12 Jan 2008

Regulations Trump Heroism in Today’s Britain

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The London Times reports the story of a British coastguard who is resigning after being reprimanded for saving a life by violating his agency’s safety procedures.

A coastguard who risked his life to save a teenage girl stranded on a cliff ledge has resigned after he was criticised for breaching health and safety rules during the rescue.

Paul Waugh, 44, was so concerned for the 13-year-old girl that he clambered down to her in gale-force winds without waiting to fit safety harnesses.

The father of three, who was hailed as a hero and received an award for stopping the girl from falling 300ft as she waited for an RAF rescue helicopter, announced yesterday that he was leaving the service after 13 years.

Officials at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said that Mr Waugh, from Cleveland, had breached health and safety regulations because he had not been roped up for the descent. A spokesman said that the rules were in place because the agency did not want any “dead heroes”.

Mr Waugh said: “I am very sad that I have had to leave because I loved my job, but it is one of those things. You save a life and this is how they treat you. I am sorry, but I would not leave any 13-year-old girl hanging off a cliff.

“Saving her life was the important thing. The cliff edge was crumbling away and I didn’t think I had time to wait. It was pitch black and all you could see was a little girl’s frightened face. She was even planning her own funeral. If I had left her and ran back to the vehicle, got the safety equipment and then ran back, she could have fallen. She had been stuck there for 45 minutes and the cliff ledge had actually gave way so she was hanging by her arms off tufts of grass.

“If she had fallen and I had stood watching her, my life would not have been worth living.”

The former miner gave up as a volunteer for the agency, blaming “immense pressure” from management at Bridlington Coastguard.

The girl, Faye Harrison, had been walking with three friends along the cliff top at Brotton last January when they followed the wrong path down the cliff. As it got dark they became disorientated and stranded. A dog walker raised the alarm after hearing their screams for help.

Mr Waugh was paged by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, and with two others went to the scene. Because of a locked farm gate they could not get the rescue vehicle, which contained harnesses and ropes, to the cliff. Mr Waugh clambered down to Faye and held her to prevent her from falling. About 30 minutes later they were winched off by the helicopter.

Mr Waugh said: “I broke a rule and did not use the kit but I saved a life. I don’t call myself a hero. I would have helped even if I had not been in the coastguard. If I had done nothing I would have got slated, but I saved her life and I still get slated.” …

A spokesman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: “We wish Paul well in his future endeavours and the MCA is very grateful for his past activities and work in the Coastguard Rescue Service. However, the MCA is very mindful of health and safety regulations, which are in place for very good reasons.

“Above all our responsibility is to maintain the health and welfare of those who we sometimes ask to go out in difficult and challenging conditions to affect rescues. The MCA is not looking for dead heroes. As such, we ask our volunteers to risk-assess the situations they and the injured or distressed person find themselves in, and to ensure that whatever action they take does not put anyone in further danger.”

4 Feedbacks on "Regulations Trump Heroism in Today’s Britain"

Assa Fetyia

I don’t disagree with what he did, it’s human nature to help and I think many people would have done the same.

But, there is more than meets the eye with this and there’s something very odd with this story.

1st off , he was not fired, he quit during a radio interview without any notice being given to his bosses.
Why has he suddenly quit a year after the event?
His bosses have said he was not under any investigation.

Sounds to me like 15 minutes of fame gone wrong.

Frank Dobbs

This recapitulates everything that is wrong with liberalism, humanism and modern mores.

paul waugh

Hi i am replying to the first comment yes the bossess did know i had resigned as i had a heated conversation with a boss because a magazine wanted to make me hero of the year. And the boss still said i should have left her hanging off the cliff. the girls family were told she had died can you imagine the relief when they were told she was okand on her way to hospital.
Its took me a year because i didnt want to quit i loved my job but ive had hassel from the time of the rescue because i broke a rule and when the boss rings you at xmas to give you grief its time to call it a day.And i was underinvestigation i was told by the same man over the phone but there not going to say i was ive told the truth i broke a rule to save a life i also apologised but thats not good enough.I was on the job i assessed the situation the next team we called for to help us never turned up until after the job finished i wont stand by and watch anyone get hurt.Its easyto say what you want when your not there
thank you
paul waugh


Never Yet Melted is honored to have you as a reader, Mr. Waugh.



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