Monday, 3 June 2013

Health and Safety -v- Disability Legislation

Its my opinion that Health and Safety legislation has a lot to answer for. This may seem a strange standpoint from someone who served on several high level Health and Safety committees over many years. You might expect that I have more than an heightened awareness of Health and Safety. The reason for my viewpoint is that Health and Safety is often used as a reason against doing updates and maintenance. You know what I mean, when someone needs to have a safety platform built and to wear a protective harness. Just to reach an item that could be easily sorted from a small set of folding steps. But Health and Safety legislation is not on its own when it comes to screwing up the normal day to day stuff.

I had an interesting conversation with a CaRT employee last year about a hydraulic lift bridge. The lift bridge itself was actually functional. However in normal operation (by normal I mean turning the handle at an easy rate) the handle did not cause the bridge to move in the expected way. However, to send me off at a tangent, a short time before reaching the lift bridge, we had passed a boat going the other way. Being me, I thought I was missing something. Doing the usual (when all else fails read the instructions) had a good look around and a read of the instructions before deciding that there was a fault after all and that it must have just occurred.

I was about to give CaRT a ring on the phone. When the man in a white van turned up. Someone else had rung and he had been despatched to lend assistance. He must have a regular visit to the bridge because he said without any prompting from me, that the handle required turning at some speed to get the bridge to lift. Now, we are not talking about, turning the handle at an easy rate. No, we are talking about a serious strenuous workout. I had to stop a couple of times to catch my breath and to give the lactic burn a chance to fade. The problem with this kind of system is that there is little resistance to turning the handle - which in turn gives little feedback.

Needless to say, the man in a white van was also the man who obviously does not enter into the spirit of lending any physical assistance. He patiently waited while I wound up the bridge including several short pauses. Not only that, but he amused himself reading messages on his mobile phone, while I equally strenuously wound the bridge back down. I enquired of him as to why the this kind of manual winding equipment had been used on the bridge. He said it was because of disability legislation. At the time I was so knackered and in need of a cup of tea, I  did not give it a second thought.

But thinking about it a bit later, there were a few niggle stirrings in the old grey matter. The first was that the location of the device was not exactly as I would have imagined it to be, for ease of operation. Especially for someone in a wheelchair or using a walking aid. Not only that, the level of exertion required was almost beyond me and would have proved almost impossible for anyone with a physical disability. So like the term catch-22 which was coined by Joseph Heller in his novel Catch-22. I was in a paradoxical situation in which an individual cannot or is incapable of avoiding a problem because of contradictory constraints or rules. Often these situations are such that solving one part of a problem only creates another problem, which ultimately leads back to the original problem. Then the penny dropped, in this case, the mechanism might well have been in place to create a disability rather than help in overcoming a challenge for a disabled person. Sorted!



  1. Hi Mike,

    The problem with H&S legislation is not the legislation itself, but its interpretation by lazy people (both physically and mentally). These people use 'Elf&Saftey' as a catch all excuse to either not do anything or not bother to find out or say what the real reason is why they are prevented from carrying out certain actions. The truth of "I can't be arsed" doesn't go down too well, but saying "Elf&Safety mate" deflects the attention away from them to a convenient 'bogey' figure.

    Your story of the C&RT employee's excuse for the winding gear is typical of this.


    1. Hi John.

      I came across similar individuals in my place of work. If it was an onerous task or a boring job then Elf Anne Safety would always be dragged up!

  2. I am an able bodied fairly physical fit individual, and I find them a pain to use.

    1. Hello Skippy - The bridge in question was certainly a pain to use.


Please put your name to your comment. Comments without a name may automatically be treated as spam and might not be included.

If you do not wish your comment to be published say so in your comment. If you have a tip or sensitive information you’d prefer to share anonymously, you may do so. I will delete the comment after reading.