The Problem with Wotsits...
the Americanised "compensation culture" now truly embedded in British consciousness, health and safety in the equine industry
has never been so important.
of the recently launched Riding Safely website explains more...
I like to write an article on safety? Well I suppose I should, after all I am
safety professional, horseman and just launched an online newsletter aimed at promoting and improving equestrian safety. Tempted, I asked "any particular aspect?" An
article on "the importance of health and safety in the equine industry" came the reply.
It sounded more like an exam question. There is a simple answer; without
the effective management of health and safety, people and horses would get injured, even killed; property would get damaged
and destroyed. One criminal prosecution or successful civil claim could be enough
to put a riding school or livery yard out of business. The more insurers had
to pay out the more insurance premiums would rise. Even for those who managed
their risks effectively and had a good safety record, increased insurance premiums could mean the difference between staying
in business or deciding to call it a day. Bad publicity wouldn't help the industry
either - who'd want to enter a sport or invest in an industry with a bad reputation for health and safety? The knock-on effect
on trade for those secondary businesses that support the industry, tack shops and feed merchants to name a few, would be disastrous. In short, the industry would cease to exist.
But if you think that all of this is fantasy, it's not. In Australia in 2002 the insurers pulled the
plug on providing affordable insurance to riding schools and trail riding businesses.
It was the final straw for some businesses and they went under. Such was
the crisis that a central body was set up that worked with the insurers to create a code of practice which today has to be
followed in order to get affordable insurance.
you ask the question "what is the importance of health and safety in the equine industry?" you'll get different answers depending
on who you ask. If you ask an owner rider, they'll probably reply that it's all
the aspects that affect their own personal safety and the safety of their horse. Ask
a riding school proprietor and many will probably say it’s to stop them from being sued.
that I shouldn't interject too many of my own safety biased comments into this article I decided that it was time to consult
a reliable barometer of opinion -- my eight-year-old son. As he was busily devouring
a Happy Meal, I decided to slip him the question. He came up with three answers
before saying he was "empty" and I don't think he was referring to the demise of his McFlurry....... The most intriguing of
all his answer was that of "Wotsits". He was concerned that if a horse ate too
many Wotsits they might make the horse "hyper". If that was the case, he continued,
somebody could quite easily get injured. Now I have to say for legal purposes
that before those nice people who manufacture Wotsits decide to sue me, the story is merely to illustrate a point, no slight
is meant and I have absolutely no idea of the effect of Wotsits on horses, come to that I'm pretty sure that neither does
he'd hit the nail on the head. Safety is all about preventing people from being
hurt or becoming ill and providing a safe environment. That also extends to our
horses, but remember that the safety of people always has to take priority over that of horses.
businesses and the self-employed health and safety isn't an option -- it's a legal requirement.
what are the keys to "good" safety? Risk assessment is one of the principal
keys that can be used by individuals and businesses alike to prevent accidents. If
you've ever been involved with a nasty accident, the post-mortem question often asked is "what could we have done to prevent
it?" Risk assessment essentially aims to work out in advance what can go wrong
and if necessary put in measures to prevent those things identified from going wrong.
businesses there are other keys to "good" safety". A structure with a safety
policy, in which safety roles and responsibilities are well-defined, where risks are assessed and controlled and where staff
receive appropriate safety training will go a long way to meeting those goals of preventing accidents and providing a safe
environment. But only as a long as the key elements of the structure are regularly
monitored for implementation and reviewed for effectiveness and any changes identified for improvement are made. A message from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is that "Good Safety is Good Business" and it's true! There is evidence to support that good safety management can actually reduce costs
and boost business.
a better title for this article would have been "the importance of effective risk management to the equine industry", because
effective risk management is the key to the continuation and future success of the equine industry.
has been a quick canter through a subject often perceived as complex and boring. Complex
it really isn't, boring it may seem, but at the end of the day it really is very important.
I've only touched in outline on some of the important topics in this article, but you'll be able to get more information
from www.ridingsafely.net, any of the large equestrian organisations, or the HSE.
leave the last word to the HSE. While the quote relates to agriculture, the comment
is equally applicable to the horse industry,
"The majority of accidents are avoidable. In a changing social and economic climate
the farming industry must constantly be on its guard against bad practice and carelessness. A hazard identified and effectively
controlled may save a life, or prevent a life time of incapacity." - John Micklethwaite Acting Principal Inspector of the
Agriculture Group, Leeds.