Saturday, 5 March 2011


I'm part way through a training course about health & safety. It's one I really should have taken at least 10 years ago, and - even worse - I sort of passed up the opportunity around that time once, in the distant days when I somehow felt I was in control of even a tiny particle of my own destiny. But I digress.

It's a very good course, I have to say, even taking into account the human propensity to appreciate any (learning) opportunity as we grow older, and it is also extremely demanding. No less than two hours' homework per night is required, answering recycled questions from previous exam papers. This highly challenging schedule naturally coincides with about a million other things going on in my life at the same time, as if my particular boat has floated out of some drowsy bayou into the maelstrom of a fully fledged mid-Atlantic depression, all at once. But no matter; that's the way things go sometimes.

As I said, health & safety is the name of the game. NEBOSH no less (NGC1) and always interesting when learning about legislation to see the disconnect between best practice and the real world. The trainer is firmly of the opinion that the Health & Safety At Work Act (1974) is good legislation, because it is worded in such a way that all possible eventualities relating to safety in industry are captured. Testament I suppose to this view is that the legislation is still active and relevant after 37 years, even though of course the detail of the Regulations and Approved Codes of Practice relating to it have changed as the years have gone by. This is the beauty of the primary legislation, which pins a duty of care on employers without being proscriptive and thus painting itself into a corner. And, an even better argument, witness that the number of workplace accidents has decreased markedly (a figure of 1.4 fatal injuries per 100,000 in 1992/93 was as low as 0.5 per 100,000 in 2008/09) since the Act was introduced. From that angle - and despite tragedies like the Herald of Free Enterprise, Piper Alpha, the Gulf oil spill and others - it's really hard to argue with.

Everyone of course still hasn't got a fucking clue about what the legislation really means, and persists in the pathetic 'elf 'n' safety gorn mad' cant about the smoking ban (actually brought in under the Health Act) and all manner of hackneyed shit, without realising what a great job this law is doing on their behalf.

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