Health and Safety - It's all greek to me
On a recent holiday on the Greek island of Crete I was horrified to see that they seem to have no health and safety legislation at all – or they probably have, but everybody just ignores it. Although the EU smoking ban is well in force, people still smoke in all of the bars and tavernas and there is one café inside Athens airport where people can smoke (it’s always chock full). Helmets on scooters and motorbikes are required by law, but not many people wear them and it’s quite common to see a family or four or five pootling along on one small moped with the kids hanging on for dear life and a sleeping baby squashed between mum and dad for safety. Tradesmen can often be seen riding their motorbikes to work with one of the riders steering and the other holding a large sheet of glass or a set of ladders that are three times the length of the bike. Builders trundle along with the person in the front driving while the person on the back sits backwards, holding onto a wheelbarrow which acts as a trailer to carry the tools. A musical event in the village square where we stayed boasted a makeshift stage which was a couple of large pieces of wood propped on towers made from beer crates – a very precarious platform for the bouzouki players to perform on.
And it’s not just in Greece where makeshift solutions are being used to cobble together a way of carrying out a job. Popular online tech news journal, Gizmodo published a rather disturbing story last week about Detroit’s fire department which has run out of cash and uses a pop can full of coins and screws as a fire alarm that calls crews to duty. The can full of metal is balanced on top of the fire department’s printer and when the printer spits out an emergency alert, the can is knocked over and crashes to the floor with a jangle, alerting the firefighting crew that it’s time to rock and roll. Other Detroit firehouses use a length of pipe to sound the alarm and not one of the city’s fire departments has a modern alarm system with a series of tones and an automated voice. This is pretty scary stuff when you consider that America is supposed to be the most developed and modern country on the planet.
Although we might bemoan our fate here in the UK where we often think that health and safety has gone mad, we’re lucky. Nobody in the UK needs to put themselves at risk in order to earn a living. This is especially so in the construction industry where there are strict rules and regulations governing safety at work. These rules and regulations are there to protect us and employers who expect their employees to work without the correct equipment and protection are liable to find themselves facing a court case. Let’s pity our cousins in some of the Mediterranean countries where unsafe working practices are the norm.