Health & Safety ‘gone mad’?

Health & Safety ‘gone mad’?

Those old enough to remember would have thought nothing, at the time, of Blue Peter’s John Noakes scaling Nelson’s Column on a rickety ladder, wearing flares but no helmet; individuals casually smoking cigarettes while laying dynamite to prepare a building for demolition; fervent contestants virtually throwing themselves down steep stairs to join the line-up on Bruce Forsyth’s ‘The Price is Right’. This is the stuff of nightmares for Health & Safety Officers today.

Nowadays, we hear reports of children being asked to wear goggles before engaging in the notoriously dangerous pursuit of playing conkers. Then there’s the musician who asked if he could entertain guests at a smart wine bar with some classical standards, only to be told that a risk assessment would need to be produced long in advance of any request to play the piano. How about the ubiquitous bags of salted peanuts, emblazoned with the warning: ‘may contain nuts’?

Regardless of whether stories such as these are true or mythological, the hysteria surrounding the ‘health & safety’ narrative is certainly disproportionate and deepening, feeding vehement objections to the seemingly comical restrictions on activities which were previously deemed harmless or fun.

References to the so-called ‘nanny state’ and use of phrases like ‘health & safety gone mad’ demonstrate an aversion to the ostensibly ridiculous creation of an over-protective society in which ‘risk management’ is, ironically, a dangerous phrase, and the defined threshold for ‘danger’ or ‘hazard’ is perceived to be impractically low.

Whether ‘Millennials’ and ‘Generation Z’ compromises cohorts of hypochondriacs or ‘snowflakes’ might be still a matter for debate, statistics reveal that, as far as the reality of the modern workplace is concerned, we’ve still got a lot of progress to make in terms of occupational health & safety.

Let’s look at the reality.

Reports from the International Labour Organization reveal that over 2.7 million people die each year from a work-related accident or illness. An additional 374 non-fatal injuries and illnesses are caused in the global workplace, keeping occupational health & safety on the radar of all responsible employers. Bear in mind the average £120,000 fine for those found guilty of health & safety breaches, with the most high-profile cases of neglecting health & safety fundamentals running into the £millions.

While some of these figures may be partly borne from an absence of common-sense and truly unavoidable tragedy, there remains a real and present danger of a health & safety breach seriously affecting almost any organisation, resulting in potentially massive financial and human costs. 

But how can we ensure that we implement effective organisational health & safety processes while remaining committed to operational stability?

Enter ISO 45001.

ISO 45001 was written with input from 70 countries, making it the first truly international framework for organisations to produce an effective Occupational Health & Safety Management System. It is based on seven tested principles for organisations to produce a robust, comprehensive scheme to managing H & S concerns in their context, while joining a global community committed to best practice in the field.

Practically any organisation, of any size and in any sector, can access an audit against the ISO 45001 framework, ensuring that they not only comply with international H & S legislation, but also have appropriate controls in place to safeguard employees and other interested parties, keeping them as safe as possible in the midst of day-to-day business activity.

Collectively, we can take a sensible, pragmatic approach to reasonable occupational health & safety management, using ISO 45001 to evaluate risk with responsibility, fulfilling our duty of care, removing the rhetoric, and focusing on what matters.
Occupational health & safety: ‘gone mad’ or a pertinent business imperative?

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