Jobsworths have hijacked the good name of health and safety, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) claimed, following the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE’s) expose into report received by its Myth Busters Challenge Panel.
Managers and other officials are preventing the public from conducting a variety of activities due to a range of concerns that have no relation to health and safety regulations, the IOSH said. These concerns may be the fear of personal injury compensation claims, such as personal injury claims, a lack of funds, the details of their insurance policies or overall insurance costs.
Dr Luise Cassie, executive director of policy for the IOSH, said that among the over 200 reports the HSE panel received, many are unrelated to protecting people’s health and safety.
She said reporting problems to the panel is important for any member of the public who is concerned that an activity or event has been banned for reasons relating to health and safety.
“Real health and safety” relates to preventing workplace injuries and illnesses and saving people’s lives, and it is important for people to recognise the value of it, she said.
Health and safety is proportionate and sensible, but is regularly used as an excuse for businesses or employers to hide behind. Ms Vassie said she hopes the HSE’s initiative helps Brits to tell the difference between proper and improper health and safety decisions.
Health and safety myths
While workplace safety should work to prevent accident at work compensation claims, the HSE received many reports about incidents that had nothing to do with doing so. These include preventing London Underground cleaners from wearing woolly hats in cold weather, and a company refusing to serve fried eggs to a customer who wanted a full English breakfast because of an alleged concern about the risk of a pan fire. An airline company based in Great Britain also did not serve boiled sweets to passengers whose ears had popped to prevent them suffering from ear-ache and invoked health and safety as its excuse, while a woman at a racecourse had her parasol confiscated but was told she could have it back if it started to rain.
Some of these incidents appear to actually be increasing the risk of the responsible company facing a personal injury claim instead of decreasing it – London Underground’s cleaners could be more vulnerable to communicable diseases if they are cold, while passengers could potentially develop more severe ear problems than simple earache that could have been prevented were they provided with boiled sweets.
Businesses need to take their health and safety responsibilities seriously, but these improper excuses make workplace safety seem like a joke, and just the business of jobsworths, preventing businesses from getting on with making money by hampering them with useless regulations. However, health and safety regulations are not designed to prevent the smooth running of a business and are instead only designed to prevent accidents at work and personal injuries.
Carol Smith is an expert in employment law and has worked alongside solicitors in Burnley to help hundreds of people receive workplace accident compensation. She is constantly staying on top of relevant changes in the sector and specialises in industrial accident claims.