Health and Safety: You couldn’t make it up!
Health and safety gets a bad rep in the press, with tabloids keen to use it as a label for poking fun at killjoys. These staple stories can usually be traced to being plain untrue in the first place, employers or authorities using it as an excuse not to do something they didn’t want to do anyway, or people trying to hide behind regulations and procedures out of a lack of understanding of the real issues.
So rarely are the funny stories about serious risk to life and limb that you’d be forgiven for thinking the UK’s safety issues were all resolved, and that workers habitually wrapped themselves in cotton wool on clocking in in the mornings. Far from it though – the HSE’s figure of 151 people killed at work (‘reportable deaths’) shoots worryingly higher once you factor in people killed driving for work, and people killed by ill health caused by work.
Currently a shocking 20,000 a year are dieing preventable premature deaths in the UK every year. We already have the many of the tools we might need to stop this terrible toll. We just need them understood better, and enforced better. This is why safety always figures so high on trade union agendas – The numbers involved may be hard to credit, but dealing with so many individual and collective cases day in day out, unions know all too well the human cost behind the silly season headlines.
The TUC have produced a report on re-making the case for Health and Safety, with recommendations on current trends and on possible future initiatives. You can find the Case for Health and Safety on the TUC website. It doesn’t make for particularly funny reading.