Comment by: David Stephen
Focus area: Volunteer events
Regulator concerned: Health and Safety Executive (HSE),Local Authority or Fire Authority
I am an Inspector with the Health & Safety Executive, however I am contributing on the basis that my family and I get involved in regular voluntary ‘spring clean’ events in our local community. These are organised by our Local Authority and make a huge difference to the local area in terms of the litter and junk removed and also the sense of community and pride which is developed amongst those who participate. What is interesting is the fact that the groups of volunteers are provided with a 5 minute safety briefing on which items to avoid, especially needles, any hazardous areas where care should be taken, as a river runs through the town and litter accumulates on the banks, and a litter picker and bags. That is completely sufficient and that really is it! Public perception, however, would be that vast risk assessments would need to be completed, numerous ‘burdens’ would be applied and this type of activity would be dangerous. Well, my eight year old daughter and I would disagree. So would the Health and Safety Executive and, I suspect, most Local Authorities. Proportionate examination of the risks from any activity should not be a ‘burden’ if it really is proportionate. It is there to protect people when protection is required. My personal experience is not one where over-regulation stops people or organisations from going about their business and my professional experience suggests to me that regulators like the HSE apply a great deal of energy towards debunking the myths surrounding regulation whilst still needing to inspect and enforce against employers who continue to break the law.