Has Health & Safety gone mad?
Health and Safety often gets blamed by people for stopping things happening; people can receive bad advice from their Employer, their Insurance Company or indeed from a Health and Safety Consultant. They can also use Health and Safety as an excuse for not doing something or for people who can’t be bothered or have a ‘killjoy’ attitude.
The Health and Safety Executive have responded to concerns by setting up a Myth Buster panel; this is chaired by Judith Hackett- a formidable character – she has 11 co panellists who are drawn from all walks of life.
So far this year they have commented on 47 cases; the first about a swing on an allotment that a Parish Council wanted removing; the swing was provided for use by the hirer’s children to keep them occupied. The latest that a landlord of a block of flats was asked to replace metal framed windows; that fitted & opened safely.
There is a form on the HSE’s website for anyone to report any ‘Health and Safety gone mad’ occurrences.
Health and Safety as I have said is all about Common Sense; but Common Sense is not always that common- it is about awareness, knowledge, attitude & perception.
Health and Safety is about protecting people with sensible controls; not about blanketly saying people cannot do things
I have chosen some ‘favourite’ myths to highlight that Health and Safety has not gone mad – but some peoples interpretation of it has:
- Bonkers Conkers- in reality the risk of playing conkers is low; a head teacher did ask for children to wear goggles; but there is no blanket need; in schools it is often discipline that’s the issue not H&S.
- Bunting (well we have had the Jubilee & now the Olympics)- The myth is that Bunting is not allowed due to H&S - this is just plan nonsense; H&S is about protecting people not about stopping celebrations! People need to plan – where to hang bunting and how to get it up their safely- again not a blanket ban.
- Restaurant based myths; yes you can issue tooth picks, yes you can heat up baby foods & no dogs in restaurants is not a Health and Safety Issue.
- Topical one of Mortar Boards- like conkers there is a v v small risk of injury from a flying Mortar Board- the issue can be that the hats are hired and need to be returned in pristine condition?
- Trapeze artists need to wear Hard Hats! Hard hats are only required when there is a risk of falling debris.
- PAT testing of electrical items is an yearly requirement; this is simply not true; the Electricity at Work Regulations require businesses to maintain their electrical appliances- this needs to be risk based; some items can be visual checked (low risk static office equipment) others such as portable hand tools that are used in dusty/wet environments will need more frequent thorough checks.
- Lastly there is nothing you can do about Slips & trips- there’s lots of cheap effective solutions – there were 4 fatalities last year, and about 100, 000 injuries – the estimated cost to UK PLC is £800 million per year; Good Housekeeping, cable management, correct well maintained clean flooring, foot wear and staff attitude will all reduce the risk
Health and Safety is siimply about protecting people; unfortunately 173 people were killed at work last year- this fiqure does not include those who are killed whilst driving on our roads; or ask the 300 000 plus people who are injured at work
It is about sensible Risk Management - about putting in place some proportionate controls.
We all need to accept personal responsibility- whether we are an Employer, an Employee or a member of the public