UKImagine if a month ago, on New Year’s Day, a grim-faced President Obama came on TV to address the nation with his official POTUS (President Of The United States) New Year’s Resolution:

“My pledge to you this year is to kill off for good the excessive culture of safety and health that is dragging down business like a heavy wooden yoke.”

In fact, those words and that resolution came from the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister, David Cameron.

What on earth is he talking about?

Cameron went on: “Safety culture is nothing more than a straitjacket on personal initiative and responsibility. We must crush these cultures before any more damage is done.”

Kill and crush safety cultures? For what? For why?

Dan Petersen is spinning in his grave.

Cameron’s resolve includes the harshest language I’ve heard any pol dish out on worker safety and health. Even Ronald Reagan would stand and applaud. About the toughest thing he ever said about OSHA is “we’ve got to cut back the regulatory thicket.”

Cameron, meanwhile, says, “I am hereby declaring war… on the safety and health monster.”

Most business, labor and government leaders use all kinds of political correctness when talking about work safety. Bluntness is rare. Especially when it’s so negative.

Though the UK and the USA share a common language, something has gotten lost as the Prime Minister’s vow made its way across the Pond.

Such as Cameron’s idea of what makes up a safety culture. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He needed an advisor to whisper, “You mean out of control safety bureaucracy. But of course the PM has no one on staff who knows anything about work safety.

So the PM rattled on about a subject he knows so little about. Take these comments:

“Talk of health and safety can too often sound farcical or marginal.”

“Every day (businesses) battle against a tide of risk assessment forms and face the fear of being sued for massive sums.”

“Successive governments have been too quick to create new regulations instead of trusting people to use their common sense.”

Let’s see, Cameron has called safety cultures a too often farcical, marginal monster that must be crushed and killed.

Beats me how a “monster” can be “marginal.” Monsters don’t usually hang in the margins. Nor are they a farce.

The PM wants to bring common sense back to work safety. “Common sense” is a code phrase for dumbing down safety and ridiculing its supposed complexities.

Here is the PM’s remedy for what ails British safety cultures:

• businesses will no longer have to report minor accidents

• a new panel will give firms the right to challenge controversial inspection decisions.”

•  “A culture of fear is leading people to take the most absurd precautions.”

• “Businesses see other firms being sued for unavoidable accidents and think they've got to cover their backs.”

• “We'll change the health and safety law so that businesses are no longer automatically at fault if something goes wrong. Too often they are held responsible even if they have done everything they can to prevent an accident.”

• “We need to realize, collectively, that we cannot eliminate risk and that some accidents are inevitable. We need to take responsibility for our actions and rely on common sense rather than procedure.”

All in all the PM did a damn fine job of insulting the occupational safety and health profession. What do they know, anyway? Safety is just common sense. It’s absurd precautions. It’s a farce. It’s a monster. Accident will happen, you know? Toss out procedures and systems and rely on good old common sense.

At least someone had the courage to say the PM has no clothes on when he speaks on safety.

Jennifer Deeney, whose husband Kieron died in an industrial accident, responded with alarm when she read in the “ Independent” that the Prime Minister wanted to “kill off safety culture”. So she took the PM to school, writing him at 10 Downing Street:
“Safety culture is about teaching and empowering workers in all industries and services to look out for each other, to follow the processes that are there to protect them. For them to understand that they have the support of the executive management team and that they want everybody to go home safe. The “albatross“ is not that of the safety culture but the picture and memory of a man lying in a lift shaft dying because process wasn’t followed, because the short cut was taken or maybe something was just more important. That “albatross” never leaves.

“Risk is everywhere, just walking out the front door is a risk, but I ask you Mr. Cameron to tell me of one accident that was not unavoidable?

”Rules and regulations are there to protect us, keep us safe and if we choose to ignore them we must accept the consequence. If as you say health and safety is “common sense”, and I agree, then why do we need to protect companies from it? Surely, this should be the minimum we should expect?

“From personal experience both on a personal level and as a Health and Safety Inspector with the HSE, I believe they do a great job. I think their skills are under utilized and this is because Government do not understand the hows and wherefores and have turned a service that should be proactive into a reactive service.

“Again, I challenge you to show me a company that has done everything “reasonably practicable” that has been punished.

“I choose to stand up in front of industry and say you can change things. I choose to challenge. I choose to care.

“I’m proud of the industries that have embraced safety. I’m proud that they have taken their responsibilities above and beyond what is expected. I rest easy knowing that there will be one less Kieron somewhere. But, I’m disappointed that you don’t understand why it’s important. I’m disappointed that you don’t understand the power of your words.

“Health and safety is not the “monster” Mr Cameron it is the thing that ensures you go home safe and sound each night to your family. It protects you, it protects your family it makes sure you get to say goodbye, goodnight and I love you. The “monster” took away my goodnights, my goodbyes, my I love ones and my dreams.
Our government’s job is to protect its people; “killing our safety culture” will kill our people.

“I would kindly ask that you consider this letter and I would appreciate your reply.”

Yours Sincerely
Jennifer Deeney