According the the 1950s' "Wonder Book of Trains" the dead man's handle was the one electric train drivers had to keep depressed. If released the system would assume he (it was almost invariably he) had become incapacitated and the train would automatically be brought to a halt. Presumably all were taught that in the event of a heart attack or stroke they must not fall in top of it.
The current dead man's handle, also a throwback to the 1950s and 60s ,seems to be the everlasting succession of strike calls particularly by the RMT, itself also It is a brave man or woman who goes to work in defiance of these.
The past week has seen the now almost traditional Boxing Day walkout by many London tube drivers thereby depriving themselves of a day's good bank holiday wages. Today, New Year's Eve and tomorrow New Year's Day see a strike by cleaners in support of a wage demand which it has already been agreed will be paid from March. If anyone is seeking a definition of pointless this has to be a good one. Again these good folk will pay for their two days off by losing their wages. The well paid union leadership who called them out will not lose a penny. As ever the footsoldiers will pay out of their allegedly meagre earnings.
Less than pointless. Employees of and contractors to legacy businesses, notably ex nationalised ones, in particular would do well to consider how to vote, -and indeed to vote at all,- in ballots for industrial action. Currently too many feel they must follow their union whatever it dictates and they thereby fall upon that fatal handle of self destruction.