HSE Chair Judith Hackitt is on the warpath to stop Health and Safety being used by killjoys as a shield to hide behind.
Health and Safety is often used as the excuse for cancelling the traditional pancake race or prohibiting the chasing of cheese down a hill. In a recent interview on Radio Four’s Today programme, HSE Chair Judith Hackitt made very clear her anger at such silly decisions, “It’s about looking for someone else to blame, so it’s a lot easier to blame this thing called Health and Safety than it is to own up to the fact that you’ve made an unpopular decision which you’d otherwise have to justify to people.”
Judith Hackitt went on to talk about the damage caused by this blurring the public’s mind of what real Health and Safety actually is. “We care about people getting killed and injured in the workplace, that’s what real Health and Safety is about. Our worry is that people now use this well-worn phrase of Health and Safety to cover up a whole range of difficult and unpopular decisions.”
“We have for some time now, for some considerable time, gone to great lengths to rebut the claims where they appear in the media, but I think it’s time now for us to take on the people who use us as the shield to hide behind, and actually expose the real reasons why they’re making these silly decisions because it certainly isn’t Health and Safety.”
At the same time, the Department of Education is publishing new guidelines on school trips
, with the current 150 pages reduced to eight.
In a separate interview, Judith Hackitt noted that, “People in all walks of life and in a number of schools have become very risk averse for a whole range of reasons, but it seems that they have landed upon a convenient excuse in the form of Health and Safety and we think it’s about time that we blew this myth apart.”
Whilst the HSE wants parents to realise that life cannot be risk free, and Education Secretary Michael Gove wishes for a "more common sense approach to health and safety", both the NUT and the NASUWT Teacher’s Unions have criticised the government's changes. The NUT said it feared reducing best practice could lead to more accidents, and the NASUWT teachers' union said cutting back guidance could reduce parents' confidence and make teachers more nervous about school trips.
It appears that both the Government and the HSE are looking for parents, teachers, children and the public at large to accept risk as a part of everyday life, with the HSE making strong efforts for health and safety no longer to be used as a reason when organisations make unpopular decisions.
Only by a reduction in the old line of 'it's 'ealth & safty guv' being trotted out as a feeble excuse for cancelling the school sports day (and numerous other opportunities to sustain an injury in the name of fun) will we know the degree to which the HSE have been successful in changing our attitudes to risk.
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