In March of this year, I wrote what I thought was a spoof on the "Single European Tank", venturing that the EU had finally found a means of abolishing war through applying such rigorous health and safety requirements to military equipment that it would no longer be possible to operate it.
But, as they say, truth is stranger than fiction. The Daily Telegraph today reports that "Noise at work rules threaten to knock out Army's tanks", recounting how: "Defence chiefs are fighting to prevent the Army's tanks being stopped in their tracks by the introduction of a European directive on vibration and noise at work."
The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations and the Control of Noise at Work Regulations, it says, have left officers scrambling to discover if the military's armoured vehicles break the rules. But with a slim chance of reducing vibrations in a Challenger 2 tank and the Warrior armoured vehicles, the Ministry of Defence will be seeking an exemption from the rules by invoking an "opt-out" clause.
Soldiers who travel in the back of tanks and are subjected to substantial jolts and constant noise will have to suffer the discomforts until at least 2010 when the regulations become law. "Because it's damaging to the human body we are out to ensure soldiers are looked after like civilians," an MoD official said. "Where necessary and practical we will modify equipment and we do have the opt out which we will use if necessary."
A spokesman for the Health and Safety Executive, which is implementing the legislation, said "national security" considerations could mean certain employers were exempt. "If you are in a combat situation then clearly it will be difficult to bring in these regulations," he added.
But then, if you bring in these regulations, it will be difficult to have a "combat situation". Surely that is the point?