Has Health & Safety gone mad?

Sarah Daniels The RedCat Partnership Ltd

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?
  5. Trapeze artists need to wear Hard Hats! Hard hats are only required when there is a risk of falling debris.
  6. 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.
  7. 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

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