The HSE has long been blamed for infuriating health and safety decisions. Like ’em or loath ’em for being a government body that may not even be necessary, it is true that they are not responsible for much of the madness we have encountered this past few decades.
In another fight back they have published a list of the ten worst examples of health and safety gone mad. More often than not, these petty rules and the myths that arise from them come from litigation fearing jobsworths who do not understand how the legislation is supposed to work.
I recall hearing a story shortly after the introduction of the working at height regulations. A streetlamp in Kendall remained un repaired because the company responsible refused to send a worker up to fix it – because of health and safety and the new regulations, which “banned ladders”. This was patently daft. The new regulations did not as some claimed, ban ladders or prevent people from working at height. What they did was insist that employers conduct a risk assessment and apply a system that minimised the risk and if that meant using a cherry picker in preference to a ladder, so be it. Common sense, frankly. If you have to spend more than half an hour up a ladder, perhaps this is not the best method for the work. However, if you are a window cleaner, then likely as not, it is – just make sure it is secure before shinning up it.
Now many – me included – might argue that we have too much legislation. However, it isn’t the plethora of legislation that is responsible for the utter madness of some of the decisions we have come across in recent years, because the legislation is underpinned by sound common sense. It is because people don’t understand the legislation and are afraid of being sued, which is a far greater problem than the binge legislation emanating from Brussels, frankly.
Basic health and safety management is staggeringly simple: Identify the risk and who is affected by it and manage it to ensure that it is reduced to as low as is reasonably practicable. There are about 8 million words of legislation that boil down to that basic underpinning principle. Too many? Yup. But that principle is sound.
The madness of the health and safety culture is due to something else entirely – a risk averse, mollycoddled, litigious society that wants to be wrapped in cotton wool. Unfortunately that would be dangerous as we might suffocate.