We are often regaled with health and safety as an excuse for not doing something. Indeed, I have often pointed out that safety legislation is not the reason for this reaction, rather it is the lack of understanding on the part of the petty jobsworths who have made the decision.
It is a fair point that at over 11 million words (more perhaps) of statute that maybe, just maybe, that’s a tad more than we need. However, it is worth pointing out that much of this repeats the same basic formula in differing contexts and with codes of practice that are designed to guide employers when putting the principles into practice.
Modern legislation is intended to apply to all workplaces and all types of work and all types of employer, including the self employed. It is designed to reduce the exposure to risk of employees and those not directly employed such as contractors, visitors and someone walking past the premises. If followed, it means that the children in the local school are not crushed under a sliding slag heap. It does not mean that sporting events should be cancelled or that you can’t chase a cheese down a Gloucestershire hillside if you want to. It does not mean that events have to be cancelled because of health and safety when in fact it is merely the local council that is scared of its own shadow and worse, far worse, afraid to make a decision that might involve risk or litigation.
Risk is manageable and that is what the law expects people to do – manage it. We don’t manage it by living in boxes full of cotton wool – not least, we might suffocate. Life involves risk. We face risk every day. Health and Safety legislation, designed to reduce the amount of workplace accidents that were happening has become a tool for the people who are either too dense or too timorous to see how it should be applied.
Finally, the HSE is answering back. Not least because it is not a health and safety issue when it starts to rain, although the cretins responsible for risk management at the LTA seem to think so.
Mrs Hackitt wrote to Wimbledon and the Lawn Tennis Association: “I was particularly disappointed to discover that [you] chose to explain the decision to ban spectators from Murray Mount as being ‘on health and safety grounds’.
There is nothing in health and safety legislation which prohibits the continued broadcasting of Centre Court action to the crowds on the hill during the rain. Health and safety is concerned with the proportionate management of real risks caused by work, not attempting to eliminate every minor risk from every moment of people’s lives.
“People have been walking up and down wet, grassy slopes for years without catastrophic consequences. If the LTA was concerned about people slipping and suing for their injuries, the message should have made clear the decision was ‘on insurance grounds’.”
There you have it “insurance grounds”. Common sense should apply. Of course, the HSE has always maintained this position, despite H&S being a common refrain when events are curtailed. One year the HSE produced a calendar with the great H&S myths; one for each month. I suspect that there is scope for a few more yet (the website has one for every month from 2008 – to 2010 inclusive). I also suspect that they are going to have to repeat this line a few more times before the jobsworths get the message.
Now, how to tackle the binge litigation problem…