The Anonymous Widower

A Sensible Approach To Health and Safety

It is reported today that Lord Young is close to delivering his report on the health and excessive culture in the UK.

Some of the stories I’ve read lately are so silly it’s not true.

I should say that I grew up in my father’s print works, with lots of printing machines, guillotines, paper drillers and noxious substances like printing ink, solvents and of course lead-based type.  My father gave me a lot of guidance, but I suspect many of the things I did, would never be allowed now!

Did I have any accidents at the time?


I was using a wood-turning lathe at school and got a splinter in my eye, which meant I had to go to Highlands hospital to have it removed. I should have been wearing goggles, but there weren’t any!  That was typical of schools at the time!  Nowadays, I would never do something like that without protective goggles.

But it was only when I worked in industry that I got any training.  At Enfield Rolling Mills it was minimal and was basically a walk round the factory, pointing out what was dangerous. It may seem silly to say that you learned on the job, but then they expected you to observe what you saw and take appropriate precautions to avoid trouble.

At ICI in 1969, I went on a safety course, but the most valuable lesson, I had was a walk round a BCF plant with the foreman, Charlie Akers. To illustrate the dangers of HF dust, he took a speck and placed it on my thumb.  It burned, so after that I made sure that I didn’t touch any.  I still climb industrial staircases without putting my hands on the top, as that is where all the noxious substances are!

In my view Health and Safety training should begin in schools, as what you need to instill is a simple threat recognition and avoidance culture into children, that they will carry with them all of their lives. How many children have broken arms at five or six in simple situations like getting off a slide or a swing? A researcher into accidents once told me, that he felt there was now a common child accident, where kids were trained to get into their house quickly for their protection and had all sorts of problems, when the car wasn’t parked outside the house, so they ran across the road to get to safety. I once drove up from Cornwall and was suprised to see so many overloaded 4x4s in accidents, because their idiot drivers had not properly understood the problems of excess speed and weight. A proper health and safety education and a bit more practical understanding of Newton’s Laws would have alerted them to the problem before they set out.

The report on Lord Young makes some   interesting points.

Launching the review in December, Mr Cameron cited cases of children being told to wear goggles to play conkers, restaurants being banned from handing out toothpicks and trainee hairdressers being banned from using scissors as examples of silly practice.

The Young report says local authorities, in future, should explain their decisions to ban events on health and safety grounds in writing.

The public should be able to refer decisions to an ombudsman and, if deemed to be unfair, they should be overturned within two weeks.

The idea of an ombudsman seems very sensible, especially, as they would affectively lay down good practice.

Lord Young also says flaws in existing legislation have fuelled the number of personal injury lawsuits and pushed up the fees charged by lawyers.

The growth of claims management firms – which are paid referral fees by solicitors to assess whether there are grounds for a claim – has led to a glut of advertising, he says, and resulted in a market in fees where claimants are directed to firms which pay the most not those which are most suitable.

“Many adverts entice potential claimants with promises of an instant cheque as a non-refundable bonus once their claim is accepted – a high pressure inducement to bring a claim if ever there was one,” his report argues.

A culture has developed in which businesses, the public sector and voluntary organisations “fear litigation for the smallest of accidents and manage risk in accordance with this fear,” he adds.

When I was in Middlesborough, there were adverts everywhere for solicitors, who would make a claim for you.  In my view where there’s a greedy and unscrupulous lawyer, there’s a claim.  I’d ban all forms of advertising by lawyers. You always get the best lawyers by talking to a good friend or someone who really knows what to do, not by phoning a company which then have a vested interest in your claim.

He also is suggesting a Good Samaritan law.

His report also suggests that a “good samaritan” law may be necessary to make it clear that people will not be sued for voluntary actions – such as clearing snow from a driveway – which may inadvertently contribute to accidents.

This is another good idea! But in the driveway example, we should remember good common sense, when we do things like that.  In a related example, if we see a loose paving-slab outside our house, which we feel could be dangerous to some people, then coucils must have a reporting system that gets it fixed.

Health and Safety is just one area, where we must rescue our country from the barmy, scientifically-incorrect excesses of Nulabor.

Since my strokes, it is not stretching things to say that my Health and Safety training has been one of the things that has helped me get around and get my life back on track.

October 2, 2010 - Posted by | News | , ,


  1. I am all in favour of sensible health and safety measures and the measures at our offices meet or exceed statutory requirements. I do however get frustrated by some of the crazy implementation of H&S rules, and this seems at its most extreme by local authorities.

    Some years ago, where I used to live, we had a neighbourhood watch scheme which was a positive benefit. One summer I decided to invite the scheme members to a barbeque in my garden. One of the members was a health and safety manager for a large UK company and offered to take over the safety side of the event and the lighting of the barbeque. I agreed thinking this would be a good idea. What a disaster! He turned up with cones, red tape (the physical type), fire extinguishers, and some special fire lighting fluid suposedly designed for the safe lighting of barbeques. The only incident we had that afternoon was when one child hurt himself falling over a plastic cone. The other problem we had was the “safe” barbeque lighting method. For 40 minutes we waited while he tried to get the barbeque going and eventually I decided enough was enough and lit it myself in a couple of minutes using traditional fire lighters. After that the afternoon went well.

    The overly enthusiastic application of H&S leads to it getting a bad name and results in people ignoring even the sensible parts.

    I recently tried to give away a dining room suite to a major heart charity, They turned it down because the seat of the chairs were flamable. I pointed out that the rest of the suite was made of wood, which is even more flamable, but they said that legislation did not consider the wooden parts, only the soft parts.

    Charities and jumble sales are not allowed to take electrical items unless they have them tested for electrical safety. Surely a clear sticker on each item indicating the risk of using something that has not been checked by a competent person would suffice. No such problem with car boot sales, but then these are for personal profit!

    Heres to common sense not pedantry.


    Comment by John Wright | October 2, 2010 | Reply

  2. Safeguarding of children has gone crazy too. Yes, children have to safe. They need to be taught how to keep themselves safe in day to day situations. Stranger Danger seems to have gone out of the window in favour of “never let them near a stranger!”

    There are situations you dont put your child in, but you do still have to allow them to be children and teenagers.

    Comment by Liz P | October 2, 2010 | Reply

  3. […] your feet, but then I was taught to do this in industrial environments that may be dangerous, by Health and Safety when I worked for ICI in the 1960s. The only problem I had was thatwhen I first got down there it […]

    Pingback by We’re Really In It Now « The Anonymous Widower | May 16, 2011 | Reply

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