From the TUC

The Sun in ‘nonsense’ shocker!

20 Aug 2012, By

Rod Liddle: ‘Nonsense’

Just as cuckoos herald the coming of spring, so the ‘silly season’ marks that point in the year when tabloid editors reach for the stories and campaigns marked ‘not to be opened unless truly desperate’. How else to explain the Sun’s new (oxymoronic?) campaign to “Stop the nonsense!”. *

Claiming that public bodies have suffered a “collective loss of common sense”, the campaign was launched with a column by professional controversialist Rod Liddle which made a number of claims, not one of which was about workplace health and safety, and which included a number of stories that had already been thoroughly discredited.

These include a story that ‘health and safety’ meant that the police were stopped from rescuing a man in Gosport who subsequently drowned (The Daily Mail, who ran the story actually withdrew it shortly after), and that Wimbledon tennis club had stopped spectators using Murray Mound for safety reasons.

Now there is no doubt that some organisations do stupid things, and sometimes ‘health and safety’ is used as an excuse by organisations who either do not want to do something or are worried about insurance claims.

Perhaps these are sometimes fair game for the tabloids, given that they are really about entertainment rather than news, but is there really a problem out there? From the evidence it would seem not. Rather than public bodies and employers routinely trying to wrap us all up in cotton wool, most school trips, village fairs and street parties seem to manage to go ahead despite what the Prime Minister has called the health and safety culture that is “strangling” our economy.

But it is in the workplace that the effects are most felt. By focusing on a few harmless incidents (none of which are anything to do with the workplace) and ignoring the huge problem of people ignoring health and safety requirements the “brand” of health and safety gets diminished. People see “health and safety” as stupid rules and barriers, rather than as a framework for protecting those most vulnerable in society.

When employers do stick their head above the parapet and try to improve the safety position of their workers, as the European hairdressers did earlier this year, they face being criticised by politicians and the media. Employers get the message that health and safety is about doing the minimum required by the law, not about trying to follow good practice. The HSE has even set up a panel that anyone can complain to if they think someone is using health and safety has been used as an excuse. And they are guaranteed a reply in a few days. It would nice to get the same service when there are complaints that people’s safety is at risk.

Anyone who has had an injury or an occupational illness will know only too well that there is not an “overzealous” interpretation of health and safety in the workplace. Quite the opposite. Occupational Cancers still kill between 10 and 20,000 people every year and around 2 million people suffer from ill-health at work. All these are preventable. We need to ensure that health risks are identified and dealt with so that workers and the public are protected.

The Sun could really help us do that by exposing some of the examples that trade unions see every day. Cases of people crushed by reversing lorries because the employer did not bother to provide a Banksman. Hairdressers whose hands are covered in dermatitis because they have never been issued with gloves. Teachers and social workers forced out of the profession because the employer has no policy in place for preventing stress. That is what health and safety is really about. It would just be nice to read about some of that occasionally.


*(I reluctantly read this stuff so you don’t have to)

2 Responses to The Sun in ‘nonsense’ shocker!

  1. Dorothy Wright
    Aug 20th 2012, 5:37 pm

    Health & Safety is about so much more even than that.It’s about 1300 people killed every single year in work related incidents, people who would be alive if someone had bothered to observe H&S laws It’s about families blown apart,children left traumatized & without help, whose whole future is affected as they struggle with the loss of a parent.
    It’s about grieving mothers, who have worked all their lives & never had as much as a parking ticket, then threatened by the police with a charge of criminal harassment for pinning flowers on a railing in memory of a dead son, simply because the killer complains It’s about Crown prosecutors who say there is insufficient evidence to bring manslaughter charges when the relatives KNOW there is sufficient evidence , a crown prosecutor who treats family with contempt, tells the grieving family that the manager may be ‘incredibly stupid’ but don’t
    call him a criminal it’s about families waiting 4/ 5 years for an Inquest to hear the managing director ,in front of jury ,say he didn’t bother with written risk assessments as he considered all his employees to be illiterate! It took 7 years to get that director into court to be fined £100000,the nager fined a measly £10000. He then pleaded poverty saying he would close his business & rest of workers would then be out of work, so blackmail worked & fine reduced to £50000 payable over 5 years, about the cost of of his cars THIS is what Grayling calls a ‘burden ‘ in business
    This is just 1 of the 1300 stories every year & none of the others will be any better THAT is what Health and safety is about I now live abroad because I can’t live in a country that cares so little for the lives of its citizens & persecutes the families of the victims of state sponsored murder while so many walk on by on other side So many more death warrants have been signed now by the deregulation of H&S & the real burden is carried by the families I just wish I had known of the true level of risk my son was taking by going to work I’d rather he had been one of the ‘scrounger’ unemployed, he’d still be here I have campaigned & spoken at various conferences in past 7 years but it doesn’t seem to make any difference Be very afraid because it’s going to get so much worse now

  2. karen Thomson
    Aug 20th 2012, 9:22 pm

    As always all the emphasis is on the “silly” stories and the blatant disregard of health and safety law is ignored. If the law was adhered to, if the lives of workers was seen as imortant then my lovely partner would have came home from his work and lived beyond his 40th year. He wouldve seen the youngest bairn growing up, been here to see me pass my driving test, here to see the sun rise, the stars shine. he wouldve looked after his mother to her end, he would have enjoyed his motorbikes, a few pints and maybe learned how to dance in time. But he like other agency staff weren’t that important, they could simply be replaced. Massive companies like Abf Grains and Tnt could afford to laugh at any legislation before and now they can simply carry on cause it no longer exists. the death toll will rise and successive politicians from all sides haven’t wanted to get too involved. a big massive vote loser taking on the owners/directors, the forces of greed and profit. Maybe the unions could get stronger by gnawing off the blood red ties, by looking down the way at the shoulders they stand on. maybe then there will be no more good hard working men and women like Graham Meldrum denied tomorrow.