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February 3, 2015

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When health and safety is taken too far

By Lee Newell

risk-assessment-510759_1280We are living in a time where it seems people can sue for anything, so is it any surprise that people and companies are becoming over cautious with their health and safety rules?

We took a look at some of the most bizarre and questionable examples of health and safety being taken that little bit (or a lot!) too far.

Electric wheelchairs banned at a local Post Office

There has been an instance of a wheelchair user queuing up at the post office being asked to leave, and the owner subsequently banning electric wheelchairs on health and safety terms as they block the aisle.

The shopkeeper defended this stance, and whilst he is within his rights to consider the safety of his customers and staff, HSE advised that this response was over the top.

In this instance the shop keeper will have to look at the possibility of widening aisles to comply with the Equality Act.

No water for poor Fido

One company banned its deaf worker from filling up their hearing dog’s water bowl from the office kitchen sink, on the grounds that it would spread germs and bacteria.

Instead they expected the employee to walk through two pass-system operated doors to dispose of the water and fill it up using cups.

When this appeared in front of the HSE panel they advised that there is no health and safety regulation which prevents the filling up and emptying of a water bowl in an office kitchen area, and that the employer should reconsider their decision.

No break-time refreshments

A primary school banned teachers and staff from taking drinks onto the playground during break time in case they could injure the children (presumably they thought straws might turn into mini arrows?).

The HSE panel has advised that this is an extreme case of health and safety being taken too far, especially as it relates to not only hot drinks but cold too. The school said it was in case children were allergic to any of the ingredients.

There are no health and safety laws banning teachers or staff from having a hot or cold drink, and HSE advised that if the school wanted to impose these rules on staff it should not do so under health and safety reasons.

No plasters in a first aid box?

Another health and safety case which is an example of taking things too far is that of an employee who had cut themselves and upon going to the first aid kit to get a plaster was told that there were none, and would not be restocked due to the fact people may be allergic.

Let’s be clear on this, there is no regulation which says you cannot stock plasters in a first aid kit, in fact quite the opposite. If you are worried about people having an allergic reaction you can stock the hypoallergenic variety, or simply ask the person if they are allergic before giving them a plaster.

Bad press stops children enjoying their childhood

Over the last few years there have been a number of press and tabloid stories about how dangerous skipping, playing conkers and climbing trees are, causing schools and parents to ban children from taking part in any of these activities.

There is no health and safety legislation which bans any of the above activities; in fact the HSE panel encourages schools and parents to allow their children to take part in activities allowing them to have fun while handling risk at the same time. Of course it is up the individual schools, however if they are banned it is not for health and safety reasons.

These are just a selection of case studies from the HSE.gov.uk’s site on common myths which they bust regularly.

Lee Newell is online marketing executive at ESE Direct

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Vince Butler
Vince Butler
5 years ago

Just more stories created by the actions and behaviours of the legal profession and insurance industry, conveniently blamed on the safety profession. Why is the safety profession blamed, because they can! The ‘elf-n-safety’ name sticks now, virtually every mainstream media outlet, be it written, visual, audio or on-line, as well as the leading political class keep repeating the negativity, virtually daily. Unless the health + safety profession stands up for itself more effectively that we are now, we have several generations of being the ‘pantomime dame’ of professions. A great aspiration for the brightest people to come into a profession… Read more »

Andrew Kurdziel
Andrew Kurdziel
5 years ago

Weak story. Old hat. The HSE’s mythbusters has going for years and they themselves have gotten into a mess over things like Murray Mound at Wimbledon(reported on in the SHP). I don’t expect SHP to be publishing stuff like this which is really more suited to the Daily Mail. Statements like ‘We are living in a time where it seems people can sue for anything,’ are misleading as there is no evidence that people are doing that.
The SHP should be focused on real OH&S stories not this stuff

Kevin
Kevin
3 years ago

Must say it doe’s go too far sometimes but as a result we are a lot safer

kev
kev
1 year ago

i think its way over the top , well at my place of work , i get the impresion the in house health n saftey team are always looking for ways to make themselves look good , there latest one is wearing a noise monitor , now bearing in mind im an electrician who does wear the hearing protection , eye protection and the rest of it , what is this going to acheive ? the drill i use is still gonna be noisey the the monitor where ive got ear protection on or not , yet the same team… Read more »

 

 

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