In response to the Weekly Times’ articles on quad bike safety and the mandatory use of helmets, one letter writer in this week’s edition of the newspaper wrote:
“More state lunacy… Accidents happen, legislation cannot stop this. Free people have the right to decide such things for themselves.”
The letter writer has a strong belief that accidents happen and that nothing can be done to stop the harm, particularly through the application of legislation. This view is in the minority but is still spoken in some social circles, although the volume of such statements may have reduced over time.
The statement shows a misunderstanding of the cause of accidents and there is always a cause, or several. It is no longer socially acceptable to concede a workplace death as an Act of God or “shit happens”, although only recently in an expensive rail safety seminar, “shit happens” was said repeatedly. The letter writer’s statement is one of hopelessness, the antithesis of the values of the safety profession and OHS regulators.
Philosophers can argue the point more effectively but if one is to concede that “accidents happen”, that “shit happens”, then one should also not expect to be covered by workers’ compensation or compensated if injured in a public footpath or seek financial restitution if assaulted at a crowded nightclub or in a dark alley. What outrage would be felt if one was to lodge a workers’ compensation claim and the insurer’s response was “accidents happen, good luck with your disability”.
The “nanny state” epithet is short hand for lazy thinking, social ignorance and selfishness.
Safety often involves investigation, perhaps even “CSI:Safety” – Grissom in a fluoro vest. We must seek the root cause, in loss prevention terms, or contributory factors in the modern OHS and risk management context. From analysis comes insight and from insight comes prevention.
It is hard to imagine that anyone who may have lost a loved one in an industrial, or agricultural, incident could have written this letter to the Weekly Times. It is slightly easier to imagine that there are people in society who just do not care about the welfare of others and they write occasionally to the Weekly Times about the “nanny state”.