair job was not completed properly in the first instance and cracks were papered over by a succession of decorators, electricians and carpenters, the gasman had to return again to do the job again.

Our job is to get it right first time and every time. If that causes some extra work and short term frustration than that’s probably a price worth paying.

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