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Hi-viz and the Health & Safety police

I have to admit, right up front, that I have a particular dislike of the prevailing culture, which seems to feed and grow upon the rigid enforcement of what should be, a). either common sense or b). personal choice.

One of my pet hates is the over zealous imposition, by people with more authority than they should be empowered with, of the obligatory wearing of Personal Protective Equipment, when there is no considered justification for it.

I have been ( and still am ) at times, responsible for carrying our the assessments which are the legal obligation of employers, to ensure they are not putting people at risk, and the simple fact is that by law, PPE should be considered as a last line of defence, not a simple way of compliance with the legislation.

It is a fact that Hi-viz clothing was developed to help drivers and operators of moving plant and vehicles, to see the people working around them.

Hard hats were introduced to provide protection for workers in situations where others were working overhead.

Steel toecapped boots for workers handling heavy materials or goods, protective glasses in situations where sparks and flying debris is likely and gloves for handling where there is a risk of cuts.

So when you see the painters or electricians, or plumbers working inside a building wearing all of the above, it is safe to assume that there is a very lazy management culture, imposing such regulations.

A good manager would assess the hazard first. He would then assess the risk of someone being affected, and the potential degree of seriousness. If there is no hazard, there is no need to take precautions. If there is a potential hazard, but the risk of it happening is minimal, there is probably no need to take any special precautions.

So if a bricklayer is building blockwork walls inside a structure, under an existing roof and with no scaffold or any overhead working, it would be safe to assume there is no hazard posed by falling objects, which could cause head damage. Therefore no need to wear a hard hat. However he could potentially be at risk of damage to his feet, by dropped blocks, so protective footwear would be obligatory. As he is inside a building, it is unlikely he would be at risk of being injured by a JCB operator digging foundations, so Hi-vis clothing is probably not necessary. However cutting blocks with a disc cutter will result in flying dust and debris, so protective glasses should be worn. You get the idea!

Problem is, to assess all the individual hazards and risks in any given situation, requires time and effort and it is far easier to take the expedient option of obliging everyone to take the same precautions regardless. Common sense does not get a look in.

The Project Master