Comment – Don’t be fooled…

It’s April Fool’s Day but the HSE is being deadly serious, apparently.

Thankfully, the Health and Safety Executive waited until after noon – traditionally the cut-off point for April Fool pranks and hoaxes – before issuing today’s article reminding demolition and construction firms of the need to review their processes.

Apparently, the article was prompted by the airing of the first episode of the TV show “When Demolitions Go Wrong” which begs several questions: Was the airing of this first episode the first time the HSE had been made aware of demolition projects going awry within its jurisdiction? Was it somehow surprised by the fact that it hadn’t been informed of all the incidents in the show? Is it now cursing its luck at having missed several opportunities to levy a Fee for Intervention against the companies featured in the show?

This, let us not forget, is the same Health and Safety Executive that acknowledges but refuses to endorse well-researched guidance on various key aspects of the demolition process; guidances that could make the industry safer if they were universally adopted. The same Health and Safety Executive that has offset a reduction in the number of HSE inspectors by charging a Fee for Intervention to ensure that its financial coffers remain well-stocked and consistently replenished. The same Health and Safety Executive that took over the running of the Didcot A Power Station demolition process and left three dead demolition workers buried in rubble for more than six months. A Health and Safety Executive that can respond to a lowest-common-denominator TV show in a matter of weeks but which has offered no findings on the Didcot disaster more than three years after it happened.

The message that lies at the heart of the HSE article – the need for planning, competence and experience – is, of course, valid. The fact that the HSE believes the way to drive this message home is via a carefully-penned trade press article merely highlights the growing disconnect between the Health and Safety Executive and those required to abide by its rules.

The governing of safety within the demolition industry should not be prompted by a low-cost, made-for-thrills TV show that is little more than a collection of YouTube videos interspersed with overly-dramatic eye-witness account. Likewise, the communication between the UK’s leading health and safety body and the demolition industry should not be via the trade media.

When Channel 5 researchers start work on the show “When HSE Goes Wrong”, the Health and Safety Executive’s latest missive should feature prominently in Episode 1.