Health and safety in 'not killjoys' shock

The incoming president of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, Europe’s largest industry body, has raged against all those who have ever criticised his profession as 'bureaucratic busy-bodies, red tape robots or tick box Tonys'. So that’s presumably just about all of us, then…

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Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

Health and safety’s finest will descend on Alton Towers tomorrow to hear the inaugural speech of new president Ray Hurst, who plans to rally the troops with a Churchillian display of oratory (though we’re guessing he won’t let them go on any of the rides, just in case).

Hurst is sick of safety professionals getting the blame for banning all sorts of fun stuff, including Christmas lights, fireworks displays, conkers, British Bulldogs, mistletoe and all sorts of other things guaranteed to make the Daily Mail apoplectic (our favourite was the kids who got banned from making daisy chains in case they pick up germs from the flowers).

The blame lies with ‘bureaucratic bunglers’ and ‘well-meaning amateurs’ who are taking decisions without a clue about the consequences, he will pronounce from his lectern (which will presumably have had its corners sanded down in case any small children bang their heads).

All seems perfectly reasonable to us. But wait! Hurst isn’t actually talking about his own profession here. In fact, he says, these nameless ne’er-do-wells are making decisions to ‘cover their own backsides’ and then blaming it on health and safety professionals. That’s right – it’s a conspiracy, and those in the profession ‘have had enough of being blamed’, he plans to rant. He’s mad as hell, and he’s not going to take it any more.

As MT struggles to rid itself of the image of Hurst marching on London brandishing his hypo-allergenic clipboard, he will go on to say that safety professionals are in fact only one step removed from the Fantastic Four. ‘We’re here to help save lives and keep life worth living,’ he shall intone solemnly (like Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men).

We are of course being highly unfair to Hurst here. Health and safety professionals are clearly making a hugely effective contribution to the workplace, judging by the 75% fall in workplace accidents in recent years.

But the kind of lazy stereotypes that we’ve just been lazily perpetuating are so commonplace now, that it might take more than a bit of lectern-thumping for Hurst to revive the profession’s image. Besides which, he might injure his hand.

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