Liability and Safety

Having just listened to another 22 year old telling me that we must worry about liability in everything we do, I feel it is time to point something out.

What we should be concerned with is safety. Liability is about what lawyers concern themselves with after the accident/incident has happened. In general, if you make reasonable decisions and worry about safety, you will not be liable. Douglas Bader is, after all, credited with saying that “Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men.”

This, of course, brings me on to the issue of the massive number of regulations that are now foisted on us. They are not to protect us from liability, they are to protect those more senior and are what used to be referred to as TCICs (thank Christ I’m covered). Every new regulation gives a clever lawyer more ammunition against someone who may have made a perfectly safe and reasonable decision at the time (possibly safer than rules drafted for a different situation). I have never seen an airline Operations Manual that uses the word liability

So I suggest this; every time you are tempted to use the word “liability” to explain decisions, re-think it using the word “safety”. Perhaps I am influenced by the fact that I am only alive because I was part of a crew that went its own route after a catastrophic engine failure instead of slavishly following the check list.

I am now putting on a tin hat and expecting an American voice to start shouting “Incoming!”


Can’t fault you…
Far too many people are adverse to doing anything that isn’t written down in duplicate to show where and how it has been done before so they have a get out of jail card.
It’s about operating safely and ensuring everyone is safe not finding a clause to make someone else liable. Which to some is making sure you can blame someone else

Last I looked it was venture adventure!!!


Absolutely we should be worried about safety, the goal is to conclude activities with all cadets and staff happy, well, and uninjured. Although liability is not necessarily a myth.
I like to keep in the back of my mind the words “The subsequent board of enquiry would say…”.

If you think sensibly about what is safe and you follow the requirements of the regulations then you’ll be fine. If a genuine accident were to happen, you’d have properly considered the risk and taken appropriate steps to limit it.

If you don’t think about the safety then accidents may be more likely to occur.
If you do something stupid because you didn’t properly think it through and the proverbial faeces is flying then you could be hung out to dry.

The liability side of things has created more problems in society than enough and made life far less interesting and loads of money for solicitors and insurance companies.
Liability = people looking for ways to mitigate pointing the finger elsewhere. If we hadn’t had the ambulance chasing in the 90s and noughties we wouldn’t be where we are with this. It’s interesting the OP mentions a 22 year old, because it’s this age group and a bit older that have been brought up in this mentality. Our children never got the we’re going to talk to someone if they came home hurt. We even had a mum come round threatening to take us to court when our son hit her while riding his bike. Her and her husband got told where to get off. I remember speaking to parents who would look for anyway possible to make a few quid, if their kids got hurt … morons. The irony was most were our age (or just a bit younger) and having grown up in the 70s (the last of the best decades to have been a teenager IMO) and we just did things without much concern for safety. I’ve forgotten the times I climbed trees and quarry walls and played on building sites and thought how did I or we get away from that without getting hurt. There are probably many times I should have ended up in hospital, but it would have been my fault. Now building sites are all boarded up and 24 hour security … no fun.

When it comes to ‘safety’ it’s all commonsense, god knows what an RA would like for most household activities we do all the time and still have accidents; anyone not hit their thumb, knicked their finger cutting things, doing the gardening or picked up something hot? You learn through life by making mistakes yourself or someone else’s misfortune. It seems now we need to have a bit of paper to tell us how to do everything or tell people how to do things, just so people can sleep easily knowing they can avoid being liable. I’ve never read a power tool’s instruction booklet unless I have to replace something, but I know that putting the moving parts, bits that get hot etc in direct contact with my or someone else’s body or taking it apart while it’s plugged in wouldn’t be a good move.

I wish we could get an act of parliament that said if you get hurt doing something the bulk of the problem is you. Insurance policies would get slashed and many solicitors would need to find something proper to do and no more Irwin Mitchell, ‘underdog’ and the like adverts.

With the change to the CFC and in effect NCO/comissioned staff in particular are no longer in effect subject to military law, would the RAFAC continue to be liable for the actions/inactions of its staff at any time. Do staff and/or squadrons need to have public liability insurnace?

I suspect that with vicarious liability, HQAC will be every bit as liable as the officer/NCO who has allowed through whatever means, someone to get hurt or worse.

HQAC have form for pointing the finger elsewhere and trying to hang people out to dry but I reckon a good solicitor or barrister would probably succeed in getting a court to hold them ultimately accountable.

My understanding is that, just like the NHS, the MOD self-insure. I may be wrong in relation to the RAFAC though, and am happy to be corrected on this.

Does that in effect mean if you follow HQAC and below instructions and use the Nurmemberg defence are you covered. Are not the CFAVs now in effect outside RAF law, are they still covered. A good lawyer may say you were following orders but where they either sensible, legal or why did you follow them?

That’s not what I’m saying. What I am saying is that a CFAV may be at fault for whatever reason but HQAC also carry a degree of liability.

Its not about ‘following orders’ but overall accountability and that would probably lie with the Cmd formation.

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