A noble cause still

When I first became involved in this profession some two decades ago, I felt it was a noble cause.

I do still. Then there seemed as much public concern about the lack of accountability for health and safety offences, as there is about the excessiveness of health and safety management today.

I recall a prime time television documentary that centered on an accident that happened not far from where I now sit in Lancashire. A worker was dragged into a plastic crumbing machine and killed; much was made of how little of him there was left for his family to bury. The machine, not unlike a large food processor, had an aperture at the top through which waste plastic could be fed, and a giant blade at the bottom rotating at high speed. A factory inspector had been horrified to find that the interlock guard on the lid had been overridden – so that more plastic could be fed into the machine more quickly – and issued a health and safety enforcement notice, prohibiting use of the machine. The bosses ignored the notice and the inevitable happened.

It seemed, and indeed it was, exploitation pure and simple. A staggering lack of consideration for the value of human life, the kind Emile Zola would have recognized a hundred years before.

Such dramatic cases are rare, but still someone is killed at work almost every working day in this country and many more lives are changed forever. Whilst that remains the case, I’ll continue to be happy doing what I’m doing, despite the raised eyebrows.

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