‘Health and Safety’ started as a noble cause. It was brought into being to protect the vulnerable in our society from the dangers of exploitation in the work place and it has to be said that to that end it has been a great success. Not only employers but also fellow workers are far more aware of the dangers in the work place and how their actions can have devastating consequences for others. That is not in question, but what started as a noble cause is fast becoming an insidious curtailer of our human rights now that it has escaped from the work place.
Sadly it is fast becoming a subject of ridicule as it’s proponents find new but inappropriate areas of our society to invade. Take our church’s annual Palm Sunday celebrations. Every year we celebrate the arrival of Jesus at the gates of Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, at the start of Holy Week, the most important week in the church’s calendar. To celebrate the occasion for years a donkey is hired together with its handler and the church ministers, choir and congregation process to the quay and back to the church in celebration and as witness to our faith. This year the heavy hand of bureaucracy descended on our celebration in the form of a communication from the Eastleigh Borough Council asking the church to reconsider the procession on the grounds of heath and safety! What an Ass! I could sympathise if this draconian action was as in response to last years death toll, it wasn’t because there wasn’t any, or to the mass riots that the procession caused, because it didn’t. The most reaction we ever get is mild curiosity from passers by and delight from children who love to follow the donkey. The procession couldn’t be more peaceful! Every year coaches disgorge far more passengers than ever take part in our procession in the car park who peacefully make their way to the quay, will they require the road to be closed or to fill out a lengthy risk assessment assessment before they proceed – I sincerely hope not but I won’t be surprised if they do!
I find it very sad that the whole issue of health and safety is becoming the subject of ridicule and rich source of material for comedians jokes. I find it sad because nobody wants to go back to the days when young children were sent up chimneys to clean them, but if those who drive ‘Health and Safety’ ever deeper into our lives don’t take stock of where they are and what they are doing and let common sense back into the equation, they are in danger of loosing credibility and public support. They are also standing on the thin ice of religious persecution or suppression with all consequences that that can evoke, dangerous territory indeed.
Mr Cameron threatened to roll back the creeping tide of bureaucracy that threatens to engulf our society, let him start here in Hamble before next years procession is due, and lets hope he has more luck than the last of our leaders who tried here, king Canute!