Break brake


Each week, Rochelle sets us a flash fiction challenge: compose a one hundred word piece, prompted by the photo.


When I got home, two HSE inspectors were sitting in my lounge, whilst my wife flapped like a headless chicken.
“You were chief engineer on the design of the carousel that failed yesterday, killing twenty-four passengers.”
“I don’t work for that company anymore!”
“That doesn’t matter. Your work; you’re responsible. We need to go through your design with you.”
For two hours of intense questioning, poring over drawings and stress calculations, I’m on the hook.
Then, we’re all smiles. The ride owner had added a brake, to speed-up changeover of punters, massively increasing the stresses on the main shaft.


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About micklively

Fifty-something, pacifist, six sigma black belt, lean implementer, brewer, vintner, guitarist, wood-turner, and slave to collies.
This entry was posted in designer, fiction, injury, life or death, writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

52 Responses to Break brake

  1. A relief yes but 24 lives are still lost.

  2. subroto says:

    Smiles of relief I am guessing. Nice one.

  3. Good story, Mick. Every once in a while we read about a terrible accident. Good that the engineer kept all the blueprints and statistics. I read once that some fairground rides are so old and hazardess that when you get on, you never know where you’ll get off. Well done. —- Suzanne

    • micklively says:

      Thanks Suzanne. The engineer would not have kept the drawings and calculations; they would have been collected by the HSE from the manufacturers, i.e. his previous employer.

  4. rgayer55 says:

    It would have been the brake, but my guess is there were too many heavy set people on one side. See how the damn thing is leaning now? We need some weight distribution.

  5. Dale says:

    Nicely done indeed. Anyone would feel relief that they are not responsible, even if there is sadness that the whole thing happened.

  6. Very clever approach to the prompt, Mick. Such a scary moment, imagining that you may be responsible for such a thing. Nicely done.

  7. Good tale.
    Next time he designs a ride he’ll be sure to add a disclaimer to any modifications to the design.
    Doesn’t help the deceased though.
    Never lose sight of the injured.

  8. Glad it was found not to be a design flaw. Enough to give a person an ulcer or worse.

  9. gahlearner says:

    Horrible thought, to be responsible for such an accident. I’m glad the MC is off the hook. Good story.

    • micklively says:

      If one man is responsible for an accident like that, the companies procedures are largely to blame: no one man should be put in such a position.
      Many thanks.

  10. mjlstories says:

    Greed vs engineering?
    I wonder how often this happens, corners are cut for more money..
    Interesting take.

    • micklively says:

      Corners are ALWAYS cut for money. They have a value for “acceptable risk”. The only question is what value you set it at.
      Many thanks MJL

  11. Graham Lawrence says:

    Nice take, almost a sequel. Glad he is off the hook. sad for the victims.

  12. Imagine working at a job like that where even a single mistake can take lives. Great build-up and relief 🙂

    • micklively says:

      Millions of engineers do exactly that. Usually there are checks, double checks and huge safety margins written in. When people interfere with things they don’t understand, the safety margins are rendered useless.
      Many thanks for your feedback.

  13. iamehsan69 says:

    You started where the picture ended.Great job completing the prompt!

  14. Melanie says:

    Such suspense! Nice use of the prompt. Good one!

    • micklively says:

      Thanks Melanie. I didn’t like it much: it breaks my rule of showing, not telling.
      Thanks for your feedback anyway.

      • Melanie says:

        When you only have 100 words, sometimes you have to tell or you risk sacrificing where you can show.

        If you were going to rework it to have some show there at the end, the bit about his wife at the beginning can go without sacrificing the story and give you back a few words.

  15. Oh, I felt sweat running down my back. Well done.

  16. I would perhaps not be smiling.. afterwards I would feel I could weep for the victims.. but with a feeling that it’s nice to be off the hook

  17. I would be all smiles too finding out it wasn’t my fault after all.

  18. It happens. And people die. HSE is always two steps behind.

    • micklively says:

      I think that’s unfair. The opportunities for unsafe practices are seemingly endless. Policing them is a challenge. Preventing folk from surreptitiously breaking rules is impossible.
      Many thanks for your feedback Patrick.

  19. Bet the owner is squirming now! I hope the poor victims haunt him 😉

  20. Dear Miles,

    I’m sure he saw his life pass before his eyes. I’m glad it ended well for him. Nicely done.



  21. Ankita says:

    Phew! That was a close shave! Interesting take on the prompt!

  22. Sandra says:

    Such an original take on the prompt. His relief was palpable. Nice one.

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