We all need to learn to make sensible risk calculations, and do more to help ourselves - Lesley McLeod
I’m not talking about the Hitchcockian horror of a mother-fixated, knife-wielding murderer in the bathroom or malevolent monsters under the bed.
Danger lurks up our tidy stairs and down our gravelled paths as, every year, around 6,000 people in the UK die as a result of accidents at home.
But don’t think going to work will make things better. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) issued at the end of last year its annual figures for deaths and serious accidents at work.
The picture remains, stubbornly, just about the same.
That is no consolation to relatives of the 142 people who died in 2020/21 or the 400,000 plus people who self-reported an injury. And it is a real cause for concern as, in recent times – despite news, campaigns and, frankly, nagging – the key reasons remain resistant to improvement.
Top of the list, I suggest, are wilful stupidity and lack of thought. Most workplace accidents happen to men. Just saying!
And most accidents – just like at home – result from falls where working at height and vehicle accidents remain the most common killers.
I work for the Association for Project Safety (APS) set up to try to minimise risks in construction.
So this is a genuine worry for me as it affects my members and the people they seek to protect.
I am sure many incidents are down to too much speed and too little care – or just hoping to get home anytime soon.
But I believe employers are in the frame too. I understand they are under pressure to get things done on time and within budget. But skimping on safety simply comes at too high a cost.
It is never okay to price projects too low to provide necessary safety kit or ensure staff are properly trained.
I’ve no sympathy with that at all – if workers are not your most valued resource, then your business model is broken, and I hope the HSE throws the book at you.
That said, no one claimed risk could be eliminated altogether.
Things go wrong and, as the debate over Covid restrictions demonstrates, there comes a point when the costs of taking preventative action simply outweigh the risks we face.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) – the safety people – puts the cost of accidents at some £45.63 billion a year in the United Kingdom.
But we all need to learn to make sensible risk calculations, keep calm and do more to help ourselves.
For example, while it’s true more accidents happen in the living-room than the kitchen you don’t need to deny yourself a comfy chair.
You can take up that worn old rug, move the coffee-table and avoid tripping over the dog. Try better lighting.
Or holding the banister to make sadistic stairways safer.
Improvements in medicine mean there are illnesses – not just the current pandemic – we no longer need to fear: diphtheria, polio, smallpox. And others – like tuberculosis – which, caught in time, can be cured.
But we cannot fix life itself. So, get vaccinated and take your tablets – you are not invincible. Or immortal. And everyday risks increase with age.
Ours is an ageing society and, while this may – or may not – be a good thing, it means our homes, offices and other workplaces must, increasingly, account for the fact we are living and working longer.
We must learn to live with it. But not with recklessness.
And knowing our limits – and what we can do about them – will help us out of bed.
Although that can be a dangerous activity too!
Lesley McLeod, Chief Executive, The Association for Project Safety
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