Health and safety gone mad?
“It’s health and safety gone mad!” – you might have seen this while reading the newspaper, or watching the news on the TV, and while this is undeniable in some extreme cases, it’s important to remember that they are just that: examples selected for their absurdity. After all – boring stories don’t sell newspapers.
Most people who work in an environment which is more heavily regulated, like tradespeople or the emergency services, have a story where some ludicrous regulation prevented them from ‘just doing their job’. While such a work ethic is commendable, there’s plenty of horror stories from where health and safety rules were ignored. What people often forget is the reason for regulation is prevention. Before health and safety laws came into existence, working conditions were horrible.
Woeful working practices
Every law that is passed has its roots in someone’s misfortune, with a view to prevent it from happening again. One of the first public safety laws to pass was the Factories Act 1833, and it did exactly that.
The law was passed to stop children being injured and overworked in the textile industry. Back then it was common for children to work in factories and almost half of those that did were injured or killed. Amazingly (by today’s standards at least), there was a huge opposition to the Act, but it was eventually passed.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the conditions for adults were exactly the same, as they would often share the same factory floor. To illustrate how bad things got, in 1842, a visiting German noted the number of locals missing arms and legs made him feel like he was “living in the midst of the army just returned from a campaign.”
And you thought your work was bad?
The present day
As much as we’d like to think health and safety is just ‘common sense’, the numbers tell a different story. Since the Health and Safety at Work Act was passed in 1974, workplace accidents are down 81%. This has saved countless lives and, ultimately, made the UK a more prosperous place to live and work.
However, 46 years later accidents are still happening in the UK. It is perhaps unrealistic to think there will be a year with no accidents, at least in our lifetimes – but we can help by making sure we keep ourselves and our staff safe.
Staying safe during the pandemic
During the current climate, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, health and safety in the workplace is as important as ever. For more information on how to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in your place of work, take a look at our last blog article here.
If you need help with keeping your employees and customers safe, Eltham Workwear are here to help. We provide personal protection equipment (PPE) such as face masks, gloves, visors and screens, which can reduce the risk of transmission.