There is something paradoxical about the Mythbusters Challenge Panel completing its 300th case so close to the date on which we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Health and Safety at Work Act coming into force.
Many people have already noted the importance and significance of HSWA and its remarkable resilience. It remains fit for purpose today, despite the massive changes which have taken place in the world of work, proving its applicability and adaptability to any workplace.
Great Britain has arguably the best health and safety system in the world. Of course, we all want to prevent even more deaths and serious injuries every year but many other parts of the world have death and injury rates many times higher than ours and are increasingly eager to learn about what makes our system so effective.
Why then do we also have such a problem with ‘elf ’n’ safety’? Since April 2012 our Myth Buster panel has dealt with 300 cases – that’s two or three every single week. All of these are cases where people have been told that can’t do something or can’t have something because of "health and safety" – most often because lazy and unhelpful people simply can’t be bothered to do what is being asked of them.
If I could wave a magic wand in this week of the 40th anniversary of HSWA it would be to get everyone of those jobsworths out there to stop and take notice of what real health and safety is all about. I’d also ask the press who are happy to write up tales that serve only to trivialise health and safety or confuse the issues, to sometimes take a step back and investigate what is really at the bottom of some of the things labelled ‘elf and safety’ by contributors to their stories.
The Act and the system it put in place has saved literally thousands of lives in all sorts of workplaces over the last 40 years. So, my wish for the Act’s 40th birthday would be that critics stop maligning a very smart, world class system and that jobsworths find a new excuse for their unhelpfulness. Better still, try being helpful instead – it doesn’t cost anything and you just might find that life is a bit more pleasant when you let people get on with their lives rather than getting in their way.
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