Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Do accidents happen today?

click photo to enlarge
Words are added to the dictionary with alarming frequency, so it's only right that when a word becomes redundant it should be removed. I think it's about time that the word "accident" gave up its place. Today, it seems, accidents don't happen. Anyone suffering a misfortune that would previously have been called an accident is now, more often than not, a "victim". Moreover, someone is invariably to blame, and they must be made to pay for the suffering of the unfortunate one.

People have talked of a "blame culture" and a "compensation culture". When I was responsible for several hundred people I was acutely aware of my health and safety obligations. And if, for a moment, I forgot them, there was a union representative, a health and safety executive and several lawyers only too keen to remind me that I carried the can for any "accident" that happened. Now I don't say that there isn't a place for proper health and safety procedures and their effective enforcement. Clearly there is. But I have found that the interpretation of the legislation has caused too many people to spend too much time "watching their backs", and has resulted in risible actions in the name of accident avoidance. Take the removal of trees from the roundabouts in roads, the decision not to suspend hanging baskets for fear of their impact with people's heads, the banning of the game of "conkers" in school playgrounds, or the label on the can of fly spray that says "not to be taken internally"! I also remember a breakdown lorry driver, before he took my car away after I'd been involved in a road accident, pressing a lawyer's card on me and suggesting that I could get compensation for the injury I'd received that the other driver had caused. I was completely unharmed, but no doubt he got a fee for every referral he made, whether genuine or not!

Sometimes those who carry out health and safety duties get a name for being dour, unsmiling automatons, out to make life difficult for ordinary people. I've never found that to be the case. When I saw where the health and safety person had positioned this notice warning of the dangers of wet decking, at the entrance to Blackpool's Central Pier, I knew that they were ordinary folk like you an me, and I had to smile! I also had to get a shot of it, and used a wide zoom lens at 24mm (35mm equivalent). The camera was set to Aperture Priority (f5.6 at 1/50 sec), with the ISO at 200 and -0.3EV.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen