HSfB Blog

Blanket Policies

You often see signs on construction site gates specifying the ever growing list of PPE that must be worn by everyone while they are on site, and having been a technical courier (the person who turns up to fix the office photocopier / printer / computer) I can tell you first hand that they are serious about this.

I dared to walk through the gates of a building site in Glasgow one day, to deliver a new photocopier part to the offices just inside the gate when I was accosted by a brusque foreman type who insisted that I should turn back because I didn't have a hard hat on, or hi viz, or even toe tectors.... "They don't go well with the suit, and I'm just going there to fix the office photocopier" I explained in my normal jovial manner, pointing to the portacabins about three metres away.

"Doesn't matter, it's a blanket policy" I was informed by the very efficient chap.

Since I have limited time to get to get from the car, fix the photocopier (or whatever) and get back to the car I decided that rather than argue, or go back to the car where I don't have PPE anyway and log the call as failed due to no access due to daft site rule, I would use a little obfuscation.

"Gawd look at him" I said, pointing in the direction of a mound of dirt in the distance, and while the efficient chap looked around and tried to figure out what I was on about I was off and into the office.

When I came back out he didn't insist that I stay in the office until I was properly suited and booted, apparently the risk is only there on the way into the site.

Now I'm not getting at the man at the gate, he was doing his job, and a good job he did of it too... I'm getting at the management of the site who rather than reducing the number of people at risk from hazards by making areas safe (and therefore free from PPE requirements), they insist on specifying that everyone is at risk, all the time, and in all parts of the site, even at offices, when they are obviously not at risk at all.

Pursuing these blanket policies is in noone's interest, it undermines real health and safety management, which has a hierarchy of control laid down in the statutiory regulations (Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999), and PPE is bottom of the list of things to do, when all else has been tried (or at least considered) and failed, then you can resort to PPE, and all the hoops you have to jump through when you resort to PPE such as training, consultation, inspection, providing storage, having spares, making sure it fits, doesn't introduce new risks.

Now I'm a health and safety type, and the last thing I want to do is encourage people to put themselves in danger, but I would like to see employers taking it upon themselves to protect us from hazards, make accidents less likely rather than just say ... oh make em wear a hard hat and be done with it.

"I say chaps, before we spend ruddy thousands of pounds a year on hard hats and safety glasses, are there people we can put in a place where they aren't at risk, and in fact what exactly are they at risk from and can't we do something about the thing that causes the risk... it might be cheaper than all that PPE, signs, training, and disciplining people... what what !! "

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