Monthly Archives: May 2012
Workplace safety affects us all, doesn’t it? - Well it should do - Despite the bad press that elf ‘n’ safety has received over recent years, most of which is born out of poor grasp of the facts and/or legislation, Health & Safety isn’t actually the ogre that many (particularly this Government) would have us all believe…
With all the unrelenting bad press, as the stupidity of the recent Burnham-on-Sea Jubilee Bunting debacle tends to show, it’s hardly surprising that; Councils and companies are being accused of “using health and safety rules as an excuse to make unpopular decisions banning low-risk activities” (bbc.co.uk).
But in many respects it’s the lack of knowledge and understanding, that and the inherent fear of litigation, that is the root cause of many of these ‘astounding’ decisions. Health & Safety legislation was originally developed to protect workers in high risk and industrial occupations however; workplace safety needs to be considered in every workplace. Matters as diverse as bullying, computer use, work-related stress, and disability are all relevent in the workplaces, not just higher risk industrial locations. And all of them are occupational health issues impacting upon overall safety.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re an employer or an employee, a self-employed trader or a director of a large company, we all have safety responsibilities. You might be a customer in a shop, or a client visiting business premises but many people have little or (worryingly) no understanding of their safety rights and responsibilities.
With all this confusion and poor understanding is it any wonder the media continue to successfully stoke the funeral pyre of our Health & Safety legislation? Protection and guidance that was actually designed and developed to protect and help us all, not hinder us, impede work or put us out of business!
Last year the government proposed the abolition of a large amount of health and safety rules (see here). This followed an earlier report by Lord Young in 2010 (see here) and a subsequent independent review carried out by Prof Ragnar E Lofstedt, director of the Centre for Risk Management at King’s College London.
Lord Young’s report Common Sense, Common Safety calls for a shake-up of health and safety measures to an end “senseless” rules and regulations and tackle Britain’s “compensation culture”…(bbc.co.uk)
But despite all the reported difficulties, much of which is simply myth (see here), Lofstedt actually concluded in his report Reclaiming health and safety for all the problems are; “less with the regulations themselves and more with the way they are interpreted and applied”. He also subsequently pointed out how the PM’s approach to health and safety isn’t helpful.
Don’t let the jobsworths jeopardise jubilee celebrations: …Often health and safety is invoked wrongly to disguise a person’s real motives – an unwillingness to honestly defend an unpopular decision, concern over costs or complexity of running an event, or worries about potential civil liability claims…(hse.gov.uk)
Health & Safety isn’t all bad, even the HSE, often feared and much maligned by many in business, say that the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations “should go ahead without red tape” – they are actively encouraging people to fight back against “health and safety nonsense” (see here).
But where do you look for the facts? It isn’t always easy to find easy to read, high quality information about workplace safety.The internet contains rafts of Health & Safety information but how much of it is up to date and correct? As with any information gleaned from the web, it’s not always a good idea to treat everything you find as the right answer to your question.
Even when you refer to ’experts’ such as the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) or the British Safety Council (BSC), the information you find is often confusing. As with any legislation, the laws and guidance relating to Health & Safety can sometimes be complicated. Because of this, it’s also easy for them to be applied incorrectly (or mischievously) as previously mentioned above.
At the risk of undermining my own worth in this field, I want to point you in the direction of an extremely useful resource. One of the best websites I’ve found of late is SafeWorkers.co.uk. This valuable and worthwhile resource was put in place to serve the needs of the lay person. You can read more than 150 of the articles they’ve produced on specialist workplace safety issues. You can also ask them a question and receive a reply published on the site.
Remember – Workplace Safety is an important consideration for all of us!
When people hear the words Swiss Army most will usually think of knives, it’s a fact that was recently highlighted on the BBC Today Show (see here). For my part I probably fall into that category however I also think of British Police Officers…
The original Swiss Officer’s and Sport Knife and predecessor of the Swiss Army knife was originally patented in 1897. Since then Victorinox, which now makes 35,000 knives each day, has continuously developed it’s business to match customer demands. Just like the British police service, contrary to much of the financially driven political rhetoric.
The company have supplied the Swiss army with knives for more than 125 years, that’s nearly as long as Bobbies have been protecting and serving the public. Today Victorinox also produce many other products in addition to their knives, they have updated their portfolio to meet changing expectations, as have the British police. The Swiss Army knife adapts to remain a cutting-edge tool, the police have done the same but it serves various political and personal agenda well to suggest or imply british policing is stuck in the dark-ages. Not so!
Loosely continuing the knife analogy BBC Today also asked (see here): “Is the brain like a Swiss Army knife?”Apparently Professor Nancy Kanwisher, of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research, is leading research to ascertain if the brain is like the Swiss Army knife i.e. is it a mass of different tools or a single general purpose tool? I would add a further observation to that – A British Police Officer was just like a Swiss Army Knife. That is until politicians and senior officers damaged the flexibility and overall worth of the tool as a valuable resource for the public.
Years of specialisation in specific roles and, to a certain extent, increased demarkation between remits and responsibilities have effectively created a less useful resource. One that is less able to meet the differing requirements in what is often, a fast-moving and changing environment of critical demand.
The creation of a multi-tiered service, with extremely reduced experience of specific tasks outside a limited remit, has in real terms, reduced the overall flexibility of a valuable resource. Management and allocation of that resource to specific tasks has become far more problematical than was previously the case.
Many will say that a one size fits all ethos is no longer appropriate, especially in an age of increased requirements of professionalism. The same people will suggest; increased demands in areas requiring greater levels of technological and investigative skills are required. That may be so and yes, there are differing demands today than was previously the case.
International hi-tec crime, narcotics and terrorism et al are all challenges facing police today however; the largest proportion of police work is still and always will be, the mundane and routine. The burglaries, the petty theft, road accidents, domestic disputes, violence and anti-social behaviour. It all happens 24/7, despite reams of manipulated crime statistics and suspect public confidence surveys, or even cleverly created police PR campaigns around one-off ‘special’ operations suggesting any different.
It’s the stuff that impacts upon you and I as citizens and rightly, the stuff that we all want dealing with in an expedient and efficient manner. Unfortunately this often isn’t the case now, mostly thanks to the changes that UK policing has endured over recent years. Which in turn, is probably also the predominant root cause of the (mostly disguised) increase in petty crime, drunkenness and mayhem we see in our communities up and down the country, on a far too regular basis.
Politicians would all do well to remember; the flexibility and convenience of a Swiss Army Knife as a tool of convenience in difficult and urgent situations should never be underestimated. At least you have a chance of making running repairs until the specialist tools can be deployed.
You can’t replace the quality of a Swiss Army Knife with an inferior product just because it costs less; at some point that replacement is likely to result in a catastrophic failure. A failure that presents danger for all around but in particular, the user is also likely to get injured!
Note: We may be in the early stages of understanding the brain scientifically however; perhaps it’s time for some research into what actually goes on in the grey matter of our politicians!
Policing in the UK is changing beyond all previous recognition and much of that change (in my opinion) isn’t good for our society. For years there has been far too much political interference in the policing process and now it’s set to get even worse (see here).
The service has also been subjected to any amount of self-interested and/or lack lustre leadership and wrongly, the public have consistently been deceived by the lies and half-truths of politicians and police governance…
Masses of political rhetoric, public relations hype and manipulated statistics have provided the public with a distorted view of reality, mostly for self-interested reasons. Media sensationalism and (unfortunately) I have to say, the attitude of many cops when dealing with the public hasn’t helped the situation. The raison d’être of some police officers, mostly reflective of traits prevalent within our society, is often worrying.
In short the British police service is actually being hoisted by its own petard. In addition we now see large rafts of largely unaccountable privatisation (see here) in a service that has also become a little too insular.
Policing has never been changing as fast and as much as it is today… While public demands for better policing continue to rise and the government pushes through a major police reform programme, the police find themselves striving to deal with new threats posed by terrorism and transnational organised crime while working within tighter budgets imposed by the recession…(www.police-foundation.org.uk)
You will note that I (unlike many today) use the term ‘service’ despite having joined it during the era when it was usually refered to as a ‘force’. Strange how the nomenclature is also at odds with reality? When policing was actually delivering ‘service’ we called it a ‘force’ where as now, it often does little more than apply ‘force’ in confrontational situations and we choose to call it a ‘service’ and it’s actually getting worse.
To my mind; any police ‘force’ must be in place to ‘serve’ the community it is responsible for policing but unfortunately, the divide between service and confrontation is getting even more prevalent (see here).
This week the debate about British policing continues at a pace, mainly thanks to the Police Federation Annual Conference (see here) but for how long? Next week after all the stage-managed and theatrical dust has settled we’ll be back to political rhetoric about policing from both sides of Westminster, all interspersed with the pieces of
sensational investigative journalistic tripe. All in continuance of the mostly unintended consequence that is; undermining public confidence in policing.
Although the general change in tac from the Federation over recent years, from the individual to a more organisational based ethos is to be commended, I can’t help thinking it may be too little too late?
Vested interests from all sides of the divide will remain evident. But unequivocally, I have to agree with The Police Debating Directive blog, as the author points out - “Without healthy, informed debate we [the police] will never be the organisation that we and the public can be proud of.”
But, as with any debate, it’s far too easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. The current debate must be about the concept of British policing as a whole, not just ’my job and my pay packet’ however; as much has revolved around this later area of late, it isn’t hard to understand the apparent waning support for the police officer’s cause.
Because of all the self-interest displayed by various groups in the debate, it’s also not hard to understand why looking for any effective change is like wading through treacle. The change that we seek (IF change is actually required) must however be solely to the benefit of our society as a whole, it has to be far less insular.
The Police Debating Directive: The Boys are Back in Town: I’ve been watching closely, the last few weeks, seeing how the police fight back against the proposed reforms develops… We are seen as the street-level face of the power, heartless agents of government; because we have been put there. We are often the only contact people have with authority and as such we are easy to hate, hard to love; the urge to fight us is overwhelming and it shows on many fronts…(More)
But it’s often far too easy to get entangled in the here and now, a prime example locally has been Maxwellgate… This week Grahame Maxwell, ex Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police has left the force. He may have proverbially shuffled off with his tail between his legs but to many, the sickening last episode of this messy debacle is the fat wallet in his back pocket, that and the smug grin on his face…
As most in the area (and probably nationally) also know, Maxwell narrowly avoided dismissal last year after a charge of Gross Misconduct. He was subsequently given a final written warning at a secret disciplinary hearing. Now, to add insult to injury for his staff and the public of the county, he leaves his £133,000-a-year post with a handsome severance payout to the value of c£250K (see here).
Maxwell’s five-year tenure at North Yorkshire police was never without controversy however, the problems generated for the force by his leadership was nothing new and his predecessor also created difficulty for officers and declining public support. Many will remember how Chief constable Della Cannings was unrepentant about accusations of excessive spending and her £28,000 shower (see here).
But what of the legacy for policing in the aftermath of the politics, the media, rude and/or incompetent (sometimes but rarely) dishonest officers and the lack lustre leadership within North Yorkshire Police?
This week Tim Madgwick has taken over at the helm of North Yorkshire Police, following the retirement of Grahame Maxwell after five years in the job.
The temporary Chief Constable of North Yorkshire has said the force must move forward after the controversy surrounding his predecessor…(bbc.co.uk)
Commenting recently on Facebook about the above news I said; “Out with the old and in with the new – at least this ‘new brush’ was actually ‘built’ in North Yorkshire… Congratulations to Tim who is probably more likely than many to actually have ‘his’ force at heart. The public (and their officers) will find the proof of the pudding in the eating as they say!”
I for one am looking to the Police Federation nationally, the temporary new Chief Constable locally and indeed police officers as a group, to ethically and holistically drive forward the debate about the wider picture of British policing for our future. It’s possible but rest assured I won’t be holding my breath for too long!
- The changing face of British policing? (bankbabble.wordpress.com)
- British Policing: Getting Shafted but officers still carry on! (bankbabble.wordpress.com)
- Hot irons don’t always mean it’s time to strike! (bankbabble.wordpress.com)
- Questions continue as top policeman departs (yorkshirepost.co.uk)
- Theresa May is ‘destroying police service’ , say officers (independent.co.uk)