​​​​​​​Why do people think health and safety has gone mad?

​​​​​​​Why do people think health and safety has gone mad?

144 people died at work last year. So said the Health and Safety Executive’s annual fatality statistic report. So it must be true.

I mean, that’s not even 3 people a week. And, in a country with a population in excess of 66 million people, it would barely register as a bar on a graph, or a slither on a pie chart.  

Easy to see then why people:

  • think health and safety’s gone mad;

  • claim health and safety is a burden on business;

  • tout safety regulation as red tape; and

  • see safety rules and procedures as a tiresome impediment to getting a job done. 

Actually, as someone who has lost a brother in a work-related electrocution, I think all of these beliefs could not be further from the truth.

So, why do such attitudes persist?  In part, is it because the general public are not told The Whole Story?  And if they were, what difference would it make?

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"I'm an employment lawyer by day and a FACKer by night..."

...is a line I used many's a time to try to lighten the mood a little during presentations.  

However, I'm no longer in practice as an employment lawyer, having ended my 13 year career to focus more fully on health and safety projects.  I am still a FACKer though because, if I hadn't become a FACKer, I wouldn't have the strength to be doing what I am now. 

You see, in the months after Michael's death, I couldn't talk about him in life without tears streaming down my face.  There is absolutely no way I could even have contemplated recounting the detail of his death.  

Then, a year after he died, through my work as an employment lawyer, a new campaign group grabbed my attention.  Its name had been designed to make people sit up and take notice.  It was FACK, standing for Families Against Corporate Killers.  This was a group of families who were joined by the common bond of having lost loved ones in work-related incidents.

I joined.

And from those bereaved parents, spouses, partners, and children, and the strength they were showing in the face of the ultimate adversity, I found a new sense of purpose.  I realised that through my family's experience of Michael's death, a difference could be made to the safety of others. I found the confidence to speak up, first to politicians, then to trade unionists, and most recently to employers and their workforces.  

The first client to invite me in to tell Michael's Story admits he was "apprehensive" beforehand. Understandable.  You've been told it might be an idea to invite in an unknown quantity - who campaigns with FACK - to speak to your sparks and you'll be hearing the content of her presentation for the first time at the same time as all of them. Any initial apprehension was quickly overcome though it seems.  Because, after hearing what I had to say, I'm now a regular feature in Babcock International's workplace safety speaker programme, and must have spoken to approaching 5000 people at their sites at Rosyth - where the Aircraft Carrier Alliance Project is centred - Devonport, Appledore and on the Clyde.

When I asked another client if I could use a thank you letter he sent me as a way of dispelling any fears over the fact I'm a FACKer, he replied "I would suggest that any Company committed to creating a safe environment for their workforce should have no concerns whatsoever."

And therein lies the rub.  Because to be a FACKer is to want to stop others from losing their lives or their loved ones in incidents which could and should be prevented, an aim shared by companies wanting to create a safe environment for their workforce.  

Some have suggested I should play down the fact I'm a FACKer.  And, yes, I would absolutely rather not be one.  I would much rather my wee brother was alive and well. But he's not. And that's why I want to tell you Michael's Story so I can stop anyone else's loved one from meeting that same fate.