Following on from my rather rantish post on Friday, Elly the Rich commented “You’ve listed 15 or so acts and regulations, which does sound like a bit of overkill. Get rid of them all and there will be no need for the consultants, no need for further regulation by government, and a return to common sense. A three point win.”

Good point – and here’s another idea: Let’s do away with the driving test, then we won’t need all those driving instructors and examiners. And I’m sure we can expect everyone to use their common sense and drive responsibly and not kill each other.

In truth, those 15 or so legal instruments (they’re better than illegal instruments, like bagpipes) only serve to embody the basics of how employers should treat their employees (and employees should treat each other): If your actions are likely to cause harm, you’ve got to reduce the risk as far as possible (the legal phrase is “as far as is reasonably practicable”, which is actually a lower standard than “as far as possible”), and then if the residual risk is still unacceptable, protect people and help them to protect each other. There’s actually nothing any of those acts and regulations require, that aren’t what a responsible employer would be doing anyway.

In spite of that, there continue to be prosecutions for breaches of health and safety law: Collapsing scaffolding, overturning machinery, factory plant with dangerous faults – I was going to quote a few cases, but the size of the “recent health and safety prosecutions” database boggled even me. Anyone remember the Piper Alpha oil rig fire in the North Sea? 167 fatalities caused firstly by poor process (disregard of a permit to work system) and exacerbated by appallingly bad emergency plans.

For something slightly lighter hearted – at least in as much as no-one was killed – see this for an example of what happens when you leave people to use their common sense.

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