A biker hurtles down the A18 mountain road between Ramsey and Douglas on the Isle of Man during last year’s TT race. The biggest annual event on the island begins next week and it is estimated that, during the ‘TT fortnight’, the island’s population nearly doubles in size.
I returned from the island yesterday. For most of the week I was there I saw preparations being made for the TT – from the makeshift spectator stands that line the route, to the cushioning of garden walls with bales of hay in order to prevent participants splattering their heads and subsequently bleeding over clusters of prized petunias. The white house you see in the picture above stands on a particularly trecherous corner on the descent into Douglas from Snaefell. It was there on Wednesday I witnessed TT organisers busily marking the road without the aid of cones, traffic lights, contraflow systems or warning signs. A subtle reminder, perhaps, that the Isle of Man is not part of the UK and has its own way of doing things. As cars and motorbikes raced to the scene, one operative simply gestured for them to slow down past the spot where his workmate was attending to his tarmac painting duties. On an island where there is no maximum speed limit (outside urban areas) this is no mean feat. The TT is the world’s longest and most famous publicly-staged motorcycle race and you get the impression the Manx authorities are not as obsessively preoccupied with heath and safety as they are here.
Take this example. A Sheriff in Scotland has called for the banning of a certain type of window blind in homes because the looping blind cords are a risk to young children. Sheriff David Mackie was responding in a written judgement into the death of Muireann McLaughlin, a two-year old girl who died at her home in Clackmannanshire after being entangled in such a blind cord in February 2008.
I have no doubt the death of their little girl was, and is, a source of unimaginable grief for the parents. However, are we going to take heed of the advice of those who wish to wrap us up in proverbial cotton wool in order to make life as risk-free as possible? The home is full of potential and real dangers to inquisitive young children: cleaning chemicals, electrical points, unguarded staircases, small cupboards, ovens………..the list goes on. Are we expected to live without the aid of one or more of the above in order to maximise the possibility of a safe upbringing for the average child? One of my roles as a team leader is health and safety training for all new workers. My first principle is that there is no such thing as a life without risk. I only wish others in positions of much greater authority would recognise that very palpable truism.