New Rules of Safety: The Big Bang Theory

seoul-international-fireworks-festival-1507328_960_720

By Andrew Sharman

Many of us will have started the new year with a bang. In December 2016 the British Fireworks Association advised that sales of ‘New Year’s Fireworks’ had increased to record levels. A spokesperson from the British Pyrotechnists Association anticipated that New Year’s Eve displays would “reach new heights”. Writing this dispatch from San Francisco I can confirm that Stateside, sunny Californian skies were transformed at night-time into sparkling disco mirror balls with members of both the American Pyrotechnics Association and the National Fireworks Association gleefully suggesting that fireworks “make the new year celebrations magnificent”.

But not so in Rome.

Just before Christmas, Rome’s new mayor Virginia Raggi announced her decision to ban all fireworks in the interests of public safety. Her suggestion of a 500 Euro fine for setting off a firework undeniably went down like a damp squib. Not content with removing the biggest bangs, Raggi went on to outlaw the use of hand-held sparklers too.

History of the great city reveals that sparks have certainly flown, flames flickered, and passions ignited throughout the years. When twin brothers Romulus and Remus, sons of Mars – the god of war, founded the great city in 753BC we can bet there was some form of fireworks. We know that man has always been captivated by the flickering flame. Without question Urbs Aeterna to call her by her old name, (or ‘the Eternal City’ for those not so familiar with the poetry of Tibellus) has always burned brightly. And arguably always should.

Much of our modern legal system, especially that of the UK, originally came from the Roman Empire – so perhaps Raggi is attempting to create a new world order.

Now of course, we know that fireworks are inherently hazardous. In the US last year there were 4 deaths and 9,300 injuries caused by fireworks. 40% of these involved illegal fireworks. In Italy, 2 died and around 350 were injured. Whilst each accident is sad news, to put the numbers in perspective they each represent way less than a tenth of one percent of the population[1].

The days after the celebrations are not the time to remind us of how to be safe around fireworks (although if you haven’t used up all of your Catherine Wheels yet, please do read the label first). In the US the fireworks industry generates an annual revenue of almost 1.1 billion dollars, whilst back in Rome, the value of fireworks locally is around 3 million Euro.

Mayor Raggi’s radical proposals were eventually overturned and Rome’s skies were ablaze with colour, whizzes, pops and bangs on the 31 December.

Raggi had a landslide victory when she was elected as the city’s first ever female Mayor, but her first attempts at governance could have set her on a slippery slope in this new year ahead.

So as we begin this new year in safety, take a moment to think about your organisation’s safety culture. Do you go for the big bang and seek to eliminate all risks, or are your ‘fireworks’ reserved for special moments and maintained safely until then?

Andrew’s best-selling book From Accidents to Zero: A Practical Guide to Improving Your Workplace Safety Culture is available to SHPonline readers with an exclusive 25% discount. A new book Safety Savvy, co-authored with Dr Tim Marsh, is also available on this special offer.  Use the code SHP25 at www.fromaccidentstozero.com to order your copies of both books now. 

References:

[1] An annual average of 2 deaths and 350 injuries in Italy against a population of around 60 million.  An annual average of 4 deaths and 9,300 injuries in the USA with a population of 320 million.

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Ronnie Weir
As someone who was in Rome and who has been in Rome every New Year since 2009 it was clear to me that this law would be completely disregarded and ignored. The romans celebrate new year with an unequalled passion and letting off fireworks is part of it. In fact they often discharge their fireworks several days after the new year. Unlike the uk where fireworks are locked up in stores, you can easily add them to your trolley just as you add a litre of milk or half a dozen eggs. The latest craze I saw this year were… Read more »
Andrew Sharman
Hi Ronnie, Thanks for your comment – and happy new year! Sounds like an excellent time was had by all in Rome on the 31st, let’s hope Mayor Raggi enjoyed the fun too. The wee paper lanterns sound like ones I’ve seen and used in China, and they usually burn out fully before they fall to ground on the notion that the heat the tiny wick generates keeps them rising far up into the sky. To your final point as to why this article in a safety journal – well, simply that I find that safety can sometimes be a… Read more »

Author Bio ▼

Andrew Sharman

Andrew is the CEO of RMS Switzerland, a global consultancy specialising in safety behaviour, culture and leadership. With offices in the UK, and Switzerland.  RMS has an enviable track record of improving culture and enabling excellence for NGOs and blue chip organisations around the world through industry sectors including aviation, automotive, mining, construction, oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, and FMCGs. Find out more at www.RMSswitzerland.com

Andrew is also Professor of Leadership & Safety Culture at the European Centre for Executive Development in Fontainebleau, France, and Professor of Risk Management at the University of Zurich, Switzerland.  He is a Chartered Fellow and Vice President of the Institution of Occupational Safety & Health (IOSH); a Fellow of the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management; and a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership & Management.

Far from being risk-averse, he loves adventure sports including climbing, free flying, sea kayaking and swimming with sharks. He uses these pursuits to re-energise the language, perceptions and functions of safety and risk management and align the disciplines with broader organisational issues driving positive impact and enhancing the performance of individuals, teams and businesses.

Read Andrew’s New Rules of Safety series on SHP here.

Andrew’s book From Accidents to Zero is one of the fastest-selling books on safety culture of the 21st  century, find out more at www.fromaccidentstozero.com and enter code SHP 25 to receive an exclusive 25% discount for SHPonline readers.

January 4, 2017

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