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No more excuses

24 Aug

So health and safety has been in the news again today, but this time it seems to be for all the right reasons. HSE released its top 10 most bizarre health and safety excuses from this year earlier today, prompting a lot of tweeting from ourselves and our followers. At one stage it was even in the top 10 most popular stories on the BBC’s website.

We at the British Safety Council have long been campaigning for sensible safety, but health and safety has developed a bad reputation over the years. “Someone’s got a paper cut…quick call the health and safety police” is a joke I’ve heard in the past when I’ve mentioned I work for a health and safety organisation. And more recently it has become the excuse for banning the most silly of things. People are no longer to bump in bumper cars? Have you heard anything more bizarre?

Reading HSE’s list of 10, I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself at the ridiculousness of these stories. But on a serious note, it is these stories that are giving health and safety a bad name and detracting from the very serious message we are trying to get across.

Following the release of the list, employment minister Chris Grayling warned that “an epidemic of excuses wrongly citing health and safety is needlessly curtailing people’s personal freedoms”. We wholeheartedly support Chris Grayling’s efforts to highlight the needless application of health and safety laws to ban or restrict day-to-day activities. People should challenge health and safety myths and overzealous practices and take the common sense approach.

Alex Botha, our chief executive, said in a statement today: “We need to think in terms of sensible safety and dispel the harmful myths that have grown up and which trivialise a serious issue through the banning of perfectly reasonable and low risk activities. We should be able to enjoy ourselves at work or at play without being tied up in red tape and unacceptable bureaucracy; and without sweeping away regulations that are there to make our schools and our workplaces as safe as necessary. 

“Our work with members and the wider business community demonstrates that good health and safety really is good business and it’s this positive message the British Safety Council will press to help bust these myths once and for all.”

Read HSE’s list of 10 most bizarre health and safety bans: http://www.hse.gov.uk/news/bizarre-bans/index.htm

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On the road to reducing injuries

24 Aug

I’m late for work. On a normal day I’d be whizzing along the dual carriageway, sticking to the speed limit of course. Instead, I’ve moved about 200 yards in half an hour. The reason? Roadworks.

As I pass the workers busily resurfacing the road I realise that their job is one I could never do. There’s just a thin barrier of cones between the workers and my car, the driver behind me is on his phone and I don’t think he’s noticed the workers walking around just feet away from his vehicle. These workers are literally putting their lives in the hands of me and ‘phone guy’ – relying on us to drive safely through the roadworks so they can go home and see their families at the end of a long shift.

I had the opportunity to interview John O’Keefe – health, safety and environmental director for highways maintenance company EnterpriseMouchel – a few weeks ago, and the reality of the dangers that workers face really hit home. “When our people are working on the road network, they are at risk of people who fall asleep at the wheel, those who are drunk or on the phone, and these can all result in accidents. That’s our biggest concern and we rely on them to drive safely in order for us to stay safe,” he told me.

According to John, there have been occasions where people have either not seen or have purposefully disregarded the company’s roadworks and have steamed on through regardless. “There have also been issues with cyclists, particularly in London, who often feel safer in our closed off works area than they do on the highway,” he explains. “I can understand their mentality, but that puts our workers at risk in our own working area. The main challenge we face is keeping the public safe in relation to the work we’re doing while keeping our own workers safe in a protected zone.”

The company is currently trialling a ‘cone intrusion system’ which is effectively a warning system if the line of defence is broken. “If someone comes through our barrier of cones, an alarm will sound. It might be a minimal warning but it might give workers just enough time to get out of the way,” adds John. As part of its ongoing trial of this concept, the company is experimenting with various types of detection including the use of laser technology and investigating the fitting of personal alarms that will trigger in addition to audible warnings.

So next time you’re stuck in traffic due to roadworks, spare a thought for the workers risking their lives to make the roads safer for us. Having previously been frustrated at having to slow down to 40mph and merge into one lane on a motorway, I now realise that the restrictions are there for a reason.

Read my full article on EnterpriseMouchel in the September issue of Safety Management.

The sad loss of an influential safety campaigner

19 Aug

We were sad to hear the news that Diana Lamplugh OBE died this week after suffering a stroke.

Following the disappearance of her daughter, Suzy, in 1986, Diana and her husband, Paul, founded the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which became a well-known national charity for personal safety.

The aim of the trust is to raise the awareness of the importance of personal safety and highlight the risks people face while offering advice, action and support to minimise those risks. It also provides training courses on personal safety, particularly for lone workers.

After setting up the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, Diana campaigned successfully for the licensing of minicabs; safer car parks, train and tube stations; and for stalking to be recognised as a criminal offence. The charity works with the government, police, public bodies and businesses to encourage better personal safety.

Diana was forced to retire from the Suzy Lamplugh Trust after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease following a massive stroke in 2003. Her husband, Paul, also retired but became a trustee of the charity.

Diana and Paul were both awarded OBEs for their work for the charity and were jointly awarded the Beacon Prize for leadership for their work in raising awareness of personal safety and addressing the causes and solutions to violence and aggression in society.

Suzy Lamplugh, a 25 year old estate agent, disappeared in 1986 after she went to meet a client, known as Mr Kipper, and show him around a house in Fulham, west London. Reports say she was seen arguing with the man before getting into a car with him. Her body has never been found. She was officially declared dead, presumed murdered in 1994.

It’s a shame Diana never received any justice for her daughter’s disappearance, and never really discovered what happened to her. However, she can be proud of the fact that her campaigning has helped thousands of other lone workers keep safe in vulnerable situations.

We hope the Suzy Lamplugh Trust continues with its fantastic work and our thoughts are with Diana’s family at this sad time.

To find out more about the Suzy Lamplugh Trust visit www.suzylamplugh.org

Animated video of health and safety in the workplace

17 Aug

Browsing at videos on YouTube, I found this light-hearted animation to brighten up your day.

It was made by a young person called Nathan as part of his college project.

Enjoy.

The need for speed…and safety

2 Aug

I’m standing in the queue for Rita at Alton Towers. I’ve been in the queue for about half an hour and am slowly creeping nearer to the front.

For those of you who have not experienced Rita before, it is one of the main attractions at Alton Towers.  Loosely based on a drag race, the Intamin accelerator coaster, to give it its scientific name, launches you from 0-62mph in just 2.2 seconds.

As I wait, I watch the ride above me on repeat as I stand in the queue. I hear the screams of people as the ride takes them up and down and round and round at a phenomenonal speed. Right above me is a net which has captured a number of pairs of sunglasses that have obviously flown off people’s heads.

As I inch closer to the front of the queue, the nerves start kicking in and the adrenalin starts pumping – that’ll be me soon. I just want to get it over and done with so I can say I’ve done it, but the waiting time gives me chance to study the ride – I make a mental note of where the camera is so I remember to smile, and I listen to which part of the ride produces the loudest screams, as obviously that will be the fastest, scariest bit.

I can see the platform now where people are nervously but excitedly getting in their carriage…and the people disembarking the ride while fixing their hair and laughing to their friends about how fast it was. “Oh my god, that was amazing,” I hear one girl shriek. “I bet I’ve got my eyes closed in the photo.”

There are about 35 people in front of me so it won’t be long now. But then I realise it’s all gone quiet. I don’t hear the whooshing sound of the rollercoaster as it speeds round the track or the continuous screams from the people on the ride. The ride has stopped. Rita has died.

“We regret to inform customers that Rita is currently unavailable due to a technical fault. We apologise for any inconvenience and hope to have her up and running again shortly.” As other people in the crowd respond to the announcement with a loud groan and leave the queue, I immediately put on my health and safety hat.

What technical issue? How long will it take to fix? What procedures do they have in place for fixing such an issue? As far as I can tell, there’s no one stuck on the ride, which would be my worst nightmare, but how have they come to realise that there’s a technical hitch?

As more and more people either become too impatient or think the ride is now unsafe, I edge closer to the front of the queue. Although I realise they won’t let people on the ride again until they know it’s completely safe, a part of me hopes I won’t be the first to ride once it starts up again.

After about 10 minutes with no movement and being surrounded by some increasingly impatient people all sharing horror stories about being stuck on rides, there is an announcement to say they will be carrying out a test run of the ride.

We all watch in anticipation as an empty Rita launches and flies around the track. The silence is deafening. There are no screams, but ironically the camera still takes a photo of the empty carriages. The ride ends and we wait for an outcome. It seems like forever but then finally the front of the queue moves forward and people are allowed to ride Rita again.

Luckily I’m not on the first ride. The people sat in the carriages look even more anxious than normal though. “Please let it be fixed. Please don’t let it get stuck,” I hear them pray. The ride starts and they are launched at 62mph round the track. The welcome return of screaming is hopefully a good sign. They seem to be screaming for all the right reasons.

Now it’s my turn. I take a deep breath as I take my seat in the carriage. I pull my harness down over me, ensuring it’s firmly locked in place. And we’re off. The force is incredible. I close my eyes and hold on for dear life. I think I’m screaming louder than anyone else. And then it’s over. It’s funny how we patiently queue for an hour and all for 45 seconds of sheer fear and adrenalin.

I’m pleased to say I did it and didn’t end up getting stuck – well done to the Alton Towers crew who fixed the ride quickly and efficiently. Needless to say, I wasn’t smiling in my photo…and my eyes were firmly shut!

 

We’re not invincible

5 Jul

I would consider myself a calm and considerate driver. Well, as calm and considerate as you can be driving in London. I often invite a pedestrian to cross the road in front of me if I’m in slow traffic, or let a car pull out of a junction. But on the way to my mundane weekly supermarket shop yesterday evening, something – or rather someone – had me reeling.

The entrance to my local supermarket is located just off a mini roundabout and as I took a left at the roundabout to enter the supermarket car park a woman stepped out in front of me and put her arm out as though ordering me to stop. I was taken aback as there was no reason for me to stop. I wasn’t going fast, there was no injured cat in the middle of the road, nor did she hold a lollipop.

All I wanted to do was get my shopping over and done with so I could get home in time for Coronation Street. Frustrated, I duly stopped. Then, quite astonishingly, she gestured for her kids, who were patiently waiting on the pavement, to cross the road in front of me. The kids were hesitant to step out in front of my car but she kept yelling at them until they gingerly walked across the road.

I was stunned by her actions. She made me so mad, not just because she ignored the Green Cross Code and made me stop (despite it being my right of way), but because she’s setting a bad example to her kids. The children were waiting quite happily for an appropriate moment to cross, but the mother went against everything her children have learnt at school and put their safety at risk.

Whatever happened to ‘stop, look, listen and look again’? It seems this woman went to a different school and learnt the ‘walk, stop traffic and hope for the best’ procedure. Luckily for her, and her children, I did stop and let them pass, but judging by the way some people drive round my neck of the woods it might have been a very different story.

Road safety is so important but people seem to think they’re invincible these days and the bus, bike or car will stop for them when they cross the road. I always remember my dad’s reaction when someone walked out in front of his car on a zebra crossing without looking. “What do you think it is, a magic carpet?” he’d yell at the pedestrian.

Although it’s common courtesy for drivers to stop at a zebra crossing, pedestrians have to be so careful these days. We’re all in such a hurry to get places but we have to be on the lookout for other people and not think we own the road. That goes for pedestrians and drivers.

I think what angered me the most about the incident yesterday was that she didn’t even wave or smile to thank me for stopping, she just carried on walking and yelling at her poor kids. Needless to say it took me a while for my anger to subside, and pushing a trolley around a busy supermarket was probably not the best way to deal with my rage. In fact it probably made it worse. I think someone should write a Green Cross Code for shopping trolleys.

A classic example of giving health and safety a bad name

30 Jun

My boyfriend and I recently booked a much needed summer holiday to Turkey through a well known and reputable travel company.

Since booking the holiday I’ve been dreaming about sandy beaches, crystal blue sea and beautiful sunsets, counting down the days until I can lie by the pool every day, read my book and enjoy the sun…12 sleeps to go to be exact.

So imagine my excitement when I arrived home from work last night to find that a cute little booklet had arrived in the post, which included our flight tickets and information about our holiday destination.

Flicking through the booklet I found details about visa requirements, baggage allowance and useful contact details if I need to get in touch with my holiday provider while I’m there.

I then came across a section entitled ‘Health and Safety’. Naturally I was interested to read what there was to say on the subject, but the introduction put me off completely. It read: “It’s not the most interesting topic, so we’ll tell you what you need to know and keep it brief…”

This angered me for a number of reasons. Firstly, it doesn’t take a qualified journalist to know this is not the best opening to something you want people to read. The fact that the very first sentence basically says ‘this is not very interesting’ isn’t going to encourage people to read on.

Secondly, this information is under the heading ‘Essentials’ so I assume they want people to read it? Even if I overlook the ‘don’t-read-this’ introduction, the fact they state that they’re keeping it brief makes me wonder what information they have left out. Is there some other information they’ve neglected to include because they want to keep it brief?

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t claim to be a health and safety professional but one thing I’ve learnt from my four years at the British Safety Council is that health and safety is an important subject that people often dismiss as being uninteresting and unnecessary. This booklet is a classic example of health and safety being given a bad name even before it’s had a chance to prove itself as an interesting and necessary subject matter.

Obviously I won’t be putting the furniture on my balcony near the railings or getting a black Henna tattoo as the booklet advises against. But I can’t help thinking about the other people who have received this booklet and have not read any further than the first line because of the awful way in which this important information has been introduced.

So now I’ve got that off my chest, I can go back to dreaming about sun, sea and sand…and calculating how many more hours of work I have left until my holidy begins! What’s Turkish for health and safety?