Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody's going to know whether you did it or not.

~ Oprah Winfrey ~

Safety First or Thirty-First (Depending on Where You Live)

December 2nd, 2011 ~ Est. reading time: 2 mins, 7 secs

Always exercise safety when crossing the road...

Before you and I can talk about this in a risky way, we will need to conduct a risk assessment. That’s a fancy way of saying, “Is it safe to talk?

The world is nothing short of bizarre when, on one side of the world, we won’t let our kids walk to school. While on the other, kids are casually pedalling through traffic nightmares, risking certain death at any second. What is going on?

Get yourself a cup of coffee from the local fast food place and chances are the bottom of the paper cup will say “Open other end” or “Caution, contents are hot. Don’t pour it down your top.” Such safety warnings are about as useful as a screen door on a submarine.

You and I dare not do a hundred common sense things because someone will say it’s not health and safety approved.

Now, please understand, I worked in the health and safety area for quite a few years and there definitely is a place for safer practices. I’ve walked through workplaces where workers were constantly dodging scalding steam, rotating blades, fire, baths of seething acid, and smoke. And that was just to go to the toilet! So safety is important. But we have moved on from safety as a reasonable concern to safety as an insurance issue.  The present safety paranoia isn’t driven by an increased level of interest in people’s welfare, as much as the fear of litigation and rocketing insurance costs.

Of course, some people love this stuff and would be quite offended by this preposterous theme. The kind who enjoy creating evermore rules and protocols, thrill to the chance to flex their control muscles. They’ve got to stop people walking down stairs without a safety harness and prevent people walking across floors that might be slippery if they ever got wet. Can’t, won’t, don’t. That’s the health and safety mantra.

But to be fair, people do get into all sorts of silly difficulties. Hence signs to tell people not to walk on the roof become necessary (lest they crash through or fall off). Just as notices placed everywhere at public pools warn people not to run. But they do.

What makes this seem a bit absurd is that more than half the world hasn’t got a clue about health and safety. For them, it’s common sense or die, whilst we go overboard on prevention to the point where it becomes plainly irritating.

Somewhere there is a middle ground, isn’t there? Somehow, as grown ups we need to own our actions. Otherwise the word safety will fuse with terms like mollycoddling, nannying, and cosseting.

We can go shopping without a safety net. Each of us is capable of fixing breakfast without a guardrail round the hot water tap or a cordoned off zone around the stove. Not to ignore basic safety; but to decide what is reasonably and unreasonably risky. After all, if you want to live well, then you definitely deserve the dignity of risk.



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