Saturday, 12 April 2014

Health and Safety

Health and Safety is a damned if you do and damned if you don't requirement. If something is obviously hot like the naked flame on a Bunsen burner. Health and safety would require a sign explaining that there is a danger of burning yourself. You might expect that if a person was old enough and smart enough to read. Then they are already smart enough to appreciate the risk of a naked flame. But we all knew people when we were at school who could not be trusted to tie their own shoe laces. I had a friend called Gareth who never left a woodwork class without sporting a sticking plaster. One particular warm day, the windows and doors were open but it was still quite warm inside. Gareth wiped his brow and at the same time cut is eyebrow with a small wood chisel.
This begs the question, is the warning notice to warn children who are bright enough already to realise the danger posed by a naked flame or is the warning notice to protect the school and staff. There is an old chestnut - if you place a notice on your garden gate that says 'beware of the dog' is it a fair warning to visitors or are you acknowledging that you own a dangerous animal.

But what if you choose to ignore a danger that you have been made aware of. A child aged 12 was crushed when a school wall previously described as being wobbly collapsed. It has been alleged that staff had ignored repeated warnings that the wall was in an unsafe condition.
Paramedics were called to Liberton High School in Edinburgh. However, despite their best efforts  they could not save her. Its amazing how knowledge revealed after the event creates a situation that might have been avoided.

A bright eyed young life is lost, a family will have a lifetime to grieve.  Pupils have lost a friend and the memory will be with them for a lifetime. Then you find out that the local council is aware of £80 million pounds worth of much needed repairs - but only has a budget of £30 million to address the repairs. Life threatening accidents have happened previously at the same school. Such as when a pupil was being extracted from a broken down lift by staff. The outcome of which left the pupil with a broken back. One can draw the conclusion that the staff were not the best people to carry out the extraction procedure. Should we place a sign on the staff room door saying 'beware of the staff.'

There is a similar sort of scenario on and around the canals. We read every year of lives that are lost through boating accidents. We read of young people who use the towpath as a shortcut to their home or as a playground. Who one way or another end up in the water. This begs the question, should the towpath be open to the public - especially when it may be muddy and slippery or may be uneven and create tripping hazards. Or that the towpath has no lighting and has no safety barriers or fencing. 
What we do know is that like Edinburgh there is a growing funding deficit for repairs and essential maintenance.  The backlog of repairs is extensive in number and nature. We are told that the repairs are categorised and prioritised. We are also aware of the current push by the trust to attract people of all ages to the canals and its infrastructure. But should the areas of attraction be limited to areas where the towpath can be divided into separate walking and cycling zones. Where the whole length is a mettled surface and lighting is provided.
I expect that lives in all age groups will continue to be lost. The canal will continue to provide a fatal attraction to children. Another bright eyed young life will be lost, a family will have a lifetime to grieve.  Others have lost a friend and the memory will be with them for a lifetime. In the main due to the canal infrastructure preceding by hundreds of years the strictures of modern health and safety legislation. 

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