A maintenance worker in London was killed a few weeks ago, and the manner of his death probably says as much about society as it does standard workplace safety practices. You see, he was crushed by a “telescopic urinal” on which he was performing maintenance. I had never even heard of a telescoping urinal, but instinctively knew at once that this was a piss-poor way to die.

The telescopic urinal, which is powered by hydraulics, was installed at Cambridge Circus in London’s West End theater district. It was one of apparently many installed in the area 20 years ago. Their purpose? They are designed to “remain underground during the day and raise hydraulically overnight to reduce street urination.”

Apparently, street urination is a big thing in some districts of London. Perhaps the theatres in that district lack the appropriate facilities. Or the English get bombed in local pubs after the show and have lost all sense of tact and decorum. I’m no expert, but it seems that having urinals magically pop out of the sidewalk at night would only encourage more street urination. I suppose the only difference would be that people wouldn’t actually be urinating on the street. They would instead be urinating in a urinal along the street. 

Come to think of it, Bourbon Street in New Orleans might benefit from this technology.

As for our unfortunate worker, he apparently died at the scene, after being crushed by a malfunctioning urinal. We are not sure what the specific safety protocols are for such a piece of equipment, but we would have to assume that some “lock-out, tag-out” protocol hadn’t been properly followed. It was reported that more than two dozen first responders worked using a winch to free him from underneath the contraption, but sadly to no avail. 

Safety experts will no doubt have to review the incident and come up with ways to prevent a tragic reoccurrence down the road. Or under the sidewalk, as the case may be. Londoners certainly deserve answers to this, and if they learn that future hydraulic urinal deaths will be avoided, they will no doubt be relieved.

In more ways than one.

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