Blind daredevil makes health and safety pledge by plunging off waterfall
9th September, 2009.
A blind daredevil hit back at so-called ‘elf and safety’ myths by making a daring descent over a freezing Scottish canyon.
Dean Dunbar, from Blairgowrie, Perthshire, braved two massive waterfalls on the 100m descent along with an inspector from the Health and Safety Executive to disprove the popular perception the organisation stops people enjoying life.
Adrenaline junkie Dean has Cone-Rod Dystrophy (CRD), an inherited progressive disease that causes deterioration of photoreceptor cells in the eye. His eyesight has been deteriorating since the age of nine and he is now registered blind.
Since his first tandem skydive 11 years ago Dean has taken part in over 50 activities including helicopter bungee jumping, wing walking, white water sledging and power boating.
He runs his hugely successful Extreme Dreams website from home, helping people with disabilities find companies willing to help them take part in extreme sports in addition to selling specialist sports equipment to extreme activity enthusiasts.
Extreme Dreams is the thousandth organisation to sign up to the campaign organised by HSE to urge employers to focus on real risks not trivia and pointless paperwork.
HSE has had a massive response already to the Pledge from organisations such as BT, Parcel Force, Asda and AIG and hope to encourage more organisations to sign up and commit to debunking myths surrounding health and safety that trivialise the impact of injuries, ill health and deaths on individuals and their families.
The organisation is concerned about people being told they cannot do something because of ‘elf and safety’. HSE say the majority of the time reports are way off the mark and serve only to stoke ignorance and mistrust of the organisation.
Dean insists that many organisations use health and safety as an excuse when really they cannot be bothered making adjustments for disabled people. He said: “There are so many exciting activities out there to get involved in and many people are unaware of them.
“Some people believe that their personal circumstances render these sports out of reach.
“I want to prove that most of the time this is not the case. If you really want to do it, the only thing holding you back is you, not non-existent health and safety legislation some people would have you believe.”
Gavin Howat, an inspector from HSE’s Adventure Activities Licensing Authority Management Group, who completed the abseil with Dean agrees.
He said: “HSE is concerned with the prevention of death, injury and ill health to those at work and those affected by work activities..
“We encourage strong leadership but also a common sense approach to health and safety in the workplace.”
“By focussing on core aims we help risk takers and managers distinguish between the real health and safety issues that people face at work as opposed to the trivial and we will challenge ill-informed criticism and inappropriate risk averse decisions.”
“Dean’s ideology fits in perfectly with HSE’s core messages and that’s why I was happy to undertake what looks like a very dangerous activity, safely.”
Dean’s daredevil career has been made possible by organisers being informed of his disability and adapted, where necessary to enable him to take part.
Ben Starkie who runs Vertical Descents and organised the abseil, says he has no problem allowing people to fulfil their ambitions and makes reasonable adjustments for disabilities whenever possible.
He said: “We never use the ‘elf and safety’ excuse to turn people away. We strive to accommodate anyone where we can and Vertical Descents are fully behind HSE’s Pledge campaign.
“Dean is a prime example of someone living life to the full and I’m not aware of any health and safety laws that prevent him doing that.”
The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to prevent death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice, promoting training, new or revised regulations and codes of practice, and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement.
The Pledge is a campaign aimed at GB businesses who want to take a common sense approach to H&S and commit to debunking myths around it that trivialise the impact injuries and death on employees and their families.
To find out more about HSE’s Pledge visit www.hse.gov.uk/strategy/pledge.htm
To visit Vertical Descents go to www.verticaldescents.com/
The Inchree Falls canyon is about 1km long and drops over two main waterfalls the first is about 50m high and the second is about 30m high. There are other small waterfalls and the overall height drop is around 100m.
To view this article, go to https://web.archive.org/web/20131005202322/https://www.hse.gov.uk/press/2009/e09076a.htm