The UK Health & Safety Executive is run by largely sensible, clear minded folk that want to help us to keep doing what we do, but ideally without losing fingers, testicles or lives.
So why do they get so much flack? Why do we keep hearing tales of children not being allowed to play in snow, in case they slip and get hurt? What about risk assessments that prevent village fetes from selling cups of soup in case visitors get scalded?
Mostly it’s bullshit. Stories made up or inflated, often with important facts removed by right wingers or libertarians who want to discredit the whole idea that people do, sometimes, need third parties to come along help protect others.
Food is supposed to be hot. If you burn yourself by drinking a soup that’s just out of the pot then that’s you’re look out. Health & Safety accept that common knowledge exists.
Health & Safety Bullshitting Consultants
So how do the more ridiculous, and genuine, cases arise? Because any damn fool can set themselves up as a Health & Safety consultant. There are no qualifications required, no accreditation enforced. There are, of course, bodies that provide qualifications in the subject, but they’re not compulsory.
So if you want to use a H&S consultant, find a real one – with experience or genuine skills and knowledge of the area concerned. When I’m racing I quite appreciate it when I’m advised that my harness is incorrectly tied into place, because I don’t want to die in an accident. It won’t be an H&S consultant, but somebody who understand both the risks and the technology.
Don’t Use H&S as an Excuse for Non Thinking
If you’re someone like a teacher who’s looking after kids and you’re scared that if the children in your charge could get hurt, don’t use H&S as an excuse for stopping them from getting outside and doing stuff. Parents present their fears without using Health & Safety as an excuse, so teachers should present them a bit more intelligently too.
If, as a teacher, you start getting scared that if your kids get hurt, you’ll end up in court, then that is a valid reason to express doubts about your involvement with these children. I can understand – some parents are morons (there is no license required to become one) and they believe their children are the unflawed product of their loins. Of course, children are actually manipulative, scheming little brats that haven’t yet learned how to behave in real company. Exposing them to risks, other people, and a bit of actual life helps them to develop. So for God’s sakes, let them play conkers once in a while, even if there’s an occassional bruised forehead.
But if you try to avoid conflict by blaming a large and relatively misunderstood public body then you’re doing us all a disservice and deserve to be severely hurt in a workplace paper-cut accident. If H&S can’t work properly, we’ll all be at more risk from exploding fuel tanks and sharp, pointy hood ornaments.