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Introduce a DUTY OF CARE TO SELF clause in H&S legislation

Comment 13th July 2010

We need a 'Duty of care to self' clause in H&S legislation.  It is too easy to blame somebody else for a situation that should, with a little forethought and considration have not occurred.

Examples of where a 'Duty of Care to Self' might apply:-

If a pavement has a few uneven slabs it is encumbent on the pedestrian to make an assessment of the safety of the surface to walk on.  If the pedestrian deems the surface unsafe to use then they have a duty of care to consider an alternative route or to 'pick their feet up'.  If they trip on a slab that they have seen then it is not the duty of the council or any other body to fund an excessive fine.

If a person decides to climb on a roof of a building and falls, it is encumbent on them to have assessed the risk before they climbed on to the roof.  It should not be the responsibility of the owner of the building to install signs, fencing etc to prevent a person climbing on the roof in the first place

If a person purchases a cup of coffee, they have a duty of care to self to make sure the coffee is not too hot to drink.  If the beverage purchased is too hot at the time then they have a duty of care to self to allow it to cool before they consume it.

If a person purchases a knife and puts any part of their anatomy in front of the sharp edge it is not the duty of the manufacturer or the vendor to point out that the purpose of a knife is to cut.  The duty of care to self should ensure the purchaser knows the purpose of the impliment before they put it to any use.

If a person decides to walk across a road where the pedestrian signs shows that it is not safe to proceed and they walk in front of a car it is not the fault of the driver or any other person or body to have cut back a hedge in the vicinity.  If the road and the pedestrian signs are clearly visible then the duty of care to self would dictate that the display of signs warning that crossing a road was unsafe should suffice.

If a hole has been dug in a pavement or road or field and it has been reasonably fenced a duty of care to self would dictate that there is a hazard and it is not a sensible thing to do to walk through a small gap in the fencing. 

If surrounding a glass bottle bank there is evidence of broken glass on the floor a duty of care to self would assess this hazard and make a decision not to walk on the shards but to either wait until the broken glass has been removed or to walk more carefully so as not to tread on the glass

Anyone under the age of 50 would have no recourse to the manufacturers of cigarettes if they contract smoking related diseases. The information and smoking campaigns have been in existence longer than they have been alive so the knowledge that there is a risk involved with smoking should be part of the 'Duty of Care to Self'

If a person notices that the size of trousers/skirt they have to purchase is getting larger then under a 'Duty of Care to Self' they should assess why this is the case and adjust diet accordingly.  It is not incumbent on the manufacturers of fast food to monitor the calorific intake of their customers.

Why does this matter?

The 'State' through the legal system has removed the 'comon sense' approach to life.  Councils are seen as easy targets and sued at the drop of a hat.  If a 'Duty of Care to Self' was introduced into legislation this would not remove the duty of care to others from the law.  However there have been and still are findings by judges that defy the common sense approach and award high damages in situations where the 'victim' ought to have known better. 

The 'nanny state' and the removal of the need to assess risks and take responsibiliy for ones own actions and be aware of the consequences of making decisions needs to be reversed.  The money awarded in cases where common sense has obviously not been used and the 'Duty of Care to Self' disregarded is not free.  If the fine is awarded against the local council then tax payers pay the cost. If the insurers of a company pay the award then the cost of insurance increases and the increased cost is passed on eventually to the consumer so in the end we all pay regardless of guilt or innocence.

I suggest the 'Duty of Care to Self' would free up millions of hours of court time and reduce the costs that we all pay to those who refuse to acknowledge that they have a responsibility to their own well being.

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