Friday, 26 March 2010

Health and Safety

Health and Safety has become a bit of a joke - but it isn't funny.

I recently read a report (h/t Graham Wilson) which suggested that Health and Safety is becoming ‘ritual excuse’ not to do anything.  If you read the papers, and particularly the Daily Mail, you would get a sense that H&S is all about people finding ridiculous reasons not to do anything.

The reason that it isn't funny is that I used to work in industry, an industry that killed and maimed people.  When I started work there were still employees missing arms because they had lost them in the process, and during my working life I can definitely remember at least two occasions on which someone was killed.  In my later years H&S was given a higher priority and the statistics showed that the number of serious accidents at work dropped because of this.

I believe that the problem is that people have a tendency to play it safe - so if the procedure gives some latitude for personal decision people choose to err on the side of (personal) safety - hence you get risk assessments carried out for throwing some old equipment into the skip.  The problem is that if you get it wrong you are for the high jump.  For example, do you think that cutting the grass is an activity that is risky?  I remember a case with one of our competitors - an employee was cutting the grass (an activity for which a risk assessment had not been carried out) and fell down a grass bank into a river and drowned.  Because no risk assessment had been carried out they were in serious trouble - if it wasn't tragic it would be funny.

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