Days for debates

10 Mar

There’s nothing we like more here than a good debate, and in the world of Safety Management magazine, health, safety and the environment and terrible refereeing decisions in the Champions League there is always plenty to discuss. Is this health and safety cartoon bad taste? Of course not, it makes a good point! How can we do more to get workers’ mental health further up the agenda? We can’t when we have to prioritise reducing deaths! Where should the cuts come in our industry? Not on inspections! How are we going to save the planet? Renewable energy! Are Barcelona really that good? Sad face and no comment.

And this week, there has been plenty to debate, with Tuesday being International Women’s day and Wednesday being No Smoking Day. Firstly, do we need them? And secondly, why are they relevant here?

There is no doubt that the gender equality seen in many parts of the world is something to celebrate, considering what it was some decades ago. But I believe it is patronising of us women here in the UK to shout about the suffering and the sexism towards women, when, not only can women be just as bad to men and they are, but that there are places in the world where women really are treated like second class citizens. To equate us with the plight of women in Burma, or Pakistan, or Iran is unjustified. If the day is not needed, some perspective is.

That’s not to say there aren’t areas where women aren’t seen as much. Our Women at work section in February’s Safety Management showed that there are knowledgeable, professional, dedicated women in health and safety, yet there is no denying it is a male dominated world. The likes of those women featured and our very own CEO and chair, Julie Nerney and Lynda Armstrong, Judith Hackitt at the HSE; they are all fine examples of showing what’s possible. Perhaps the day is needed so that these women, as shining examples here in the UK, can show other women what can be done in typically male sectors.

So, to No Smoking Day. If you haven’t read Andrew Stripp’s article in the most recent Safety Management, then do. As a corporate health manager at Quit, the charity which helps people give up smoking, and a previous smoker, he not only knows the health benefits to giving up smoking, but he presents other arguments and reasons to think about quitting. Our environment and oceans get a raw deal from smoking; our workplaces and interpersonal relationships can suffer. When I see someone flicking a butt onto the pavement, or taking their tenth cigarette break of the day at the office, I have to acknowledge that for our environment and for our workplaces, No Smoking Day is at least one step to getting those smokers on the path to freedom from the little white sticks, even at a subconscious level.

The statue of the unknown builder is a focus for Workers' Memorial Day

These national awareness days ignite debates, and this can only be a good thing. They bring joy, frustration and sorrow in equal measures: things we can celebrate, things we want to change, things we have to learn from. There is another important day coming next month, Workers’ Memorial Day; a day observed all over the world, drawing attention to the big issues in global worker health and safety. Do we need it? For that joy, frustration and sorrow, yes we do, but more importantly, for the important issues raised and the debates that ensue, most certainly.

Check out the next issue of Safety Management for more on Workers’ Memorial Day, and over the course of the month, let us know what you think, why it’s important and what your workplaces are doing to mark it.

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