A Christian Example in Health and Safety (by Gavin Taylor)
When I first established Knutsford Safety as a business in 2001 it didn’t occur to me that I might be doing God’s work. At the time I saw an opportunity to turn an interest into a career and was fortunate enough to see the business flourish. Over the years I have had the opportunity to share my passion for good health and safety with countless individuals and businesses.
However, at first I thought the passion I had was because I believed that what legislation required of us was right. This was first challenged when one client explained to me that the reason he chose me to deliver a series of training courses was because, having seen me work, he said I was “evangelical” about health and safety. He could have used so many other words but the one he chose struck a chord with me.
A few years later a young lady on a course I delivered observed that she could tell I was a Christian because of the things I said, the way I behaved and the conviction behind what I was teaching. These comments caused me to ask whether the enthusiasm I had for my job was founded in my Christian beliefs. Health and safety law isn’t new. We may have seen a flurry of activity in creating new legislation since the early nineties, but the principles on which these laws are founded are centuries old. The basic premise of health and safety is that we owe a duty of care to our fellow man not to cause harm.
The first reference I have found to this duty of care lies in the book of Leviticus 19 v16 “Do not do anything that endangers your neighbour’s life”. This message is repeated in broader terms in Matthew 22v39 “Love your neighbour as yourself”.
If you compare these messages with the founding principles of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 the similarity is striking. “Employers shall ensure…the health, safety and welfare of all their employees” and “conduct their business to ensure…that non-employees are not exposed to risks to their health and safety”. There is no tangible difference between these messages. Therefore, it follows that applying the principles set out in our health and safety laws is an integral part of doing God’s will.
One of the greatest obstacles to achieving high standards of health and safety is ignorance. It is said that ignorance is bliss. I remember, during the church refurbishment project, looking at the photographs of the building progress shown in the Services held at Manor Park School. I looked around at the delight on the faces of the congregation and noted the stark contrast with what I saw. In every set of photographs I saw unsafe acts or conditions and was dismayed that, despite the best efforts of all those involved in the project, the potential for serious injury was not being managed properly.
Now, I wouldn’t expect all members of the congregation to be knowledgeable about construction safety but I do expect that, as Christians, we should be aware of the laws and standards that apply to us in our work-life and work to them. The direction for this is also Bible based and is found in Titus 3 v 1-2 which says, “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good…”. The leaders of the early church were conscious that following the rules of the society and setting a positive example was crucial to survival and integrity.
The same is true today. We cannot consider ourselves above the laws of the land. Instead, we are commanded to follow them and to do what is good and right. The first step in this process is to find out what laws apply to us. Only then can we follow them. Just remember, the other saying about ignorance is that "ignorance is no defence".
Ask yourself these questions: 1. Do you know what health and safety legislation or rules apply to you? 2. Do you obey what they demand of you? 3. Do you cut corners or take chances that could put people at risk? 4. Do you walk past unsafe acts or conditions without saying or doing something? What do the answers to these questions say about us as Christians and how might obedience to health and safety laws impact our every day lives?
For my part, and given my profession, this isn’t a surprise - I live health and safety. There is no conflict because my obedience to health and safety laws is perfectly in tune with my obedience to God. So, I do ensure that my car is properly maintained, stick to the speed limits and drive safely. I only work with companies who want to work safely, both at home and at work. I speak up when I notice unsafe acts or conditions, even if it makes me unpopular. I make a point of finding out, and adhering to, safety rules and fire precautions wherever I go. Does this sound like an uninteresting life to you? If so, ask yourself if being a Christian is dull? My experience is that learning what is right and then striving to set a positive example is as exciting and challenging as it was when I first set out to be both a Christian and a health and safety consultant.