I have spent the last two days training Career Academy co-ordinators and others in the art of undertaking health and safety visits to employers who are offering internships. It has been enjoyable, because everyone’s been good natured and interested, but on both days it was impossible to avoid a feeling that what I was doing was helping to promote a culture of jobsworthiness (if there’s such a word) and unneccessary bureaucracy.
Of course, schools have a responsibility to ensure that the young people whom they educate are safe. But taking on the role of ersatz inspectors, visiting every office where we will be placing kids this summer, and poking around to ensure that appropriate posters are displayed in kitchens, or that the employer is aware of their responsibility to provide regular breaks, tastes of overkill.
But as people kept saying to me, “If we don’t check and something happens, what would we do? Would we be liable?” The sad thing is, you can bet your bottom dollar that someone somewhere would say that we were. I kept stressing that all we had to do was act ‘reasonably’, but what on earth does that really mean?
Anyway, the training’s over and I’ve returned to my desk in the office. In my intray, I’ve found a risk analysis form we’ve been sent by a school that will be attending our graduation ceremony in early May. I have to think carefully. Is there a serious possibility of a young person trapping their fingers in the theatre seating? Perhaps they might get a paper cut from their certificate. Or catch a cold from the Secretary of State for chairs, sofas and futons, who will be in attendance.
Haven’t we rather lost the plot?