Thursday, March 17, 2011

Knitting Needles and Old Lace

Knitting needles closer-up
(By littlenemo)
I have some permanent newsfeeds set to alert me to charity items that I ought to be aware of and there were three recent ones which caused me the proverbial sharp intake of breath:
The charity shop piece is very unfortunate. Reading between the lines, I think what happened was that the parent charity (CRUK) became concerned that it could be liable if one of the volunteers was injured. Some health and safety breaches (for example fire safety) are strict liability offences, which means the charity could be fined very large amounts even if no-one was ever injured.
    The most infuriating thing about it is that, very possibly, the volunteers were safer at the shop than if they were alone at home, simply because there would be people about if they had an accident or were taken ill.

    All in all, it's a perfect example of why, on the one hand, volunteers do have to be reasonable about sticking to health and safety rules, and on the other, it doesn't really benefit anyone if those rules are complicated to a point where it's deemed impossible for any volunteer to cope without a paid manager always on the spot to enforce them.

    There does seem to be some movement on this from the Health and Safety Executive, who are in the process of consulting on a new online tool for charity shop risk assessment. The new process looks  much simpler and no longer treats ordinary household cleaning agents as if they were dangerous industrial chemicals.

    Please, if you volunteer for RSPCA Cambridge, do take notice of our health and safety instructions. Don't block fire exits and keep walkways free of hazards. And don't sell knitting needles to anyone under 25.

    I don't want you to have to visit me in Holloway.

    Actually I'm not very sure of the legal status of knitting needles and Google is almost silent on this. We're always told the needles must not be put out on the open shelves, but only sold from the secure cabinet. Ditto knives of any sort (which makes sense) and any other cutlery (presumably on the slippery slope principle that if it's teaspoons today it will be steak knives tomorrow.) 

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