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Has Health & Safety 'Gone Mad'?

16 May 2012

It seems that not a day passes without the media reporting on another hell-bent Health & Safety law or policy being put in place by a council or organisation and most of them, on the surface at least, appear to be an over the top reaction.

Many would argue that the claim, blame and compensation culture that we live in is responsible for the significant increase in health and safety propaganda. Only this week there have been reports of a local authority causing uproar amongst residents in a mobility scooter row. The Ely Standard claims, “Health and safety red tape has been blamed for the row – with risk assessors saying the scooters could be a fire hazard if parked indoors, even switched off and unplugged.” On the flip side there are also many cases where no safety measures were put in place there has been accidents and fatalities. Last week The Telegraph reported how a pensioner fell to (his) death over a sea wall after council deputy leader brands railing plan 'health and safety gone mad'.

Other seemingly bizarre health and safety rules include the large percentage of schools banning children from playing with conkers and playground games such as British bulldog. In reality it is a small number of schools that were questioned in the first place and when looked into more deeply, the reasons behind the banning might well be founded. One teacher sited that the main problem with conkers is that “nut allergy sufferers are increasingly allergic to them.” Another teacher claimed British bulldog is “banned because of the number of broken bones it causes.” When looked at like this, we can only imagine the reverse headlines, ‘Schools refusal to ban conkers despite growing nut allergy cases amongst pupils’.

The HSE themselves have acknowledged the public’s perception of “Health and Safety gone mad” and are trying to address the issue through the Myth Busting Challenge Panel. Launched in April the campaign allows the public to submit rules and regulations they come across that claim to be “due to health and safety” and the panel will look into them to see if they are indeed valid. HSE’s Chair Judith Hackitt hopes the scheme will “give the public the support and confidence they need to take on the jobsworths and cynics” and help them understand the Executives “true task, which is to manage serious risks to life and limb in Britain's workplaces.”

As it stands, although it might at times seem like health and safety has indeed gone mad, these restrictions are ultimately in place to protect us. Yes, we could play conkers in the playground when we were kids without anyone screaming about health and safety but let’s not forget the world has come a long way since then. Advances in science and technology have identified the extent and seriousness of nut allergies and what sort of society would we live in if we didn’t take this information on board and adapt our behaviour accordingly? There are, and perhaps always will be, extreme cases that pitch themselves under the health and safety banner like the case of Police being called to a 3 years olds birthday party because cake candles posed health and safety risk but perhaps Hackitt puts it best when she says, “Just because somebody reels off a quote saying it's ‘elf and safety gone mad, doesn't make it true.”

To ensure you understand your health and safety responsibilities in the workplace, why not enrol on a training course like the ones offered by Total Training Solutions. The NEBOSH General Certificate is a great overall qualification that covers all aspects of health and safety from planning to reviewing, people, manual handling, equipment and chemical hazards. The NESBOSH Fire Certificate deals with specific fire related health and safety regulations and is aimed at supervisors and nominated company fire officers.

To book on either of these courses call the Total Training Solutions team 0800 612 1299 or email info@tts-uk.com.

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