How do we value safety?

Health and safety madness
Image via Flickr

Apply the simple law* of ’cause & effect’ and we see, for every action there must be an impact be it negative or positive however, does everything we do really have to have a cash value? 

Given the crazy mixed up society we live in, one that appears to judge everything with a cash value, is it any wonder we now even view ethics, morals, a sense of right and wrong or even common sense with a monetary value?  

The ongoing debacle of elf ‘n’ safety appears to be open to an almost daily barrage of media bashing however, once you get past the attention grabbing headlines, much of reporting is usually reasonably balanced. That said, many people won’t actually read further than the often emotive headlines used by journalists.

This is one of the major reasons why we have a totally skewed public understanding of Health & Safety legislation. Add to this our ‘no win, no fee’ litigation culture, along with the fact the majority of us now live and work in a relatively safe environments (which wasn’t the case prior to Health & Safety legislation), misunderstanding and some misapplication of that legislation is understandable.  

BBC News: An end to “excessive” health and safety rules that enable councils to cancel popular activities is to be urged by an adviser to the prime minister. (Read more)  

Back in June 2010, the government commissioned Lord Young to examine were H&S was going wrong, if indeed it was. His resulting report has fired up various arguments and observations from all sides of the debate. Some of those comments are obvious and predictable, depending on the body that made them…

HSE: Too many people use health and safety as an excuse to hide behind, the Chair of the Health and Safety Executive has warned. Judith Ackitt – CEO (Read more)

Many managers in both the Public and Private sectors find Health and Safety legislation a convenient barrier to decision-making after all, if you don’t make a decision in the first place, can you be keel hauled for it if it doesn’t go to plan?

RoSPA: The myth that health and safety is out of control has been debunked many, many times over. On the occasions when poor safety judgements are made, they typically reflect inadequate decision-making on the part of an individual or the excessive demands of third parties rather than regulators who have actually been working hard to simplify things. Tom Mullarkey, RoSPA Chief Executive (Read more)

Obviously those who represent the welfare of workers are concerned about any watering down of legislation that has taken years to put in place. Legislation that prevents people from getting injured (or worse).

TUC:silly things are sometimes done in the name of health and safety and the behaviour of some claims firms can be reprehensible. …the real health and safety scandal in the UK is the 20,000 people who die each year due to injury or diseases linked to their work. TUC Health and Safety Officer Hugh Robertson (Read more)

Those who advise on Health & Safety in the workplace are also concerned however, professionals in the field also advocate correct and professional organisation, as opposed to any dumbing down. Lord Young gave the opening keynote address at the annual IOSH conference. The full story and reactions can be found HERE.

Looking at the situation from the point of view of both a workplace safety representative and a Health & Safety professional, I can understand both sides of the above arguments. That said, it is my belief that a major factor is the proliferation of the ‘no win, no fee’ litigation culture of today. Years of developing protection in the workplace runs the risk of being undone because of greed.

NOWINNOFEE: Advertising no-win-no-fee personal injury services is an essential component of the justice system in England and Wales; outlawing television advertisements on the subject merely limits the public’s access to justice. (Read more)

First4Lawyers: Personal injury claims have become a significant element of UK legal work following the introduction of no-win-no-fee services. As a result, workplace accident claims have risen despite improving health and safety standards. (Read more)

The greed of people, many of whom develop dubious ‘injuries’ or ‘illness’ on seeing a chance to ‘earn’ some cash. The greed of lawyers making a handsome living from greedy claimants, especially as many organisations air on the side of damage limitation and fail to contest any lawsuits. Add to this, a myriad of so called Health & Safety consultants who dish out scare mongering advice (to keep themselves in work) and you have a system primed for abuse.

My hope is that whatever comes from Lord Young’s report it deals with; (1) the misapplication of legislation, (2) combats the ambulance chasing litigation culture. Whatever happens, leave the legislation alone!

* Cause and effect (also written as cause-effect or cause/effect) refers to the philosophical concept of causality, in which an action or event will produce a certain response to the action in the form of another event.

One thought on “How do we value safety?

  1. How refreshing to read a balanced, reasoned, well researched, up-to-date, accurate and above all SENSIBLE blog about safety!
    Putting the sense back into safety – FAAST


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