Safe ‘Rome-ing’

7 Jan

Before coming to work at the British Safety Council, I had never worked in the sphere of health and safety. Like many others, I had simply read and heard sensational news stories about death-causing conkers and child-unfriendly schools.

Then I became editor of Safety Management magazine.

Without wanting to stoop to the sensationalist level mentioned above, working here has really opened my eyes to aspects of working life which had never even crossed my mind before.

Aside from those frown and tut-inducing stories loved by various sections of the media, I have had to read about the truly sad and horrendous things which have happened to people whilst at work, in this day and age in the UK: fatal accidents which were entirely preventable; needless explosions and burns; avoidable amputations, scarring and injuries. It woke me up the importance of health and safety, not only at work, but when commuting, travelling and living the rest of your life.

Banos Bridge JumpI am someone who likes risks, adrenalin and extreme sports. I’ll try my hand at anything and have done a number of bungee jumps and a parachute jump. I love skiing and scuba-diving. I’ve tried mountain biking, caving, surfing, climbing, rappelling and abseiling. The thought of swimming with sharks gives me goose bumps from the excitement, not the fear.

But even with this attitude to life, the seriousness of how many people conduct their daily work strikes me each day, working here. I understand that your work place is different to your home. You have different responsibilities and, usually, an employer who has a duty of care. When this duty is mismanaged, as is apparent in many instances across Great Britain, the consequences can be terrible. No one should be killed or injured by their work: we should work to live, not work to die early.

Dec 2010

I recently went on holiday to Rome, and as I wandered that beautiful city, my Safety Management eyes cast over some worrying sights. The city is full of incredible ruins, many of which are still be uncovered, protected and restored. The nominal safety signs were there, telling workers to don their hats, boots and jackets. And then, scanning across the Roman Forum to the Basilica Lulia, which is currently being worked on, I spotted a man. He was up a ladder talking to his colleague who was already balanced on an upper part of the ruin (how this is protecting it, I don’t know, but that’s another post). Neither were wearing PPE, one was smoking and the ladder was balanced as precariously as some of those roman stones.

I had to look away and take photos what might still be there in ten years’ time, unlike, possibly, these workers’ livelihoods.

People tell me that health and safety is not an interesting or ‘sexy’ topic. It’s dull and boring. I don’t know what’s dull and boring about companies finally trying to save the planet; about workers being safer and healthier as part of wellbeing programmes or high risk industries doing all they can to make sure each worker goes home well at the end of the day.

You can spend a third of your life at work. Keeping that part safe means that you can enjoy the rest of it, however you live.

It is life that is interesting, and what we do here is to try and keep it so.

LM, Ecuador

Rappelling in Ecuador 2005

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