The phrase ‘Health and Safety’ is one that has come in for a great deal of mockery in recent years. Indeed, it’s a fair bet that if you hear someone use these words, they’re about to tack on the obligatory ‘… gone mad‘. The message is that all of the regulations, red tape and inspections involved with any commercial enterprise are just a little bit … too much.
On the surface, it’s understandable that some people think this way. A brilliant, innovative building idea, for example, can go through several stages, from concept to model to business plan, only to come up against the obstacle of health and safety. What can seem like a minor objection can lead to a plan being delayed, sometimes even shelved entirely. How is anyone helped, you may ask, if regulations stymie new development and innovation?
The trend in recent years, then, has been for people, often in positions of some influence, to call for regulations to be loosened. A bit of ‘common sense’, they argue, goes a long way. These regulations have been cited as an influence on everything from slow business growth to the Brexit referendum result. With all of the negativity around them, it’s fair to ask what the purpose of such regulations could be?
Where Red Tape Meets Real Life
Many people only think about health and safety regulations in the abstract — as a lot of paperwork that slows down developments. Or, at least, they did think that way until the 14th of June this year, when Grenfell Tower in London went up in flames. At least 80 people were killed, though the actual number may be far greater.
In the aftermath, it was found that the fire was accelerated by cladding used to make the building more attractive from the outside when it was renovated in 2016. More galling still was the news that a safer form of cladding, suggested at the time, was rejected due to cost. While a full inquiry is awaited, one thing is clear — a more conscientious attitude to health and safety could have saved dozens of lives.
Health And Safety = Slowing It All Down?
Being safe doesn’t need to mean that developments slow to a crawl. What’s important is that developers consult with safety experts at every stage of development. If a development goes above a few storeys, Fall Protection and Work at Height Safety specialists will be essential; stairways will need to be built with emergency escape in mind, and so on. Entering the development process with an open mind and a spirit of goodwill is essential.
It helps no-one to think that new building developments must be stopped or slowed for fear of another disaster. However, when people question why an inspection or a modification is needed, it is worth being aware of what can go wrong when corners are cut. Regulations don’t exist to slow down your dreams; they’re there to stop them from turning into nightmares. Bricks and mortar are important parts of building — but sometimes, paper can be just as vital.