Australian cricketer Phil Hughes died this morning. A cricket ball hit him on the head. The cricket authorities will be learn some health and safety lessons. The media have highlighted the numerous messages sent from across the world. The media portrays a theme, somewhat subdued, that there must be someone to blame. The manufacturer of his helmet, Masuri, for example, have said that he wasn’t wearing the latest version. This would, apparently, have afforded better protection.
Personal Protective Equipment
Protective equipment in all sports has developed enormously in the last decade or so. It wasn’t that long ago that cricketers wearing helmets was unusual. This piece of equipment has moved from nerdy to necessary. Manufacturers find that developments take time. They need some experience of the risks faced. A ball hitting a player on the back of the head is unusual.
The issue for me is the Jekyll and Hyde nature of the media’s approach to Health and Safety. In this story, safety is their primary concern. Mike Atherton is quoted in BBC News as saying “It’s an incredibly safe game, but I think this will shake batsmen slightly out of what might have been complacency”. David Lloyd writes a piece in the Mail Online where he says “Sport can be dangerous, but it’s not supposed to end like this”. There are numerous other stories where safety is the primary concern.
Health and Safety refuseniks
But these esteemed media outlets are the rallying point around which the Health and Safety refuseniks congregate. In two newspapers leading with the Phil Hughes tragedy, one also runs a story about a hotel asking that a lady who cannot use a swimming pool alone is accompanied and the other runs a story about a cabbie who wants to wear a Santa outfit whilst on duty. Both stories confuse me. The first begs a question about the willingness of the lady’s friends to help. The second surely questions the honesty of the Express in their security concerns with burkas. On a less detailed point, both use these stories to highlight what they perceive as the “stupidity” of Health and Safety rules.
I am not defending daft decisions. “Health and Safety” must not be an excuse. But surely it is sensible to:
- defend properly the head of a sportsman facing a very hard ball at 90mph
- ensure that a woman who cannot use a pool without assistance has that assistance
- ensure that a man using an ID card that gives some assurance about his suitability can be identified
Health and Safety Lessons
In the cricket story a man has died. In the other stories there is no harm. So the first story is serious, and the latter two are “the Health and Safety brigade worrying about nothing”. The media ignore the health and safety lessons in the second two stories.
All this is about education and health and safety lessons. We need to give people the training to understand how to properly evaluate risk. Allowing a woman who cannot get out of the pool alone to swim unaccompanied is obviously silly. I’m sure that The Suzy Lamplugh Trust would applaud the sensible decision to ensure that cabbies carry ID and can be identified by it. But experience has educated the people that have made these decisions, but the rest of us see the story in the press and move on.
A second health and safety lesson is about identifying differences. People must see the difference between daft and sound decisions. A health and safety tag justifies some daft decisions. People’s safety is the basis of sound decisions.
Be concerned for safety
The media, who peddle this misinformation, have a responsibility. We should not reserve our “safety concerns” for stories that happen after the tragedy, but we should support those who make difficult and unpopular decisions to prevent injury and death.