What happens when you hand absolute power to a bunch of self-important “officials” with too little to do? You get Obstructions, Hold ups and Stalling (OH&S). To further these goals our friends in OH&S are very concerned with vital safety issues like paper cuts, tagging and testing electrical appliances that don’t work, developing Safe Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the use of dangerous implements like shovels and trowels, and writing Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for hazardous substances such as water (http://www.sciencelab.com/msds.php?msdsId=9927321) and coffee (http://www.hsegroup.com/hse/text/caffiene.htm). At least the coffee one appears to be facetious. Still, if someone can order a cup of hot coffee, spill it on themselves, and successfully sue the provider because they did not know it was hot then maybe we do need an MSDS after all. Unfortunately all this important activity means trivial things like regular servicing of building air filters, proper disposal of waste anaesthetic gas and staff influenza vaccinations fall by the wayside. Besides, they cost too much.
I accept that, as a veterinarian, my job involves certain risks. I also accept that I have been trained to accurately assess and mitigate those risks. With the job comes the expectation of a certain level of training, knowledge and expertise. However, as alluded to in a previous blog, we are all only human and I will occasionally nick myself when conducting a post mortem. This does not mean I need to wear chain mail gloves! It also does not mean that I should have to defend the use of formalin, a universally used preservative that stops dead tissues from decaying, to people who wouldn’t know a spleen from a brain. Not only is common sense becoming decidedly uncommon, it is in serious danger of extinction.
While the principles of OH&S may be sound, as none of us want to go home in a body bag, their implementation relies on finding someone, anyone but us, to blame whenever something goes wrong. If we can extract some money out of the adventure, that’s even better. And for that I blame, not the people who bring these ridiculous litigation claims, because we’re all selfish and keen to get whatever we can for ourselves, but the judges who uphold them and award the payouts. All it takes is for a couple of claims to be thrown out and the claimants fined for wasting the court, and everyone else’s time, and these frivolous suits would disappear overnight.
Employers have a duty of care to their employees and must make workplaces as safe as possible. Employees need to admit that some injuries are caused by their own tiredness, inattention, over confidence or just plain bad luck.
Dr. F. Bunny
Click on this link and decide who you would blame if something went wrong. SafetyAtWork