How did we all survive before health and safety took over?

These are immortal words: “Health and safety has gone crazy”.

How many times have you heard this phrase? Or even said yourself? Many times I guess. I know I said it. Several times.

While I’m certainly shaking my head at many of the current nanny-style health and safety warnings, there’s one that I totally and totally support, albeit quite late in the day – wearing a helmet when you ride a bike.

I recently fell off my bike. I didn’t actually fall, I hit a curb all the way and flew right over the handlebars.

I could have easily broken my neck. Luckily I didn’t, only cuts and bruises on my face and hands, and a concussion.

“Were you wearing a helmet? the ER doctor asked me.

“No,” I answered shyly.

Granted, on this occasion it wouldn’t have made much difference, as it was my face and ribs that took the hit, but it really made me sit up and take notice. I never ride a bike without my helmet again. And to be honest, as I write this, I’m shaking my head that it took me decades to do this.

If you ride a bike, even just down the road, in the town where you live or in the shops, wear a helmet.

George urges everyone to wear a bicycle helmet.

I got the idea for this column while writing last week’s one on Bonfire Night. I remembered that we kids used to gather anything that could burn from neighbors for our bonfire.

Then, using gasoline, we lit our bonfire in my grandmother’s garden. And that made me think. What else did we kids do in the 70s that I doubt are allowed or frowned upon today?

We climbed trees. Put marbles in our mouths, in our noses. On the swings we stood on the actual swing and rode it to the bumps, and into the playgrounds which of course had no soft padding, just concrete, sometimes even dog poo and broken glass .

We never washed our hands if we could get away with it, played in the mud with bugs, swam in rivers and probably swallowed half of them.

We played football on the street – getting in and out of parked cars and running on the roads. And when we had real winters, we played in the snow without jackets or gloves, our fingers gnawed by the cold.

How the hell did we survive?

Ouch. The concrete playgrounds were unforgiving.

Do the cars still have lighters inside? I remember when I was a kid, when my dad was lighting the car, I stuck my finger in the red-hot lighter – I shouted the spot.

I knew I shouldn’t have done it, but hey, it’s that thing when you see a sign that says ‘wet paint’, what do you do? It’s true, we touch it!

And I also remember, when I was a kid, when mom would put a plate of food in front of me and say, “Don’t touch it, it’s hot.”

Red rag to a bull that was, because the very first thing I would do? Yes, you guessed it, I always touched the plate.

I would like to understand the psychology behind all this.

There were no ropes or safety harnesses in the “good old days”.

About “how did we survive”, I read an amazing article last week. Amou Haji was a recently deceased Iranian at the age of 94. Nothing spectacular about it, you may think. However, what is spectacular is that it has not washed off at all for 50 years.

Without water or soap for 50 years.

Her skin was covered in soot and pus. He lived in a shack with no electricity, eating mostly rotten meat and dirty water from an old can. He also liked to smoke several cigarettes at the same time.

Local villagers tried countless times to get him to bathe and drink clean water, but such demands apparently made him “sad”.

Finally, earlier this year, they convinced him to take a swim. The result? He fell ill and died soon after. Poor guy, they should have left him alone.

There are, of course, many benefits that companies have been compelled over the years to make our working environments safer. Countless lives have undoubtedly been saved. Can we even imagine people today working in factories and factories, working long hours, underpaid, half asleep and using dangerous machinery? Or how about the chimney sweeps using children to crawl inside the lum to help clean it?

Even in modern times, we can say that health and safety type laws have improved all of our lives.

One that comes to mind is the mandatory use of seat belts in cars. I’m sure a young adult today would find it very strange that until 1983 it was not compulsory to wear seat belts in the UK. Surely there can’t be anyone today who thinks health and safety has gone crazy?

It’s hard to believe that seat belts weren’t always mandatory.

But of course, there are plenty of examples of health and safety gone crazy. Many websites reported the findings of researchers who interviewed workers and were told the following.

Forbidden to give paracetamol to a colleague. Having to fill out a form to use bandages. A ban on birthday cake candles. Forbidden to change bulbs without asking permission. Only allowed to use plastic knives and forks at work. Having to report a small paper cut in the company’s “injury book”.

No Christmas decorations in case someone trips over them. It is forbidden to leave the doors open as there is a risk of fire. No wearing of shorts, even in summer. Do not run. No climbing ladders. No drinks near a computer or laptop. No toaster. Reminders to use the handrail on stairs. Do not eat while walking. No hot drinks. No balloons in the building. No food sharing, due to contamination and potential food poisoning. No open windows. No hanging baskets – people can bump their heads. Use only clip-on ties, as real ones pose a choking hazard.

Whether or not these are true I can’t confirm, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they were all true.

Happy birthday – but no candles in the office, it’s against the rules.

A council in England has even banned kiting on the beach, in case a kite falls on someone. Yo-yos have been banned from some playgrounds. I also read somewhere that it was forbidden for children to play conkers. No cotton candy allowed on a stick, and pinning the tail on the donkey – prohibited.

As for the wonderful day of school sports, some schools have banned three-legged running and egg and spoon. How sad. I loved sports day at my elementary school, especially the three-legged race. I even won the egg and spoon race once. But I finally have to admit… I stuck the egg with a spoon with a well chewed gum.

The egg and spoon race was always fun at school.

Good, sensible health and safety rules are there for a reason, to keep us safe and save lives. But it seems to me that a lot of our current rules are overzealous and treat us like idiots, not like adults.

What do you think? Are all the health and safety rules a necessity or are they overkill?

As I think back to my childhood and remember all the things we did, I repeat to myself: how did we all survive!

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[How did we all survive before health and safety took over?]


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