Deadly curse of health and safety culture

Yesterday’s Times front page story “death by red tape” described the sheriff’s report on a woman who had fallen down a 45 foot (less than 15 metre) mine shaft in Ayreshire, and died after 6 hours while emergency services argued on the surface about health and safety issues. I was reminded of a similar case a while ago when an ambulance crew had to wait for police backup while again a patient died.

Neither report mentioned the Fire Chief who was charged with manslaughter after the warehouse blaze in the south of England a few years ago. In this case he did allow teams into the building, allowing them to do their job. In this case it was the fire crew who died and their manager held responsible.

With those responsible in these situations having to be constantly aware that they may face criminal
prosecution if they make the wrong decision, no wonder they delay.

Those on the front line in these circumstances have to make difficult decisions. While these decisions certainly should be reviewed analysed and used to improve training and advice, we need to end the blame culture and accept that these decisions will occasionally turn out in the light of time to have been wrong.

Our belief we can create a risk free world is hubris, and while we maintain this myth, those who are faced with the real decisions have their already difficult job made harder, and incidents like the preventable death of this woman in Scotland will continue.