I was reflecting upon health and safety in the workplace when it occurred to me that the biblical parable of the Good Samaritan has something to say on the matter.
To remind the reader, it is a story related by Jesus of a traveller who is robbed and beaten on the highway and left half-dead. Two of his own countrymen, one a priest, sees him but passes by on the other side of the road. It is a Samaritan, a person whose nationality would traditionally make him hostile to victim, who takes pity, attends to him, cleans his wounds, brings him to a place of safety and pays for his further treatment.
None of us would ignore an injured or sick work colleague if we came upon them but a lot of the bread and butter of health and safety work is drawing people’s attention to actions and conditions that are hazardous and will, eventually, cause injury or illness. In this matter, I believe that too many of us still act as the countrymen of the crime victim and pass on the other side. Especially the priest, who equates to a manager who is aware of an issue or bad practice and decides to look the other way. Part of our job, every one of us, is to address matters of safety as soon as we become aware of them and not to run the risk of our colleagues ending up like a beaten mess.
It strikes me also that there are applications as far as our health services are concerned. We rely upon the NHS to treat us, to heal our injuries once they occur. There is an excellent culture of health and safety within the health services and the sector is a leader within human factors. Unlike industrial health and safety, most of the huge amount of resources are spent in treatment and not in prevention. Surely if this was turned around, then fewer of us would be sick, lives would be lived more healthily and stress would be reduced upon both staff and resources. It would however mean that the government would have to be more prescriptive. Instead we find examples such as the watering down of the recent sugar tax and another one being the delay to improvements in housing build standards. In putting the lobbyists for the food and housing sectors before the public interest, government is guilty of walking by on the other side.
The most delicious parallel to the story of the Good Samaritan and the workplace, indeed also to government, is the person who asks Jesus “And who is my neighbour?” It was a lawyer.
The parable of the Good Samaritan, and indeed who is one’s neighbour, is a lesson that the current Home Secretary, barrister Sue Braverman, should take onboard.
The parable of the Good Samaritan is to be found in the New Testament, the Gospel of Luke, Chapter Ten.