Safety versus freedom
Safety versus freedom
What is an accident? Stupid question? We all know what an accident is, but can we define it? Since we all have an interest in not having accidents – and in doing everything we can to prevent others from having accidents – I guess we’re all in the accident prevention business. Of course, when an accident happens, we look for ways to prevent it from happening again.
But wait, if an accident can be prevented, then it can’t, by definition, be an accident……can it? So back to my question. What is an accident? If a preventable accident is not an accident, then the incident is probably an unexpected unpreventable accident. What will you say about this? Well, this definition would be nice if I could test it on something. The problem I have now is that for every incident I think of, I can think of a way it could have been prevented. I therefore conclude that the reason no definition can be found is that there is no such thing as an accident.
When an incident occurs, especially a serious one, we look for ways to prevent it from happening again. This is a perfectly logical reaction. Increasingly, authorities spend time inventing imaginary incidents;
hypothetical incidents that just might happen. In many cases, they have a legal obligation to do so. The result of this is inevitable. More and more restrictions are imposed on our activities in the interest of our own safety. Some of these restrictions may reduce our freedoms.
For example, we are instructed by law to drive on one side of the road only, and this is accepted by almost all of us. Due to the risk of fire and harm to the health of others, smoking is prohibited in most public transport. This is also accepted – but not as widely. Then we have even more restrictive ones
regulations that are more localized. In the UK, authorities and companies are legally required to carry out risk assessments for many of their activities. For authorities, this could include, for example, play areas in parks or public footpaths. For companies, this will include almost any physical activity
involving people. This can lead to seemingly minor limitations. A priest was recently forced to pay for expensive scaffolding when he was told light bulbs could no longer be changed using a ladder as it was against safety legislation.
If we take the idea that all accidents are preventable to the extreme, we’ll be banned from driving, playing sports – even walking (well, you can trip!). If we were to introduce measures to prevent every possible incident, society would grind to a halt.
Therefore, a balance must be found. Because we’ve chosen this middle ground between safety and freedom, we’re still left with the occasional preventable accident, and sometimes we’re forced to just shrug our shoulders and say: it was an accident, plain and simple. So, assuming that accidents DO exist after all, my definition of an accident is: an unexpected incident that we chose not to prevent.
However, it is certainly always good practice to minimize the risk. It is even more important to minimize the risk to innocent third parties. If you choose to ride your bike without a helmet, that is your choice and only you are affected. If you drive at high speeds, your actions can hurt others.
Likewise, if a company makes a product intended for the free market, it should do everything it can to make it as safe as possible. In addition to complying with safety and labeling laws, he must also ensure that safety is built into the product whenever possible. A simple example is a knife with a retractable blade or a safety razor.
Insectocutor manufactures fly killers. They are designed to be dangerous – but only to harbor flies and other flying insects. They are cleverly designed to be virtually harmless to humans. In fact, it would be difficult to make one harmless. One effective idea is safety
switch. If the Insectocutor cover is removed, the safety switch automatically moves to the off position. The electronic kill grid – the part that kills the flies – is disabled. As soon as the cover is properly fixed back, the safety switch is turned on again. Simple, effective and a lot
safely. Through clever and ingenious design, Insectocutor has managed to draw the right line between a product’s ability to do its job of being harmful to flies while still being safe for us to use.
I guess the bottom line is that we can’t be completely free to do as we please, and we can’t be guaranteed complete safety. We will always oscillate between the two and do our best to get it right, knowing that like all judgments, there is no absolute right.