Friday, 16 June 2017

It's 'Elf and Safety Gone Mad!

Well, contra the cliché, this is what health and safety gone mad really looks like:

A trapped resident tries to get help as the fire engulfs the Grenfell Tower block.
(c) Universal News and Sport (Europe)
It can lead to disadvantaged men, women and children being burnt alive in their own homes. It appears undeniable now that the Grenfell disaster is down to a failure in regulations somewhere.

Philosopher Jonathan Pearce highlights the narrative that makes life that little bit worse for the poor and vulnerable in our society, and which can lead to tragedies like this one, following George Monbiot in The Guardian:
But what is regulation? I think when the word is used, people really don’t think about what it is. Regulation means rules. Why do we have rules? Rules are moral proclamations about how the world should be. Regulation is codified morality. In shorthand, then, when people claim they want “deregulation”, they are actually asking for less morality, fewer moral rules.
And he links it to the movement that has brought us Brexit:
What regulation does (when done properly) is seek to make production ethically responsible, which is better for everyone. A company in Europe, now, cannot employ children, must have strict safety regulations such that the product won’t be faulty enough to blow up or catch fire, must be produced by a workforce that has minimum legislation for workers’ rights, and so on. These regulations work best when adopted by multiple countries across a wide platform. There is a uniformity for everyone such that no one in that marketplace can get away with not adhering to them.
Now, with the UK, we are leaving a large regulatory network that has historically given us a massive amount of regulation. And this is a good thing [he means the network is a good thing, not the leaving!]. Either we take that all on (and manage that at a higher cost), or we drop some or lots of it. We become a low-tax haven full of corporations who define the rules of play. 
For at least the last 20 years, in my memory, there has been the constant narrative that we are all pandered, soft somehow, because we have 'elf and safety regulations, and that businesses should be allowed to carry on their trade without so many restrictions. Here's David Cameron responding to that retrograde sentiment in 2012, saying he will "kill off the health and safety culture for good":

He said:
I don't think there's any one single way you can cut back the health and safety monster.
You've got to look at the quantity of rules - and we're cutting them back; you've got to look at the way they're enforced - and we are making sure that is more reasonable; we're taking self-employed people out of whole classes of health and safety regulation.
But the key about health and safety is not just the rules, the laws and regulations - it's also the culture of fear many businesses have about health and safety.
Rather than referring to the 'health and safety monster' he should have been challenging this shibboleth of the right and championing health and safety as a good and necessary feature of a properly functioning society.

Sadly, it looks like it's not only the health and safety culture he and his ilk have killed off.


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