A H&S Expert’s Verdict on the Death Star, the TARDIS, and Other Fictional Workplaces
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there is an engineer scratching his head over a potentially big problem. He explains to his employer that somewhere on the surface of the enormous battle-station he’s been hired to help build, there is an uncovered exhaust port. The port is no bigger than a womp rat — those furry rodents who scuttle around Tatooine — but a direct hit from a laser cannon into the exhaust port could start a chain reaction that would destroy the entire station.
Obviously concerned, this engineer feeds this information back to his employer — a man named Darth Vader. Presumably, Vader must have killed this engineer, probably with some kind of force-powered death grip, while saying something witty and cruel. All of this must have happened because the Empire knew about this uncovered exhaust port, as is made clear in many scenes in A New Hope, and yet they decided to do nothing about it. Cue Luke Skywalker, the force, a big explosion, a medal ceremony, and the closing credits.
All of which goes to show just how important workplace safety can be to good storytelling. Even 39 years later, that uncovered exhaust port is still helping to create compelling cinema, as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, to be released in December this year, will detail exactly how the rebel alliance found out about this weakness. Perhaps the film might also detail how such a monumental blunder could have happened on a building project of that size!
Rack Safety Inspections and the Murphy’s Law of Large Workplaces
But even with a covered exhaust port, the Death Star would have still been riddled with problems. Consider the second Death Star; it too was destroyed by a single, well-aimed laser blast. Based on these oversights, think of the countless other problems this battle-station must have had. If its main reactor is able to explode in such a spectacular way, then surely that’s a sign that it was badly built, right? Wouldn’t it have been more sensible to spread the generator’s work across the station? Like, with a backup generator maybe? Or perhaps it needed more protection than just one shield? All of this must be a sign of shoddy build quality, and broken equipment throughout the station.
And maybe this is what that one commander was trying to tell Vader. “I need more men,” he said, but what he forgot to add — or was too afraid to add — was, “We need repairs, regular rack safety inspections, and a decent union!”
Larger workplaces are often harder to keep safe because of the universal law that, if you multiply variables, then more things can happen. To put it another way: “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”. On the Death Star, everything went wrong.
These sort of big workplace problems have also plagued the TARDIS for over fifty years, and it’s one of the many things that makes Doctor Who still so watchable. It’s not believable, or interesting, to watch a character like The Doctor use his ship as recklessly as he does with no consequences. His actions do have consequences, and this is why the TARDIS’s lack of reliability — or some kind of mistake made on board the ship — makes its way into almost every episode.
Workplace safety issues don’t sound immediately like exciting plot devices. In our image-saturated age, if someone were to pitch a film to Hollywood and they even mentioned the words “workplace safety issues”, they would quickly be shown the door. Still, when you really probe fictional workplaces, you begin to see how unsafe many of them are, and how often their lack of safety often makes for brilliant storytelling.
And it’s not just the Death Star and the TARDIS; those responsible for creating Springfield Nuclear Power Plant and Castle Black have a lot of workplace safety issues to answer for, as well. That’s why we at Storage Equipment Experts have made this infographic on the most dangerous fictional workplaces of all time.
Infographic provided by seerackinginspections.co.uk.
About the Author: Justin is a writer, SEMA approved racking inspector, and the owner of Storage Equipment Experts. His business provides a range of racking inspection services, including a free racking inspection checklist.