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Door safety

January 8, 2003

Like any good bureaucracy, our university has a department of Environmental Health and Safety. In their latest newsletter, there is a notice to all of us scofflaws who would prop open a self-closing door – this is a violation of fire-safety rules! Let’s call this the “no doorstop” rule, which will now be enforced by inspection. “One of the most obvious and extensive violations of the Life Safety Code across campus involves using rubber stops or kick-down devices on doors in order to keep them open,” beginning two paragraphs of explanation…
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The newsletter concludes:
“As much as we understand your need to feel accessible, we urge you to look at your application, and make the appropriate adjustments. While some might view it as more of an inconvenience, there is no compromise small enough for the sake of safety.” Written like a true bureaucrat!
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On the grammatical level, this is funny because the writer is unintentionally saying “Safety is OK as long as you don’t have to compromise anything for it.”
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But beyond that, the writer means (I am sure) to say “No gain in safety is too small to be worth even a great inconvenience.”
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Not funny. This is saying that even if the gain in safety is tiny (such as the small chance that the modern, sprinkler-equipped public building will suddenly burst into flames and a self-closing door becomes the only thing that saves a life), then thousands of people must be inconvenienced over a period of many years to achieve it. In fact, it may be more than inconvenience – 2-way traffic combined with closed doors will dependably produce a steady stream of small injuries over the years. And in case of fire, that self-closing door will significantly impede the escape of a handicapped person.
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Some inconveniences obviously make a broad stroke toward public safety, like seat belts, and child-proof caps on drain opener. But how much inconvenience must the public absorb for debatable improvements in safety?  ΒΆ 4:34 PM

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