16 Aug 2006

Health and Safety Inspectors Restrict Bagpipes

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From The Scotsman:

Army pipers can’t believe their ears

They have led soldiers into battle and frightened the enemy with their noise, while becoming one of Scotland’s most enduring musical icons.

But the skirl of the traditional Scottish bagpipes is now under threat – from health and safety inspectors.

Soldiers learning to play the revered instrument have been issued with strict new guidelines aimed at preventing servicemen suffering hearing problems.

As well as wearing ear protectors, the guidelines insist that pipers should only play for a maximum of 24 minutes a day outside, and only 15 in practice rooms…

THE UK military lost their traditional immunity from health and safety legislation in 2000, with an exemption only applying when the forces are on active service.

Until then, soldiers, sailors and airmen were unable to take legal action against the armed forces for injuries received while working for them.

It emerged soon afterwards that experts were monitoring how noisily sergeant-majors were shouting at new recruits amid risks that soldiers were being shouted at so loudly that their hearing might be damaged.

It was also reported in 2000 that a number of changes had been made to assault courses, such as lower climbing walls and mats under some obstacles to reduce the chance of injury. The changes were ridiculed as the first stage in developing a “cotton-wool army”.

In 2003 it was announced that eye-safe practice lasers had been developed to allow army pilots to train at firing their weapons without damaging their eyesight. The £20m devices were used as range-finders during firing exercises as part of the Apache helicopter training programme.

And earlier this year it emerged that the Royal Artillery was testing quieter cannon rounds for their 21-gun salutes. The new shells were a more ear-friendly 135 decibels, compared with the regular 140dB.

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