Tuesday , November 24 2020
Home / Tim Worstall /It’s possible to have entirely too much safety

It’s possible to have entirely too much safety

Summary:
On that Hayekian basis that knowledge is local, an example from the frontlines of rail safety: Network Rail has in place a scheme for managing track safety training and assessment. This is overseen by an outside body contracted by Network Rail – the National Skills Academy for Rail Engineering. On the face of it, this is a sensible scheme as the whole thing is designed to prevent fraudulent access to the track. Yes, back in the bad old days, track safety tickets were being bought and sold in the local pub, so something had to happen, hence the Sentinel scheme.The problem, however, is that eventually a system can become too top heavy. There then becomes a conflict between getting the job done and the onerous requirements for a safe system of work with its plethora of paperwork. I recall

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On that Hayekian basis that knowledge is local, an example from the frontlines of rail safety:

Network Rail has in place a scheme for managing track safety training and assessment. This is overseen by an outside body contracted by Network Rail – the National Skills Academy for Rail Engineering.

On the face of it, this is a sensible scheme as the whole thing is designed to prevent fraudulent access to the track. Yes, back in the bad old days, track safety tickets were being bought and sold in the local pub, so something had to happen, hence the Sentinel scheme.

The problem, however, is that eventually a system can become too top heavy. There then becomes a conflict between getting the job done and the onerous requirements for a safe system of work with its plethora of paperwork. I recall having a ream of paperwork just to do a track safety walkout during training activities, most of which was entirely useless to me. I even had to do a task brief. This consisted of “we are going for a walk to look at the track and show you what’s what.” Yes, really.

As a track safety trainer and assessor, I frequently came across track workers who told me that the requirements simply didn’t happen as laid out by Network Rail because they got in the way of getting the job done and that if they complained they would be out of work.

Yes, of course everyone wants rail staff to be safe. But regulations and procedures that aren’t followed, because they’re too intrusive, don’t do that.

The above being in relation to an accident that killed two such workers. And follows some 44 reports of the regs being that too intrusive to actually add to safety.

At the very least this should - but probably won’t - engender some humility among the bureaucrats that infest our lives. There is a limit to the power of paper wielding to make our lives better, almost certainly one we’ve already blown through. So perhaps we can have less of it all? To, you know, make people safer, stop them dying?

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Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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