O’Meara’s Musings - Living in fear in a safer world

The real wonder of the Great Wall of China is neither the scale of the thing nor that it is visible from the moon; it’s that it got built at all.

The real wonder of the Great Wall of China is neither the scale of the thing nor that it is visible from the moon; it’s that it got built at all.

It was quite a feat, in the absence of a strict Health and Safety regime governing the project.

Health and safety rules and regulations have become the new religion, spreading their tentacles into just about every walk of life.

This year the Kildare GAA had to take a do-or-die championship foorball match out of Newbridge because for health and safety reasons, the capacity was cut to 8,000, which was much less than the anticipated attendance.

Yet this reporter was there at games which attracted 20,000 folk and the sky – or anything else – didn’t fall in.

It would be dangerously naïve not to recognise the importance of safety standards.

Many people have died or sustained serious injuries through operating unprotected equipment or working in environments which were poorly policed poor maintained.

And yet there is a feeling that H & S has become a growth industry which might just be getting out of control.

If it gets much more out of control who will we look to to do a health and safety check on the health and safety industry ?

There was a time, for example, when you could walk on to a garage floor and kick a few tyres or maybe stick a nosey head under a bonnet while you waited for your own car to be repaired.

Today you’re ushered to a waiting room with, if you’re lucky, a skanky coffee machine and a couple of copies of National Geographic dating from 2006 for company.

In Naas for the past couple of weeks a new piece of footpath is being built near the boys schools, off the main street.

It’s worthy, badly needed and the work is progressing speedily perhaps not because of but in spite of the safety measures.

The actual project itself is somewhat dwarfed by the health and safety operation which surrounds it.

There are advance warning signs, thick plastic walls, columns of cones, traffic lights, a one-way system for vehicles and road signs held in place by sandbags that would defy a tropical storm.

At first glance it appeared as if the people working there were expecting the Taliban at any moment.

And we confess the Leinster Leader has not been inoculated against HSD – Health and Safety Disease.

On the way out of the building you see posters warning of a variety of risks to your health ranging from poor eyesight, to a passing forklift, to the need to wear a seatbelt.

There are times I’ve been afraid to leave.

Every now and again an independently conducted safety audit occurs at short notice and it induces quite a flurry of nervous activity; you might as well be announcing the arrival of Attila the Hun.

Posted above every wash hand basin in the place is a waterproof (of course) sign.

It reads: “Please note that water from the cold tap is safe to drink. DO NOT drink from the hot tap.”

We can only guess at the number of lives that have been saved.

Paul O’Meara writes the ‘O’Meara’s Musings’ column fortnightly in the Leinster Leader