How health and safety is an overused excuse…

Health and safety affects us in pretty much every walk of life. Whether at work or at play, in college, school or at the cinema, there are rules and regulations that govern what we can do and where we can do it.

Signs are up everywhere. Barriers stop you from doing things that you probably didn't realise you wanted to do (almost enticing you to do them anyway) and rules and regulation appear to want to stifle your very love of life. But is this reality or is it just over-zealous news, scared business owners and council workers with too much time on their hands?

Health and safety stop

Don't do that!

The thing is, the term "health & safety" is banded about as if it's some decree from above that is trying to get people to live a completely anodyne life free from any risk whatsoever. According to some, health and safety rules will eventually mean the tops of mountains need to be fenced off to stop people falling from them.

Of course, most of this is nonsense. Health and Safety as a policy and in particular, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are there to ensure organisations of all types adhere to a set of standards that mean there is no adverse risk to life and that potential injury is mitigated.

This is important because it means there is a central organisation that acts as an umbrella over all types of risk and can collate information from studies, research and claims to ensure that everyone knows the truth about risk. Because that's important. Risk isn't a finger in the air "guess" at what's dangerous or not, risk is calculated on what has actually happened and how it came about. By looking at historical problems and failings, it's possible to understand what potential there is for something failing in the future and if such a possibly exists, try to stop it from happening.

Health and Safety saves lives, of that there is no doubt, so why should something that has such good intentions be viewed with so much derision from so many people?

The misuse of "Health & Safety"

There's an obvious problem here. The term "Health & Safety" is seen as related to the HSE, i.e. the governing body. In the mind of the general public, if something is labelled as being "not in the interests of Health & Safety" then there people immediately think that whomever came up with the rule has looked it up on a list on the government website and decided it's against the law.

This gives rise to statements such as "it's health and safety gone mad!". Of course, it isn't, it's just that many people and indeed many organisations are lazy and simply use the term to stop them having to think any more about something that is quite acceptable but which maybe needs some thought.

For example, take this recent post from the HSE "Myth busting panel":

Case 291 - Frisbee catching has been dropped from a Cumbrian dog show


Frisbee catching has been dropped from a Cumbrian dog show after health and safety advice suggested that dogs competing could get hurt

Seriously? Of course not. For some reason, probably fear and an unwillingness to try to work to a sensible conclusion, the organisers decided to ban the sport in case a dog got hurt. They probably thought owners would go after them if it happened.

In the eyes of the public though, this is seen as government interference.

This has nothing to do with Health & Safety and simply underlines the major problem in that the government is being used as a scapegoat.

The dangers inherent in this approach

Of course this may sound flippant and many would say "so what?" But unfortunately this now means that many people see Health and Safety as an obstacle to getting things done and unwanted government interference. It's something that means things become more expensive to do because they have to be checked by someone in a suit wearing a hard hat.

I recently read a post on Twitter where someone complained "Would businesses actually try to poison people if it wasn't for H&S rules?", the implication being that health and safety in food preparation is unnecessary.

Well of course, yes, people will try to get away with doing as little as possible in order to save money and it's imperative that those rules are in place so that the businesses who do have a good record of safety and policies to make sure things are done correctly are rewarded and those that don't are forced to make changes.

By simply banding the term about in a lazy attempt to pass off your own rules as someone else's, you're actually diluting the power of the legislation and making people think it's OK to flount them. This could be dangerous.

Taking the safe approach

Here at Worlifts we have a best practice approach to health and safety. We know that you have a job to do and we also know that if rules get in the way it could stop you doing that job effectively, so our training can help.

We make sure that all of our training personnel know the ins and outs of the hydraulics, rail and lifting legislation and are fully certified in LOLER.

Take health and safety seriously and it doesn't need to get in the way of anything. In fact, it could save your life or the life of your staff.