Construction Health and Safety Consultancy and CDM Adviser Services

What If The ‘What If’ Questions Aren’t Enough?
Posted by David Cant on May 2, 2013
1 Comment

Construction Health and Safety ConsultantsThe role of those responsible for on-site Health and Safety is generally to ask the ‘what if’ questions. What if this happened, what if someone did this, what if that broke, and what if someone dropped the other. These ‘what if’ questions underpin a great deal of what Health and Safety is all about.

To protect against the risks, one has to identify the risks, and to identify the risks, one has to let loose the imagination that allows us to explore a whole raft of possible situations, no matter how seemingly unlikely they may be.

But sometimes there are case examples where the ‘what if’ questions simply don’t go far enough.

One such case recently highlighted by the HSE demonstrates this quite clearly. Asking the essential questions about the possible dangers of a piece of equipment may well be the easy task. Knowing how to operate it, how to work within safety limits, how to steer and manoeuvre it within an area where there may be other people.

All these questions relate very easily and simply to the equipment itself. But in this particular case it is quite clear that the ‘what if’ questions just weren’t imaginative enough.

The Real ‘What If’ Question Everyone Forgot

The real question it seems no one asked in relation to the equipment being used was, ‘what if this piece of equipment is not the one being used?’

If equipment is faulty or out of service companies may well have backup solutions, but if those backup solutions are rarely used, they may also be too easily forgotten or ignored, and that’s where the dangers can easily creep in.

The case in point relates to a Bradford man who is now facing the prospect of having his leg amputated, simply because no one asked the right question.

Bradford Man Faces Losing His Lower Leg

Bradford Magistrates’ Court heard that Mr David Wain suffered very serious injuries when a 1.5 tonne pallet of tin plates fell onto his leg. Although he had been trained in the use of the normal pallet lifter and turner, and all of the right ‘what if’ questions had been asked relating to it, on this particular occasion the equipment was out of service, and he was asked to use a much older, backup pallet turner.

Unfortunately the Health and Safety people failed to ever ask the question, ‘what if the pallet turner is out of action’, and Mr Wain was expected to use the older pallet turner, in which he had had no training, and for which insufficient and out of date Health and safety Protocols had been followed.

Within minutes of starting to use this much older equipment the pallets began to tip and fall, resulting in the severe injuries which could mean that he loses his lower leg.

Don’t overlook the important ‘what if’ questions that are too often easily overlooked or ignored. Call one of our team today on 0800 1488 677 and let us make sure you’re covered in every eventuality.


David Cant is a Chartered Safety and Health Practitioner extraordinaire. He has a wealth of Industry experience and is the MD of Veritas Consulting. David also Blogs about Health and Safety here Health and Safety Consultants

His aim is to flavour Health and Safety with integrity, served with a side of humour You can find David on - Twitter and Google also Linkedin

This post has been filed in: Health and Safety Services

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  1. By What If The ‘What If’ Questions Are... on May 21, 2013 at 6:30 am

    […] rss2 Check out our related posts: Construction Firm Fined £100,000 after Young Man Killed on the Job Check for Legionella Risks Textile Firm in Bradford Fined After Worker Loses Use of Two Fingers  […]

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