Debunked Health & Safety Myths of Summer 2015

SG World's attention has been caught by a stream of case studies on the Health & Safety Executive's news pages recently. It appears that the general public are keen to find out just whether the UK has, indeed, gone health & safety mad!

We all know the importance of health and safety. Troubling reports of where a lack of health and safety discipline have resulted in tragic consequences makes us keen to get it right. However, a reasonable approach is also important.

With that in mind, the HSE have been inviting the public to contact their Myth Busters Challenge Panel, to debunk unusual or downright bizarre cases of ‘health and safety gone mad’. Some cases include a charity shop refusing a donation of a plastic baby bath, a lady being refused a glass of water in a shop after fainting, and workers told not to open the office windows due to health and safety.

So are these concerns merely myths, or could they indeed be down to health and safety law? Here are some of our favourites debunked by the Myth Busters Challenge Panel:

A lady fainted in a shop and the staff could not give her a glass of water because of health and safety

Whilst in a shop recently a lady fainted and the enquirer immediately went to assist. The enquirer heard the lady ask the very kind staff in the shop who had given her a comfy chair to sit in, for a drink of water. She was told sorry we can’t give you one - health and safety rules. The enquirer was wondering if this is a true ruling by H&S.

Panel Opinion

“Refusing the lady who had fainted a drink of water after she came round and was sitting up was a bizarre and ridiculous response. The panel is at a loss to understand why anyone could possibly think they could not do this for ‘health and safety’. There is no such rule and it would have been quick and easy to accommodate the request.”

A charity shop refused donation of baby bath due to health and safety

A local charity shop refused the enquirers donation of a plastic baby bath because ‘health and safety’ meant that the new purchaser could sue if their baby were injured after slipping in it.

Panel Opinion

“There are no health and safety rules which would restrict charity shops from accepting items like baby baths for resale. It's also hard to imagine circumstances in which their fear of litigation might manifest itself. They are of course at liberty to set their own policies on what goods they will or will not accept but they can't wash their hands like this and simply point to non-existent ‘health and safety’ rules.”

Unable to open office windows

Enquirer’s office has been told that they cannot have the keys to open the windows in their office on the 3rd floor as this would breach health and safety. The windows run almost floor to ceiling with the top section opening inwards. Standing next to the window, the open section is just below the enquirer’s chest height (they are 6ft tall). With summer coming the office is getting hotter and they are unable to have any fresh air in the building.

Panel Opinion

“In some circumstances it may be appropriate to prohibit people from opening windows if there is a real risk of someone falling out; but where this is a concern, the problem can also be addressed by fitting controls to limit the extent to which the windows can be opened. In this particular case it seems more likely that ‘health and safety’ has been used as a cover when the real reason is to do with concerns over the effectiveness of the air conditioning. ‘Health and safety’ should not be used simply to avoid having a discussion about the real concerns and what solutions might be possible.”

There are many more debunked health and safety myths on the Myth Busters Challenge page of the HSE website, all well worth taking a look at. It’s good to know that reasonable approaches are taken by our health and safety authority figures, and that there is a chance of the next ‘health & safety’ gone mad’ news report to be nothing more than just a myth…

For other sensible approaches to health and safety, take a look at SG World’s range of solutions, including visitor management, contractor management, permits to work, inspection checklists and incident reporting.

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