Many years ago I knew a local printer, a humourous, elderly man who had declined to retire in his sixties and who some years later was to realise his ambition of working until he dropped.
His was a very old fashioned business, completely impervious to the advent of digital technology. guillotine doorEach and every character that he printed - literally, every letter and digit - had to be painstakingly pulled from a box with a pair of tweezers and inserted into an inky plate from which the finished article would be run off.
If it was 1950s technology that he used he managed to remain in business simply by dint of the fact that he charged 1950s prices. His specialty was batches of perforated draw tickets and short-run flyers for local village fairs and fetes.
Pride of place amongst a veritable museum of ancient equipment was a guillotine which he kept by the front door and was the size of a small car. One day, seemingly out of the blue, he received a visit from a pair of Health and Safety inspectors who advised him that the guillotine was in fact dangerous, and that by continuing to use it in the manner in which he had been he ran the risk of chopping off his fingers.
My printer friend was not amused. He had used the guillotine for decades and hadn't cut his fingers off yet. Worst of all, he had risked his life during the Second World War and in fact had been one of the first British soldiers to have landed at Anzio.
"Muck and bullets everywhere," he grumbled, "and not a Health and Safety inspector to be seen".
Possibly he had a point. But actually Health and Safety legislation is there for the best of reasons. Its purpose is to ensure good, safe, healthy working conditions for employer and employee alike, and to reduce to a minimum the risk of injury or illness to those operating inside the working environment.
Of course the challenge for small to medium sized businesses is that to learn and then to implement all the required legislation takes time and costs money. Sometimes these smaller businesses are perpetually operating on a shoestring budget and would find it very difficult to significantly alter their established practices.
Unlike the big corporations they don't have the resources to be able to employ full time Health and Safety officers of their own. It is a specialist service that they have no choice but to outsource, buying in expert advice and assistance where and when it is needed.