Manage, not eliminate, risk


This article was previously published in Safety & Health Practitioner

For further information, please contact Ben Drew, Partner, Fladgate LLP (


Autumn always reminds me of a case some years ago; a council was considering felling some horse chestnut trees because the conkers could make pedestrians slip, or children could suffer serious head injuries if the sticks they used to dislodge them meant the conkers landed on their heads.

This is the kind of approach that leads people to think that they do not need to take responsibility for their own personal safety. A carpet of fallen conkers and their shells at certain times of the year is part of life on some streets, and helps to keep us connected to the natural world.

There are risks everywhere, and often it is a question of managing them, rather than eliminating them altogether. We accept hazards in the home and garden, and manage them automatically. So why do we think that as soon as we step outside the front door we can behave less carefully, and rely on others to protect us from every conceivable hazard?

The same applies to the workplace, whether it is a construction site or not. HSE has produced many useful regulations to help us deliver high standards of health and safety in a large variety of circumstances.

But employees must also take reasonable care for their own health and safety and that of others who may be affected by what they do. If we object to a nanny state, we need to show nanny that we are quite capable of looking after ourselves properly.

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