Broken Christmas bauble
Casting my eye over this weekend’s Guardian newspaper (I know, left wing do-gooder) I found the usual seasonal article regarding injuries in the home. The unsubtle message is about staying out of A&E over Christmas, echoing the predictable DIY injury articles we’re subjected to before the Easter break every year.

These articles will of course be contradicted by the same papers throughout the year in a plethora of stories about health and safety fascism interfering with people’s freedom to injure themselves. But I guess this encapsulates the baffling duality of the British press as epitomised by Glenda Slagg of Private Eye fame.

In the Guardian article two Oxfordshire hospitals were surveyed, revealing 8% of people attended A&E after work-related injuries and 41% attended after being injured in the home. The most hazardous room apparently is the living room, tripping on rugs, burned by the fire or scalded by tea. Nationwide, 26,000 children are scalded badly enough to attend A&E and a similar number are poisoned.

There are probably a couple of interesting dynamics here; those people who diligently apply the safety standards at work and then forget them at home and those who fail to risk assess properly (at all).

Let’s look at both groups of people and discover why they behave the way they do.

People with double standards (Glenda Slagg)

Well how do we tackle this one? I’m afraid to say that this is part of the slow process of changing individuals’ attitudes via improved safety culture in their organisations.

If culture change at work develops as it should eventually people find it less and less easy to abandon the safety standards when they get home. This discomfort is driven by changes in beliefs and values as to what behaviours are acceptable, so applying double standards between work and home eventually leads to (brace yourself) cognitive dissonance. This in turn promotes behavioural change so that the actions line up with the beliefs.

Of course this change can be promoted more rapidly by having an accident; most people will only need one contact with a chainsaw to develop a new respect for them, for example.

Dodgy or (more likely) no risk assessment

Oh dear, I must tread carefully here for fear of sounding like Keith Lard of Phoenix Nights fame. Given the ‘living room effect’, these injuries are likely to be due to familiarity and complacency. Kitchens are dangerous after all so we provide fire extinguishers, turn the saucepan handles inwards on the stove, provide oven gloves, instruct children not to touch the hob controls etc. But living rooms are seen as safe so people are less diligent.

We aren’t talking about making massive changes: people don’t have to sit in front of the telly paranoid about the hazards that surround them. It comes down to keeping hot drinks out of reach of children, setting your chair back from the fire so you don’t get burnt etc. The home/work effect explained above is also applicable. How we imprint our safety values on our children will also help to create the injury free individuals of tomorrow. Have you ever been told off by your kids for crossing the road against the lights?

After that public awareness campaigns are probably the only way forwards but these need careful handling to avoid being patronising or nannying. Come to think of it apart from the roads, safety-themed commercials rarely feature these days. Maybe this is because they ‘re discredited beyond redemption already?

Let’s finish on a festive note anyway, in the style of Glenda Slagg herself. Santa Claus crazy name, crazy guy!!! Life and soul of the Christmas party!! Bright suit, wild sled, big beard – he’s the best Christmas present for any gal! Gedditt!! Santa?– aren’tchajustsickofhim! Breaking into people houses at night, bad suit, drunk in charge of a sled.