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August 9, 2013

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Myth Busters panel roots out safety ‘jobsworths’

Since setting up the Myth Busters Challenge Panel last year, the HSE has received and reviewed more than 200 cases of precautionary advice given by non-regulators — and found that almost all of them have no basis in health and safety law.

The panel was set up to provide prompt and clear guidance for people who find themselves on the receiving end of disproportionate health and safety instructions, or misleading information from overzealous companies and individuals.

Employment minister Mark Hoban said: “It’s time businesses and others stopped hiding behind health and safety when the simple truth is that they are either jobsworths or giving poor customer service.

“Their attitude gives health and safety a bad name and it undermines good health and safety.”

The HSE wants people to stop using health and safety as an excuse for unpopular decisions, when, in fact, the decision has been made on other grounds — such as fears about cost, or litigation.

In one case heard this year, a children’s play centre had signs on display stating: ‘Customers must not consume their own food and drink on the premises owing to health and safety reasons’. In reality, however, customers were allowed to consume food and drink bought from the play centre’s own café.

The panel decided this was a clear case of the ‘catch-all’ health and safety excuse being used to obscure commercial motives.

In another case, the Myth Busters panel was approached after a notice was spotted in a gym stating: ‘For health and safety reasons, members are requested to only use the hair-dryers for hair on the head’.

The panel responded by saying: “This is clearly an easy excuse to deter people from using hair-dryers inappropriately in a public place and the health club should give the real reason for its decision.”

HSE chair Judith Hackitt said: “I am proud of what our Myth Busters Panel has achieved in exposing the real reasons behind all of these so-called ‘health and safety’ stories. If we understand what is really driving this blatant misuse of health and safety, then we can all tackle the root causes.”

The Myth Busters Challenge Panel cases can all be found at www.hse.gov.uk/myth/myth-busting/index.htm

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