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Health and Safety myths

Good morning again.

We have all heard and read about conkers, cheese rolling, donkey derbies, hog roasts (and many, many more activities) being “banned” on grounds of the dreaded phrase, health and safety, often referred to cynically as “health and grumpy”. When I hear of or read stories like these it frustrates me greatly, because it is usually a massive and unnecessary overreaction to ban an event with mild risks involved.

If it was the right approach to ban things then no one would ever carry out any pursuit, event or hobby that involved mild peril, or worse. Hand gliding – banned, horse riding – banned, climbing – banned, BBQs – banned. If these things are planned and supervised well, then what is the problem? This is equally true in the workplace. Workplaces can be risky too, but look what benefits sensible health and safety precautions and planning have brought to previously highly risky jobs like coal mining and steel production.

Even the law, despite many misconceptions, recognises the “utility” and benefit of events and pursuits and of workplaces being able to get on with producing or achieving what they need to, safely, but without too much red tape, delay, cost and “can’t do” attitude.

The law is not a representation of “bah, humbug”, aiming to ban everything. Take the issue of pre-event or workplace risk assessments. They are usually a very good idea and need not necessarily be grand things, or even much more than exercising diligence and common sense in considering and recording potential risks. Don’t get me wrong; if you are working with molten steel at 1100 degrees, or planning to organise a group of teenagers abseiling down 1000 feet then you need to be incredibly diligent and detailed in your planning, but each activity is different and needs to be assessed so. A group ramble through some woods wouldn’t need such detail or planning.

A very senior judge in a recent case involving arguments over whether suitable protective equipment (heavy duty gloves in this instance) was provided for someone to do their job safely said:

“The court may well be assisted by consideration of what a properly conducted risk assessment would have revealed but, in the end, the question is the suitability of of the protection provided”.

That doesn’t sound unreasonable or over the top regarding health and safety, does it? Despite what the media say, judges are, on the whole, actually very sensible and switched on! They do live in the real world.

In my job as a Solicitor helping injured people, and in a former role as health and safety governor at a school, I do see both sides of it though. I see the need for risk assessments and for sensible, thought through precautions. Not just banning things, but seeing how they can be done safely, or at least in an open and clear manner, so that people are fully aware of any risks before they do anything.

When people call me for help with an injury claim, it is usually because something has already gone wrong and they have been hurt. It is often sad to see how a bit of common sense and planning would have prevented an accident. To me, that is what good health and safety is about – proportionate, responsible assessment of the risks, plus the minimising of those risks and the communication of the risks that remain.

That’s all for now. If you need us, call us on 0113 3663022 or click the enquiry “case evaluation” button below.

John

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