Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Better safe than sorry?

Safety is an odd thing, at work the management of the place where I work have tried by fencing off the conveyors that move pallets around to make things safer for the staff who drive the forklifts by denying them access to the areas. It works after a fashion, at least until the guy who has to come along and fix a problem with the conveyors (that would be me) finds that the area is fenced off and he cannot gain reasonable access to work due to space limitations making the job in some areas quite dangerous for the engineers. Turns out all they needed was a "Do not approach/enter sign" but decided to play safe and put up barriers thus activating the law of unforeseen consequences. It's only a minor instance, but they aren't alone in their zeal to remove risk entirely from peoples lives.
Health and safety legislation exists to protect people from real risks at, or connected with, work. But it can be hard to see this from some of the stories that are reported. Below are 10 of the most bizarre health bans or restrictions spotted in media coverage by HSE over the last year.
  1. Wimbledon officials citing health and safety as a reason to close Murray Mount when it was wet
    Example media story: Daily Mail: 'Elf 'n' safety shuts Murray Mount: Fans might slip on the grass, warn officials', 21 June 2011
  2. Stopping dodgem cars from bumping into each other at Butlins in Skegness
    Example media story: BBC News: 'Bosses at Butlins ban bumper cars over health and safety fears', 27 April 2011
  3. Banning Royal wedding street parties
    Example media story: Daily Mail: 'Royal wedding street party? You'll need £5m insurance, love...', 13 April 2011
  4. Removing an unwanted, bulky TV from a pensioner's home for recycling
    Example media story: Daily Mail, 'Pensioner, 85, paid council to remove old TV...and was ordered to drag it outside herself so workmen didn't injure themselves', 7 June 2011
  5. Carnivals with fancy dress parades
    Example media story:
  6. Kite flying on a popular tourist beach in east Yorkshire
    Example media story: Hull Daily Mail: 'Outrage at kite-flying ban on East Riding beaches', 10 June 2011
  7. Stopping pupils from using playground monkey bars unsupervised in Oxfordshire
    Example media story: Daily Mail: 'Children banned from their own playground as health and safety officials decide monkey bars are too dangerous', 8 May 2011
  8. Using pins to secure commemorative poppies
    Example media story:
  9. Schoolyard football games banned - unless the ball is made of sponge
    Example media story: BBC News: 'Huyton school leather football ban safety row', 24 February 2011
  10. Children no longer allowed to take part in a sack race at Sports Day
    Example media story: Metro: 'Three-legged race is given the sack'
Even the Health and Safety Executive recognises that Councils and companies are using health and safety rules as an excuse to make "unpopular decisions" banning low-risk activities often enough to make their lives easier, rather than properly evaluate the risk and train/warn the people involved. After all it's cheaper to ban than it is to buy the equipment or train the staff. Employment minister Chris Grayling said members of the public should "challenge health and safety myths" and over-zealous practices. However that's easier said than done as most people don't exactly know what the regulations are, plus have a tendency to "believe" the officials making their lives a misery. The law as it stands simply requires people to approach risks in a balanced and proportionate manner. Banning something is far often disproportionate yet it seems to be the tool of choice for those in charge, whether this is due to the current compo culture is debatable, but it certainly doesn't help. Most people actually enjoy a bit of risk or adventure in their lives it's why fairground rides are so popular and why some of us climb mountains, often enough without ropes. Perhaps we should return to the old days of "enter at your own risk" and simply seek to reduce a risk, not eliminate it altogether.

6 annotations:

WitteringsfromWitney said...

Have linked to this QM

Captain Haddock said...

The "Health & Safety" culture (aka the "Cover your Arse" culture) has developed largely due to the demands of the public ..

People have been influenced by watching TV Ads in which Ambulance-chasing Law firms have offered them ever-more inventive ways of claiming compensation ("Where there's blame, there's a claim")..

And so, businesses, organisations, public bodies etc have learned to become risk-averse .. or end up paying out thousands to unscrupulous claimants ..

What needs to happen is for people to be made more aware of their own responsibilities .. together with the banning of the "No win .. No fee" type of legal practice ..

Captain Haddock said...

Further to my last .. It lead me to ponder why we only ever seem to import the worst of America ..
Like Gun culture, Gang culture, Drug culture
& Compensation culture ?

And never any of the better parts ..

Like a Constitution or a formal Bill of Rights .. to protect us against the excesses of our own government ?

OK .. the American system isn't perfect .. but it does at least provide a degree of protection ..

Furor Teutonicus said...

XX evaluate the risk and train/warn the people involved.XX


How much bloody training do you need to know throwing a billy of hot tea over Granny Jones at the street party may cause injury?

English Pensioner said...

The problem is the law that requires "reasonable steps to be taken to protect ....". Unfortunately there are too many lawyers around who are willing to try to show a court that insufficient steps were taken, and too many judges with a complete lack of common sense.
In my view, warning notices, etc, should only be required where there is something unexpected or not immediately apparent to the average person. And to get damages, it would be necessary to prove that an average person would reasonably have done what the claimant did.

James Higham said...

It's most certainly mental illness, this Elfansafetee.