Monday, November 03, 2008

'Elf and Safety myths with a problem

I think it's fair to say that after "poltical correctness" the good old-fashioned "health and safety" story is well established in the media as a means of filling column space. The Health and Safety Executive comes under constant slagging off on blogs too (not least this one).

As a result of the general "elf and safety" madness stories, for the past year or so, the HSE has been running its "Myth of the Month" section detailing a well held tale/rumour and pointing out that they, in most cases, haven't banned anything.

The problem though is that if you actually scroll through each of their myths, there appears to be a constant theme. It is not the law that has banned something but over-zealous jobsworth who largely havn't got a clue what they're doing.

Perhaps therefore it might be an idea to fire all the silly bastards no? Clearly Health and Safety has a problem surely if the people responsible for dealing with it are doing it so badly?


Benjamin Gray said...

Everyone knows it's the problem of the jobsworths and not the legislation per se.

The problem lies in the risks to the jobsworth. There is little accountability and no disciplinary method that the public are aware of. As a result any calculation of risk automatically favours putting forward a stupid rule. Consequently discretion flies out of the window.

The jobsworths ought to be subject to disciplinary hearings, pay cuts and other such measures when they abuse the law in such a manner. The balance is unfairly tipped in favour of coddling overcaution.

Graham Horsewood said...

It makes a change to hear some 'elf & safety' sense. If the jobsworth had had the sense to ask for professional advice in the first place, the majority of stupid decisions would not be made and would never reach the press at all.

Anonymous said...

It's a variation on the old saying:

"Those who can, do; those who cannot, get the Health and Safety job."

Hence the numpties.

That and our endless (largely feminist-driven imho) risk-aversion.

MB said...

Everyone was allocated various objectives at work and often one would be to write some Risk Assessments. Most of the sensible ones had already been written so you got some pointless ones being written though you could have fun making them even more pointless if you were so inclined.

The Welsh Jacobite said...

The role of insurance companies in this area is often overlooked.

Much of the nonsense is either directly mandated by them, or results from fear that a claim might be disallowed.

Malcolm said...

Actually, some of those so-called experts are also risk averse and until such time as we all understand that risk = opportunity and start talking about adding value to the organisation, we might as well all forget it.
Entrepeneurs take risk for the reward(s) it brings, not the blasted bureaucracy, so let's all starting thinking about 'what's in it for the entrepeneur' and maybe, just maybe, 'Elf and sodding safety' will stop being a joke.

Anonymous said...

It's the law *and* the jobsworths. And the modern idea of promoting an abstract 'safety' against virtual risk rather than curtailing actual and significant danger. The jobsworths are always present, but they are empowered by vague official powers that no-one understands and have catch-all capacity.

The Health and Safety at Work Act is at one root of fault because of the catch-all nature of "failing to provide a safe system of work". The other is a judge-made tort system that attributes liability to passive bystanders with deep pockets. Together they provide great habitat for corporate and insurance company jobsworths.

Masses of detailed regulation designed to force one to identify and eliminate the most trivial of hazards are merely the fruit of this poisoned tree.

Anonymous said...

to sum it all up (i hope)
'why should i be responsible for the consequences of someone else's stupidity'?

Rich B said...

Speaking as a H&S professional, and hopefully not a numpty, I agree with Welsh Jacobite. In all the dealings I have had with HSE, their approach has been reasonable and sensible. All of the silly stuff I have to do (signs warning people that wet bathroom floors can be slippery, to give just one example from this week) are mandated by our insurers. Problem is, people *will* make the most ludicrous claims, and with no-win-no-fee lawyers around, a lot of this goes to court. The insurers aren't stupid - they know that courts will often find in favour of the careless idiot against the company, and these are the precautions they have to take.

I have no problem with risk - I ride a fast motorbike every day, and my kids were encouraged to be adventurous - it's unnecessary risk I have a problem with. The HSW Act is all about 'significant' risks which should be reduced 'as far as reasonably practicable', and I have no problem with that. Jobsworths frequently don't know the law.