From the CEO's desk
23 January 2013
It can be quite tough being in the health and safety industry. Apparently health and safety stopped Bruce Springsteen and Paul McCartney from singing a duet, pancake races cannot be run in the streets and students cannot throw their mortar boards in the air, to name just a few of the ridiculous items pinned on the safety culture.
What nonsense! Let's look at the real facts. The drop in workplace fatalities and injuries has been dramatic. Fewer and fewer families have their lives ripped apart by their loved ones either not being able to work again or just not coming home from work at all. The performance of the UK in preventing occupational deaths and injury tops the world and many developing countries use the UK health and safety culture as a template for their legislation.
Yet we're the butt of many jokes and certainly a number of journalists like the easy headlines, but they would quickly criticise and point the finger if serious injuries and occupational deaths started to rise. We, as an industry, need to ensure the positive messages are clearly heard over the negatives. However, we should not pretend all is cosy in our world. For example, the deaths each year from prior exposure to an occupational respiratory hazard remain stubbornly high. Many thousands of individuals die from a situation that could be easily overcome. At its most simple, exhaust extraction and/or the latest respiratory protective devices will offer excellent protection.
This is why we need the media to play its part by focusing on the real issues. Publicity which falsely bemoans safety just reinforces the misconception that the safety culture in the UK is 'over the top' or reinforces the feeling that I just don't need it and of course, the old chestnut, â€œmy mate has done the job for years and he is okayâ€. Well the facts are different from the perception. Thousands of people continue to be exposed to hazards unnecessarily, with potentially serious outcomes and pretending this isn't the case is just hurting innocent people. Protecting workers is not just a legal requirement, it's a moral responsibility.
How does that square with the negative messages coming from the media? Who should really be ridiculed? Denigrating health and safety will lead to a more laissez-faire attitude to protection and that will just harm more workers.
The BSIF Chief Executive Officer