The TARDIS, Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, and Castle Black: Three Nightmare Workplaces

“Let’s make a television show where all of the drama revolves around potential workplace safety mishaps”, said no screenwriter ever.

The fictional workplace is a strange place where characters are rarely seen doing their jobs. After all, jobs can be pretty boring, which is precisely why we watch television. Arguably one of the least exciting parts of a job is workplace safety, which is why it is never featured on TV shows.

Or does it? Workplace safety, like so much else in life, can be quite an exciting and important discipline, depending on how you look at it. It is the skill of the screenwriter to turn the everyday into the dramatic, and the same is true of workplace safety. For some, it’s a tiresome pain. For me, as a SEMA approved rack safety expert, it’s a livelihood.

For characters like Larry, Phoebe’s one-episode fling in Friends, workplace safety is also a livelihood. However, in this particular instance, the livelihood is presented as an evil one. Throughout the episode, Larry does little else but close down — or threaten to close down — restaurants. It’s not a particularly nuanced or interesting depiction of workplace safety. For that, we need to be looking at some of the more dangerous fictional workplaces:

Most Dangerous Fictional Workplaces – workplace safety infographics
Source:Storage Equipment Experts -

Let's start with the TARDIS in Doctor Who. While some might argue that it’s not a workplace as we would know it in the human world, I would argue that saving the universe is the Doctor’s job, and that the TARDIS is his office/company car. Time Lords get to choose their names and, of all the names he could have chosen, the Doctor chose the name of a respectable career. To him, being a Doctor means flying through space and time, and sorting things out.

In over 2,000 years, though, he hasn’t quite gotten round to sorting out his TARDIS. The place is a mess — messier in the David Tennant and Christopher Eccleston era than it is in the Peter Capaldi era, but a mess regardless. More than that, the ship’s interior is a maze which is able to change according to its own will. How do you even start making a ship safe if it has its own conscience? I suppose you’d have to ask the ship...

Still, at least the TARDIS is run by someone intelligent. That’s not the case at Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. While the lack of workplace safety at the plant is often the butt of many jokes in The Simpsons, it’s also the focal point of some genuine dramatic tension, as a 300-pound Homer struggles to warn the plant of an impending nuclear meltdown from his infamous brown sofa.
Then again, all of those worries surely pale in comparison to the brutal harshness of Castle Black from Game of Thrones. There are no idiotic antics or comedic gaffes here — just the brutal, brutal cold of North Westeros. The entire place is made of stone, wood, and misery, so keeping the draft out isn’t really an option either — though the cold would be the least of your worries at The Wall. More pressing is the threat of murder and/or a painful death. Staff turnover is quite high at Castle Black and staff morale, I should imagine, is probably quite low.

The Exciting World of Workplace Danger Vs. The Everyday World of Racking Inspection Training

Based on all of this, we have made an infographic detailing the most dangerous fictional workplaces of all time. It would be rare to find a fictional workplace completely without problems. Writers need to generate drama, and they wouldn’t set a scene in a workplace if nothing happened there. Still, in these four workplaces, the writers evidently wanted to push their characters far beyond their comfort zones. Television is often seen as an escape from reality. But when you look at some of these fictional workplaces, you start to realize that reality (with all of its floor safety checks and racking inspection training) isn’t actually that bad.

As well as being a writer, Justin O’Sullivan is also a SEMA approved racking inspector and the owner of Storage Equipment Experts. Through his company, he provides rack safety inspections and racking inspection training to workplaces across the UK and Ireland.
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