From the archive: Just so you know, this article is more than 3 years old.
Many of the drivers and some of the teams are lobbying for a new device developed by Mercedes, named the "halo", to be fitted over the front of car cockpits. The halo is designed to shield drivers from pieces of flying debris, but opinions are divided; Hamilton was quoted as saying it should be optional and that he prefers to take the risk.
There is a contrast between apparent personal freedoms being curtailed "because of health and safety" and a society in which people generally feel so safe that they take it for granted and want redress when harm arises.
This dichotomy can lead to risk-averse decisions of the sort pilloried in recent years by the Health and Safety Executive and referred to in shorthand as "conkers bonkers" -- a reference to the myth that a head teacher asked his students to wear eye protection when playing conkers in the playground.
We would much rather everyone celebrated how much safer workplaces in the UK have become in recent years. But with accidents infrequent, what will be noticed is officious interference with the way that people wish to behave in their own sphere.
The role of safety and health professionals is to help their colleagues and organisations manage risks more effectively -- that means both risk reduction and greater efforts to achieve it with less input, so that effectiveness and efficiency are valid aims. But there have to be limits; we don't want handrails along all the footpaths across our countryside, up hill and down dale, just in case walkers stumble. We recognise that there is a crucial distinction between the workplace, where an employer has deliberately brought people together to work, and the public domain, in which people make personal choices.
Recent experiments have turned into permanent change in our towns and cities, where instead of fencing, or even raising pavement boundaries, cars and pedestrians are obliged to share the space. One of the best examples is London's Exhibition Road, which runs past the Natural History, Science and Geological Museums and the main campus of Imperial College in South Kensington.
Apart from constitutionally grouchy taxi drivers, most people seem to get on with the new arrangements well, and accidents and injuries have been substantially reduced as road users on foot or wheels have, of necessity, to take account of each other's presence and adapt their behaviour. They actively manage the risks.
Our challenge is to do less to achieve more. How little do we need to do in the public domain? How much can we do in the workplace? For the former, the answer may lie in education and opportunities for young people to learn and understand risk. For the latter, there are still too many accidents and injuries and, above all, too much ill health.
So I wouldn't object if the halo for Formula 1 cars is introduced as an option, or if racing teams decided that, as the funders of millions in salaries, they were entitled to insist on its use. As long as decisions are informed, health and safety can only benefit from open discussions about whose risk to take, whose obligation to manage.
It’s certainly not because it is a rarefied classification. There was a time when profession was reserved for more obviously learned occupations such as teaching and law. But in the past 50 years it has been extended to encompass those in business support functions including human resources and information technology, whose roles are certainly no more significant than those controlling occupational risk.
Causality is easier to evidence where there is physical activity with a demonstrable consequence; the injury or fatality caused by an accident can be seen and investigated. Yet a series of studies and surveys are shedding light on what has become one of the under-reported occupational health issues of our time: sedentariness.In this age of email and the internet, with more of us working from home or in office environments, it is clear a growing proportion of us are sitting down and physically inactive for long periods of the day at work.
They revealed there was no decline in domestic spending in the British economy after the vote to leave the European Union in June. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has now rowed back slightly on its pessimism about the initial impact of the Brexit decision, upgrading its UK growth forecast to 1.8% for 2016. Share prices are buoyant and the pound’s post-referendum slide against the dollar has stopped. So far, so good; those who predicted an immediate economic tumble after the referendum have been wrongfooted.
As IOSH positions itself for its next strategic period, it is timely to consider some of the big trends that may well shape the future of the world of work and our profession. The world population is growing and ageing, but there are demographic imbalances. In the industrial countries, populations are either stagnating or declining, but in developing countries, they are booming. In industrial countries, immigration is likely to increase, not just to fill the skills shortages caused by population decline, but as a result of armed conflicts and environmental problems.
One of the major lessons that should have been absorbed from the Aberfan disaster 50 years ago (see p 17) had to be restated forcefully in Lord Cullen’s report on the Piper Alpha drilling rig explosion and fire which took 167 lives. That lesson was that when a regulator gets too close to the industry it polices there is a high risk that its regulation becomes slack.
There is no doubt that regulation has its place in stating society’s minimum expectations and in providing a clear framework against which all organisations can measure themselves. There must also be a punitive system to address dutyholders who fall short of these standards. However, with less prescriptive regulation and a drive – in the UK at least – to reduce the regulatory burden on business, we should all do more to define good OSH performance and promote it around the world.