Can common sense return to Health and Safety laws?

Can common sense return to Health and Safety laws?

It was heartening to hear the announcement that Lord Young has been charged with the task of reviewing how our health and safety legislation is applied with the avowed intention of rolling back some of the more preposterous rules and bring some much needed common sense to the deadweight of regulations that govern our daily existence.

I wish him well but as most of the daftest legislation has been introduced through EU directives he has a tough task ahead. Virtually nothing can now be done without first conducting a risk assessment. Even the police cannot intervene to help people in dire need without first conducting a safety assessment.

Failure to anticipate every possible health and safety contingency risks litigation, actively encouraged by law firms prepared to act on pro bono terms.  Tradesmen using ladders now have to attend a ladder awareness course. Kids at school cannot play conkers and have to wear goggles when using Blue Tack. There was one classically eccentric Englishman who chose to live in a cave until evicted by his Council because the dwelling did not have sufficient fire exits.  Completely potty.

Take our fire extinguishers as an example. All the models we offer are third party tested and approved and carry the BS Kitemark if one applies. Some have Kitemark, Ship Wheel, BAFE and CE. They are also manufactured under ISO9001 quality standards and have a minimum 5 year guarantee. Every unit is also checked for damage or pressure loss before despatch. You may think that this quality assurance regime would be sufficient evidence to demonstrate to a Fire Officer that buying such an extinguisher would satisfy your legal responsibility under the RRO to ensure fire equipment is useable and in operational condition.  Not necessarily so.

The gaggle of worthies that drafted the new BS5306 Code of Practice determined that new fire extinguishers should also be retested (commissioned is the used term) when they arrive on site. This is obviously a business opportunity for Fire Maintenance companies who charge for the test and who by strange but surely unrelated coincidence had major representation on the committee that wrote the COP guidelines.

Problem is that you just can’t eliminate every risk, accident or sheer bad luck with a rule. Who can absolutely guarantee that the extinguisher pressure valve won’t fail the day after commissioning. All you can do is apply common sense and conduct regular inspections and introduce planned maintenance.

Despite our scepticism we happily oblige and offer a commissioning service to those customers who choose to comply with the BS5306 voluntary code of practice. If you are a larger outfit and have an experienced fire officer or maintenance technician we also offer a pre-delivery inspection (PDI) and test certificate.

Finally on a different note I saw an equally potty advert on the TV promoting a hands free antiseptic soap dispenser. The sales pitch was a scare tactic pointing out that the common pump type harbours trillions of nasty bacteria on the pump top that will no doubt kill you in seconds. Now as I see it the only reason you will put your hand on the plunger is if you intend to immediately wash your hands in antiseptic soap thereby ridding yourself of the problem.  Am I missing something?

Tony

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