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Channel 4's Cutting Edge Documentary Nothing But Health & Safety Trivia

In a week when the government have announced an investigation into the level of accidents and fatal injuries in the construction industry, and also responds to the Dame Carol Black Report into Health Work and Well-being and puts in place plans to tackle the 34 million days lost in 2007/08 to work-related illness and the £1Billion cost to the UK economy as a result of bad work places and bad health and safety practice; last night's Channel 4 Cutting Edge series programme had the perfect opportunity to highlight to the public the serious consequences that the lack of good health & safety practice continues to have on the workers and their families in this country.

Broadcast at 9pm, the nearest the program  got to even mentioning any of the major health and safety issues causing injury to workers and billions of pounds to the UK economy was the issue of manual handling, and that as a mere coincidence.

Sadly and in line with what we can expect from the media and the big business controlling it, once again health and safety was totally trivialised in the programme entitled ‘The Fun Police’.

Concentrating on the personality of the two inspectors it featured, a badly received ‘tool box’ talk on manual handling and on an environmental health officer having problems whilst trying to address the issue of the effects upon customers of nail glue banned in the USA; the scenes were protracted without any discussion on the health effect on those subjected to the glue or the ramifications of injury due to bad manual handling.

Derek Maylor, NW BTU H&S Co-ord Chair expressed his disappointment in the Channel 4 programme, but little surprise given the title of ‘ The Fun Police’, used to describe a programme about the work of health and safety professionals.

He told Unionsafety that the Co-ord will have to seriously consider its response to the programme, saying, “Whilst the issue of the type of nail glue used in the beauty industry is a serious one for those who as a result of the use of banned glue are finding their natural nails corroding and dropping off, there are more serious issues in health and safety which could have been highlighted.”

He continued: “There was little mention of the deaths and serious injuries that still occur in the UK every year, month, week and day. There was no graphic description of the kids who die falling 30 metres or get crushed to death within days of starting their first job. No mention of the 4000 preventable deaths from mesothelioma last year.”

But a little more worrying was the fact that sources claim the HSE had in fact seen the programme prior to its airing and their only concern was for the title and not the lack of serious health and safety content! Given this is the same week in which it launches it's new H&S Strategy, there are those who feel a more concerned response form the HSE would be appropriate.

Even IOSH who had some involvement with the programme makers seem to have accepted the trivialisation as ‘essentially light-hearted, gently mocking and largely focuses on one 'larger than life' character - an ex-HSE health and safety consultant, who is not an IOSH member.’

Not that that was made clear in any way in the programme.

In their press release issued today (Friday 5th Dec) IOSH asserts that it was not portrayed negatively, whilst in fact it was only mentioned in the scene around the World Conquer Championships!

It adds;

“ The IOSH media team was in regular contact with the film makers for the last six months, in order to try to steer the film in a positive direction. To this end, we suggested interview subjects, locations, and key issues that the film makers may have wished to cover. We also hosted the film crew at a school which was using the Workplace Hazard Awareness Course (not included in the film). We’ve been in contact with one of the subjects of the documentary, Pauline Miller McIlravey, who is an IOSH member, and provided her with informal media training and advice.”

But it does at least admit that, “Overall, the film will do little to dispel myths and stereotypes about the work of the health and safety profession.”

The final word on this is with Derek Maylor who will be tabling the Channel 4 programme and the need for a formal response from the NW BTU H&S Co-ord at its next meeting this month:

“The trivialisation of health and safety at work as portrayed by the Channel 4’s Fun Police should not go unchallenged if only because of the fact that working people in this country are being injured, maimed and even killed at work every month.

The public needs to understand that health and safety legislation is necessary, is a basic human right and is required to protect the workforce. The media’s continued trivialisation of health and safety compromises these principles and promotes ignorance and will do nothing to lower the levels of illness, injury and death at work in this country.”

Want to make your views about 'The Fun Police' to Channel 4? - you can do so here

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