A work health and safety fail.
How a customer’s work health and safety fail gave him a wakeup call.
“How dare you!”
This was the angry statement that greeted me as I met with my valued customer. I’d subcontracted to this business for years and the owner had become a friend.
Surprised and puzzled I asked, “What?”
He continued, “How dare you put everything I’ve worked hard for at risk! You’ve exposed me and my family to the risk of financial ruin!”
I was stunned! “Please explain!” said I, in a part angry, part confused tone.
“You’ve carried out work for me that has a high risk of an accident or even a death. But you’ve done almost none of what the work health and safety laws require you to do to ensure the job is safe.”
“I trusted you to do what the law requires, and you’ve abused that trust. You’re playing Russian roulette with both your business and mine by your half-hearted attempt to comply!”
“I’m now closing down this business. The risk of litigation for noncompliance with work health and safety laws is too high.”
I could have argued the point with my friend and tried to defend myself, but the awful truth was HE WAS RIGHT.
I thought of myself as someone that played it safe where my workers were concerned. Nevertheless, work health and safety laws were irritatingly over the top. Besides, they were in the way and slowed down the job.
Often, I would need to verify my commitment to work health and safety in order to win a job tender. In these cases, I’d grudgingly throw some meaningless content onto a form as evidence of my compliance.
My friend was just as angry at himself as he was at me. At the same time HE hadn’t been diligent in checking that my safety system complied. He had exposed HIMSELF to the risk of prosecution in the event of an accident as much as I had.
This was no comfort to me.
Too Late To Apologise.
All I could do was apologise profusely and promise to be diligent, but it was too late.
In a couple of weeks, my friend had sold up his business assets and closed his doors.
Not only had I lost a very lucrative customer, but I’d betrayed a friend’s trust.
Later when my friend had forgiven me (while he was spending his days fishing and caravanning) he confided as to what made him look deeper at my safety system.
It was the huge increase in small and medium businesses that were losing court cases because of a lack of work health and safety measures. Consequently, he became afraid as he realised court action was not just a possibility but almost inevitable.
My Wakeup Call.
This was my wakeup call to get my health and safety system sorted properly. Consequently, starting with a risk assessment for each job, I carried out for clients, I began to rebuild my health and safety system.
Although I’ll always feel partly to blame for my friend’s business closure, I’m very glad that wakeup call did not come in the form of a serious injury or death.