The current debate is whether we should ‘kill off
the health and safety culture for good’, with evocative words used,
such as ‘monster’ and ‘pointless time wasting’. In my view,
it confuses ‘compensation’ with ‘safety’ culture, and runs the risk
of missing a golden opportunity to celebrate the many benefits
which are associated with a positive safety culture. Read on
to understand why, and let me know if you agree.
It is an ideal opportunity to reinforce the
positives of getting health and safety right, whilst marshalling us
all behind the principle of getting rid of what we all know to be
the issues which give health and safety a bad press.
We must acknowledge the true value of ‘safety
culture’ and the benefit it brings to our society. In 34
years in the industry, I have met many who have suffered appalling
injury, or have lost loved-ones because of accidents at work.
I have watched with great humility as to the level of dignity they
have shown in unbearable circumstances. That is their
I can, in a small way, say that I know what
they are feeling. I recall the confusion and emptiness of
being an eight year old child whose father died of pneumoconiosis,
twenty years after he left the unhealthy environment of the South
Wales coal mines. The fact it does not happen today is a good
example of killing the ‘monster’ which was his growing inability to
breathe and a virtual total dependence on others. If that is
safety culture, we should be proud of it.
Going back to those who have suffered as a
consequence of accidents at work, I can only imagine the anguish
they will feel to hear ‘safety culture’ being described as a
‘monster’ or ‘pointless time wasting’. For every such sound
bite, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals who
could trump such words with examples of why a positive safety
culture is good for organisations and individuals alike.
I have had the privilege of speaking on heath
and safety at numerous International Conferences in recent
years. The UK is seen as one of the world leaders in health
and safety. If we were world beaters in any other category, we
would be shouting from the roof tops. Why not health and
safety? I suspect it is because we do not fully understand
and appreciate the true value of a positive safety culture.
...Like any sane, reasonable individual, I wish to see an end to the ‘compensation’ culture. We will do that best by properly understanding the values and benefits to be gained from demanding and delivering a positive ‘safety’ culture. Treating them the same is unfair and misplaced...
It is often a lack of confidence and knowledge
which leads us to accept the easy route, the line of least
resistance i.e. to focus on the negatives associated with a
‘compensation’ culture, rather than the positives which emerge from
a positive ‘safety’ culture.
I greatly admire and applaud the work being
done by Judith Hackitt, Professor Löfstedt, and others, to identify
what really matters in health and safety. I am confident that
they recognise how best to promote the positives of getting health
and safety right. They should be encouraged and supported in
that quest. I fear we run the risk of missing a golden
opportunity to distinguish a positive safety culture from a
negative compensation culture.
Like any sane, reasonable individual, I wish
to see an end to the ‘compensation’ culture. We will do that
best by properly understanding the values and benefits to be gained
from demanding and delivering a positive ‘safety’ culture.
Treating them the same is unfair and misplaced.
Life is a compromise, health and safety is a
compromise i.e. the answer is in the middle. We need a
balanced and measured approach to find the true remedy to the
problem. Rather than “monster” and “pointless”, I suggest
words such as “value” and “respect” are needed to lead us to a
safer and more rewarding future.
What do you think? Let me know