Friday, December 05, 2008

The Fun Police

Cutting Edge documentary on Channel 4 last night (4 December 2008).

I don't think anyone in the health and safety profession ever expected this documentary to be particularly informative, and it wasn't. And, it is no surprise that people are saying on the internet today that they are disappointed or even angry about how the profession was represented.

But I have found five newspaper reviews of the program, and I don't think any have said it showed how ridiculous health and safety is. All noticed that the start of the program did labour some of the issues, making it look like health and safety people see danger everywhere. But all recognised that there are many serious issues, and the people shown were doing the right thing.

The following quotes are taken from the various papers:

The Telegraph - "If the popular press is to be believed, they’re full-time killjoys and agents of an increasingly spineless culture. Yet watching them as they trudge from one premise to the next, harangued, mistrusted, occasionally shouted down, it’s quite heartbreaking. They may be meddling and almost neurotically preoccupied with catastrophic scenarios, yet on the evidence of this documentary, presented by health and safety expert Ed Friend, their intentions are noble. Perhaps it’s worth considering too, whether they are any more to blame for our risk-obsessed culture than insurers and an increasingly litigious public?"

The Guardian - "This film is nicely non-judgmental. It simply shows these health and safety people, going about their business, doing what they believe is right. And Ed certainly believes it. He's passionate about health and safety, if that's possible. He's not going to shut up about it until there are no more accidents. And even though he's clearly the most annoying and ridiculous man in the world, there's also something quite admirable in that."

The Times - "One of the inspectors said he gets angrier and angrier at the “absolute waste of human life” presided over by lazy companies. His job meant he was an “expert in human misery”. There would never be a recession in “health and safety” — sadly. "

The Independent - "For anybody approaching the film in a Littlejohn state of mind, there was plenty here to confirm any prejudices; being of a nervous, risk-averse disposition, I was less sure about the message. Most of what Mr Friend had to say about the dangers of everyday life wasn't entirely stupid; the joke lay in his bothering to point it out, and in his somewhat pedantic manner. This being TV, it strikes me as entirely possible that in pointing out danger on every hand, he was only doing what he had been asked to do ("Go on, Ed, show us a risk"). Even if he was as neurotic as the film made out, that hardly amounts to an argument about health-and-safety regulation in general. I don't suppose, either, that Ms McIlravey's anxieties about glue would seem quite so petty if you'd found that the glue on the back of your falsies was eating through your actual nails, which is apparently one of the possibilities."

The Herald - "There is no health and safety in this country," Ed stated, "only accidents and ill health." The Fun Police convinced you we need more Ed Friends, not fewer."

My view on the program is that it was pretty boring and a missed opportunity. It will not be worthy of further consideration, unless Ed Friend becomes a TV celebrity as a result.

Andy Brazier

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