H&S Fight Back

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…

11 comments for “H&S Fight Back

  1. June 23, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    Ah, when I looked at the front page of my ‘Metro’ this morning, I thought ‘I bet Mrs Hackitt’s volley gladdens Longrider’s heart…’ 😉

    • June 23, 2011 at 6:56 pm

      Indeed it did 😀

  2. June 23, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    In the public sector, many senior managers will not take even the smallest risk that they personally may be held responsible for a serious accident. It doesn’t matter how well they are remunerated, they will not allow even the smallest risk in case it goes up the line and stops at them. They manage things this way because they can.

  3. June 23, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    Well put LR and AK is correct also

    It is all about blame shifting, if as the HSE say they were honest and said it is for ‘insurance reasons’ They would be (I hope) inundated with “Where’s the waiver to sign?” requests

    By passing the decision supposedly to a ‘Faceless’ 3rd party, they avoid any tiring face to face contact with the public explaining their decision.

    Blue Eyes had a nice post about being a Fire Marshall proper H&S


    • June 23, 2011 at 9:11 pm

      Interesting post. I used to train incident managers on the railway, so am well aware of the need for practice drills and emergency planning.

  4. Dave_G
    June 23, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    People purchasing tickets to such events should be made to ‘tick the box’ (or remove the tick) to acknowledge that the event organisers cannot be held responsible for…..etc – much like the usual EULA all software comes with.
    If you don’t agree, return the ticket for a full refund.

    • J
      June 24, 2011 at 8:08 am

      You don’t understand software EULAs at all. And only proprietary software comes with EULAs which restrict your rights to USE the software. The word you are looking for is disclaimers which do come with most software

    • Lord T
      June 24, 2011 at 7:59 pm

      You can’t have a blanket waiver. What if the place is doing something that is dangerous?

      You must have a system that allows people to sue if there is something illegal but besides that common sense needs to be reintroduced. The only way to do that is for a silly claim to be rejected and the claimant made to pay the costs. Only true claims or borderline claims will be made then.

      In addition we should pay a claim but not add costs on top so the claim has to pay off the ambulance chaser as well.

  5. Lord T
    June 24, 2011 at 10:41 am

    Until the courts, not the insurance companies, the courts, stop making the insurance companies pay out for frivolous cases then this will continue.

    The first time that a court laughs at dickhead claiming because they burnt themselves on hot coffee bought from a takeaway and are then made to pay the defence costs of the firm will signal a return to common sense.

    Always remember that when something is really screwed up the first thought for your blame should be the government. That saves a lot of time.

  6. June 24, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    Cheers for the link, PC.

    Good post Longrider.

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