We have asked employers to give up indifference to Health and Safety for Lent. We are staggered week after week at the lack of thought employers put into health and safety. However, employees must play their part too. How often have we mocked someone or been laughed at for being too safety conscious. The apprentice on the building site gets a hard time for showing up in full PPE. Senior colleagues encourage staff to “just get on with it” rather than ensure that things are done properly and safely. Colleagues get impatient with their co-workers who “waste” time with red tape. The reality is that this “red tape” saves lives and the flippant attitude to Health and Safety rules fosters an attitude of indifference which can lead to a husband not coming home from work, a child growing up without a father, and a young life being cut short.
Most accidents are avoidable. The vast majority of the work we do week after week involves employers cutting corners with Health and Safety resulting in their employees being injured. However employees have a duty as well. They have a duty to themselves and to each other to ensure that indifference to Health and Safety is eradicated from the ground up.
If one of our colleagues walked out of the office with a phone or computer we would be absolutely appalled. We would all likely report this theft and the person would be shunned. Likewise, if the person decided to take an extra hour for lunch or simply left early. This sort of behaviour would not be tolerated. Leaving aside from the fear of getting in trouble from superiors most employees would never dream of this sort of behaviour for fear of ostracism from their colleagues and letting their team and company down.
However, we seem to have an entirely different attitude when it comes to Health and Safety. We don’t bat an eyelid when colleagues cut corners to get the job done quicker, don’t wear PPE or don’t follow the system of work which is designed to be safe. Perhaps colleagues leave trip hazards around the office, avoid wearing their gloves because they are cumbersome, skip stages of the procedure to get the output up and meet targets. These are just “quirks of their character”, “they are proactive”, “they are busy.” This attitude of acceptance is what causes the indifference we seek to exterminate.
Stealing a computer doesn’t pose any risk of harm or death, neither does a long lunch. Yet this if viewed as more serious than breaching Health and Safety. We consider the appropriate attitude to a disregard for Health and Safety rules should be akin to the reaction to someone leaving a pub after 5 pints and attempting to drive their car. The risks are the same: serious injury and death to themselves and others around them.
Employers must lead the charge when it comes to eradicating indifference to Health and Safety, but employees must follow. This means more than just sticking to the rules yourself. It means a complete revolution of the culture and attitude in the workplace. We encourage you this week to keep an eye out not just for hazards but for the attitude of indifference. The person mocking someone for wearing PPE is as guilty as the person not wearing it. Don’t let the blood be on your hands.
For further information on Employers' Duties in the Workplace click here.