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October 25, 2006

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Radio ga-ga

News of the European Commission v United Kingdom case that started in Brussels on 13 September brought the issue of sensible risk back into the spotlight recently. The European Commission has brought the case against the UK Government because the EC says the UK has failed to implement European health and safety law properly.

IOSH president Neil Budworth said: “The effect of this will be profound. It will drown many companies in red tape at a time when our profession, and the Health and Safety Executive, are doing their utmost to balance the scale of the risk against the effort to control it.”

John Holden, chair of IOSH Manchester branch, was also interviewed on BBC Radio Manchester about the case.

John Lacey, IOSH past president, took a stroll down an average London street with a journalist from BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, highlighting how risk management in the UK could change if the Commission gets its way in court. He said: “The view of Europe is that all hazards should be treated the same, so whether it be a paper clip or a scaffold, the hazards and risks associated with that should be treated equally, which is a farce.”

And then there were doormats. Bristol City Council banned these ‘tripping hazards’ from high rise flats in September and provoked a fury among residents as well as the tabloid press. Bristol and West branch was quick to respond with a letter to the Bristol Evening Post. Kevin Bridges, chair of the branch, said: “Good health and safety is not about blanket bans. Sensible management of risks requires looking at the nature of risk and balancing this against the likelihood of harm.”

Ruth Doyle, IOSH director of communications, went on BBC Southern Counties radio to make it clear that banning doormats is not what good health and safety advice is all about. She said: “These decisions are not made by health and safety professionals, but by people with a little bit of knowledge. People are less willing to manage risks. It’s a great excuse for doing something unpopular.”

Irish success

The InterConstruct conference, held in Dublin in August, achieved significant press coverage in leading national newspapers The Irish Times and the Irish Independent.

Minister Tony Killeen’s keynote speech, in which he told delegates “the time has arrived when all those engaged in the construction sector should take responsibility and play their part in ending death and injury in their workplace” was covered in the Irish Independent.

The Irish Times interviewed John Lacey before the conference: “In the UK and Ireland, we are still killing far too many people in the construction industry. We are averaging 70 deaths on construction sites in the UK every year.”

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