During a camping trip with friends this past weekend, I celebrated yet another birthday, and was surprised with another piece of dangerous equipment as a birthday gift: a chain saw. Should I be reading between the lines?
A read through the manual gave me a clue about how dangerous a chain saw can really be, at least in the wrong hands. The manual gives example after example of chain saw uses that should be avoided, most of which struck me as simple common sense, but I’ve got the benefit of having grown up on a farm in Saskatchewan. Yes, the trees were a lot smaller than here, and I never got to operate the chain saw, but growing up on the farm seemed to instill a certain amount of common sense in me.
The illustration of one particular safety warning struck my funny bone, as well as those around the camp fire who I showed it to. The illustration is of a fellow seated on a branch, up in a tree, using the chain saw to cut through the branch he is sitting on. There is a diagonal line through the illustration, indicating that this is a chain saw use that should be avoided.
The ridiculous illustration is an extreme example accompanying the following safety instruction: “It is not possible to cover every conceivable situation you can face when using a chain saw. Always exercise care and use your common sense.”
I figure the catch-all safety instruction probably arose from a claim made against the chain saw manufacturer, in this case Husqvarna, by someone who hurt themselves doing something really stupid.
The safety instruction is one that we all ought to follow, whatever piece of equipment we are operating; just substitute the name of any tool, device or machine for the words “chain saw”.
The safety instruction happens to mirror an existing legal duty under British Columbia law that each of us owes to ourselves, as well as to those around us.
It is this legal duty that paves the way for civil lawsuits to recover fair financial compensation when those around us breach that legal duty, causing us injury.
The same legal duty prevents us from an entitlement to compensation, or limits our entitlement, when we are to some extent the authors of our own misfortune.
I suggest that our Motor Vehicle Act is an equivalent to the chain saw manual. It sets out all sorts of safety rules for the operation of motor vehicles, most of which are a matter of simple common sense. Like really, do we need a law that tells us to confine our vehicle to the right hand side of the roadway when meeting an oncoming vehicle? Have a look at section 154 (1) that states “The driver of a vehicle must drive the vehicle on the right hand side of the roadway when meeting another vehicle that is moving”.
The Motor Vehicle Act also includes the catch-all safety provision, prohibiting driving “without due care and attention”. Perhaps the legislation needs to be illustrated like the chain saw manual, to clue drivers in on ridiculous driving behaviours that offend common sense.
The most dangerous driving behaviour is simply not paying full attention to the road ahead of you, a driving behaviour that would be eliminated with the exercise of a modicum of common sense. A motor vehicle is a whole lot more dangerous a piece of equipment than a chain saw, yet for some reason we leave common sense behind when we slip behind the wheel.
Posted June 20, 2013 on Kelowna Capital News Online