Health and Safety. For whom? – Risk Assessment. For whom?


The above is Burdock’s Famous Fish&Chips Shop reassuring their customers that their Fish Burger actually does contain… FISH! And that it may also contain… FISH! This is all about health and safety and risk assessment. Because if you have an allergy against fish and you buy a fish burger in Burdock’s, you eat it, and die of it –  they will be able to say:

You have been warned!

Tonight’s blog turned out to be a bit longer than usual and then planned. But I thought it would be worthwhile sharing how ‘health and safety’ regulations and ‘risk assessment’ procedures can defy any common sense and, in practice, often amount to (at least a partial) denial of service if complied with. At least in our case.

So, read patiently on and let me know what you think. (And please keep in mind that none of the following is meant to be in any way a personal criticism of any one person in particular.)

We learned a day or so ago that for Pádraig to be transferred from the bed to the wheelchair three carers would have to be involved to comply with health and safety regulations based on a risk assessment. Now, there are never three carers in our house at any one time (except once when there had been a scheduling misunderstanding). There are not enough buttons to press and limbs to hold, there is not enough room for three carers to become involved around Pádraig’s transfer. To put it into perspective, they had been doing this for weeks with two carers; I can transfer Pádraig safely on my own, and so can other family. So whose health and safety, whose risk are we talking about? What are the carers there for if they cannot perform one of the very basic tasks ever, the transfer, because there won’t ever be enough of them there at the same time?

We bought a tilt table. Not because we wanted to but because this was the only way to get Pádraig standing up on his feet. For months. It’s a tilt table with the European CE mark showing it is approved medical equipment complying with European standards and regulations. Pádraig had been standing before in a standing bed, in an EasyStand, in an Erigo, and in a Lokomat, and there was no issue there with him standing in a tilt table. Now we have been told that Pádraig’s carers are only allowed to assist with the transfer from the bed to the tilt table because it’s similar to the transfer from the bed to the wheelchair. They are, however, not allowed to hold his head while he is in the tilt table because… well, because holding his head in a tilt table is apparently different from holding his head in the wheelchair, when helping him to eat, when he is in the hoist. Something (I’m not quite sure anymore what) will have to be assessed to ensure all health and safety regulations are observed and there is no risk. Risk to whom? (You will remember that one of the physios called Pádraig’s GP because she was concerned about his oxygen levels – when Pádraig had not stood for months. If that was not a health and safety issue – and, indeed, an utterly unnecessary and grotesque risk for Pádraig! You don’t need to be a doctor to know that not standing for months is really, and I mean: really, bad for your health.) So, risk to whom and of what?

As you know, friends donated their mother’s wheelchair car to Pádraig when she had sadly passed away. In order to get the car insured, I needed to get an engineer’s report vouching for the car’s and its appliances’ safety. As you will also know, we drove Pádraig from Hamburg to Pforzheim and from there to Cherbourg and Dublin. When I wanted to bring Pádraig to his childminders and dear friend’s funeral not too long ago, the carer on duty refused to accompany us in the car – so we walked. It has now transpired that carers are not allowed to accompany the person they care for in a car unless this car has been assessed to ensure all health and safety regulations are observed and there is not risk. Risk to whom?

Pádraig recently got a new shower chair, a ‘device’ we have not used very often in the past because in Germany it was not practical. Pat and I have started to use it with Pádraig now and he is really enjoying it. We are still working to try and find the best possible way to operate the hoist, sling, shower chair and towels. Strangely, there is no problem from the ‘health and safety’ and ‘risk’ point of view for them to use the shower chair. Although – until we have figured out ourselves how to use this, we will not allow the carers either.

Carers are not allowed to clean (although some things they are allowed to clean – I’ve just lost track of what) but they are allowed to stand in for physios and OT. So, not only are there no trained neuro-therapists available to provide regular treatment a number of times a week, carers – not trained and not qualified in therapy – are asked to stand in. I see serious health and safety issues, as well as great risk for Pádraig here.

There is no common sense in any of this. One thing is a funny sign warning customers that there may be fish in a fish burger. Another thing is a very serious perversion of what health is all about, what safety is all about, and what risk is all about.

And anyway – (most) people are smarter than senseless regulations. They know that fish burgers not just may, they actually do contain fish. And if they’re allergic to fish, they don’t eat fish burgers. Sign or no sign.

What do you think?

If you are free and would like to go out with Pádraig and myself tomorrow for our Wednesday outing at 2:30, please let me know.