Compliance or Cotton Wool - By Maartje Barnett
Updated: Jul 31, 2020
It’s 2020 - in Health and Safety conscious New Zealand - and I am a Health and Safety Consultant who is naturally risk adverse. I am also a mother of 3 kids. Two of which are 9 year old twin boys.
Let’s call them Dave and Bob. Bob is gregarious, fun and full on - but like me he is risk adverse. Dave is sensible and calm – but he is incredibly fearless when it comes to risk taking.
Risk taking can be fun!
If you are not a mother of 9 year old boys, let me tell you that my focus for the last 9 years has been about finding balance. A balance between letting them have limitless confidence-building risky fun and ensuring I keep them alive.
I am not kidding. At age 2 Dave stood on a picnic table instructing Bob to pass up his trike so he could launch off over the concrete patio.
The question is, HOW do you let people have adrenaline fuelled fun while keeping them safe?
Or more specifically (for some of our clients) how do you run an adrenaline fuelled entertainment business (think zorb balls, luge’s, bungees or rides and attractions at the school gala) while still being compliant?
The bottom line is that you need to keep people as safe as practicably possible. What this means is that you need to have excellent risk management. You need to be able to identify the risks and control them – making them less risky.
If Dave is going to launch off the table the biggest risks are:
The height of the table
The distance he will fall
The hardness of the surface he lands on
The lack of helmet and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Eliminating risks might eliminate fun.. I could Eliminate the risk entirely by removing the trike – but then Dave would have no fun at all. And as much as I’d like to wrap Dave up in cotton wool (and believe me I’ve been tempted!!) he needs to be able to take risks safely.
I could also eliminate the risk by removing the table but where would Dave or Bob eat lunch? That’s not practicable.
Minimising risks allows for safe fun!
I could minimise the risk by lowering the table or dragging a mattress outside as a soft landing spot. I could make him wear the child’s equivalent of PPE - a helmet and padding for all of his knees and elbows (and maybe some cotton wool??!?!) please….??)
We need to remember that often in life we cannot eliminate risks. What we can do is manage and minimise them well and educate our people.
As a business your first step is to show you have considered all your risks (for example by creating a hazard register) and have put effective controls and monitoring in place to keep the people in your business safe.
Stay compliant, stay safe and stay healthy. But don’t forget to have fun!
P.S. Dave, Bob and I held our first of many many Health and Safety Meetings that day. We identified the hazards and decided that riding on the patio (not the table) was safer. AND we enforced the wearing of PPE on trikes always....just in case.. because.. well..boys..