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Has Health & Safety Gone Mad?

ealth and Safety Gone Mad

When you work for a company or run your own business, you have to adhere to a long list of rules and regulations in the name of health and safety.

In the right hands, such rules are crucial for preventing accident or injury in the workplace. In the wrong hands, however, many view safety legislation as a tool that is used by bosses to help enforce unpopular decisions.

Consequently, the reputation of health and safety in this country has suffered. Here, we take a look at some of the most well-publicised health and safety stories of recent times in a bid to answer the question: has health and safety gone mad?

There’s Something in The Water

In 2011, Fife Today reported that Fife Sports and Leisure Trust introduced rules that forbid swimming instructors from getting in the pool with children they were teaching to swim. Instead, the leisure centre asked their instructors to supervise only from the side of the pool, over concerns they might otherwise miss a child in trouble.

On a similar theme, in 2010, The Daily Mail reported that a father-of-two was told he could only swim with one of his children at Coventry Sports and Leisure Centre. The reason? It was feared that, if he were to swim with both of his children at the same time, they might not receive the required supervision needed to keep them safe.

Has health and safety gone mad?

In the case of the Fife Sports and Leisure Trust, it appears the decision was made because it was deemed that swimming instructors would be able to supervise children more easily if they were stood at the side of the pool. In the case of Coventry Sports and Leisure Centre, the Coventry Sports Trust, which runs the leisure centre in question, claimed to be following national guidelines.

Health and safety around water is obviously a good idea, and teaching children to swim is something that can help prevent them from drowning in youth and later life. On reflection, then, perhaps these two stories are not as ludicrous as they might first appear?

Food for Thought

This one comes from the vault of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and involves a burger.

Picture the scene: a customer is queuing at a burger van and overhears the person in front of them ask the vendor if they could cut a burger in half, as it was for a child. The vendor refuses, replying, “Can’t do that – health and safety. We’re just not allowed to do that.” The customer accepts the excuse and the burger is left in one whole.

Has health and safety gone mad?

Unsurprisingly, the HSE couldn’t find any law that prevented catering professionals from using a knife to cut food. Consequently, it seems that the burger vendor in this story was using health and safety as a convenient shield against doing something that they didn’t want to do.

Staff Banned from Drinking Tea or Coffee

Can you imagine trying to get through a working day without a regular fix of caffeine? As reported by The Independent and many other newspapers, this was the stark reality that medics and staff members at three NHS hospitals in Leicester faced, after they were banned from drinking tea and coffee in public areas in 2014.

Has health and safety gone mad?

The ban generated a significant level of negative press, largely because access to tea and coffee is seen by many to be a given right for every worker. However, in many hospitals, employees are only allowed to consume hot drinks in the staff room for health and safety reason, so the ban would appear to make sense on that level.

What’s more, if you take a closer look at the story, the reality is that the ban was introduced following complaints the consumption of hot drinks gave the impression that staff are not working hard enough.

How the NHS is run in this country is a topic that receives a lot of public scrutiny. As a result, even though the banning of tea and coffee might appear crazy at first, if the hospitals in question were seen to be doing nothing after receiving complaints, would the ramifications have been even worse?

How Much Does It Cost to Change a Lightbulb?

In 2011, after an accident involving a ladder, Stoke-on-Trent City Council introduced a ‘working-at-height’ policy, which essentially banned the use of ladders. According to The Express, the change meant that the council’s bill for scaffolding increased by approximately £1 million in just a year, as workers were continually forced to hire contractors to erect scaffolding just to change a lightbulb.

Has health and safety gone mad?

At first glance, the headline of spending £1 million to change lightbulbs appears to be ludicrous. However, almost a fifth of all falls from height at work are caused by the misuse of ladders. So, if using a ladder to change a lightbulb is deemed dangerous, wouldn’t it be more sensible to use scaffolding instead?

When viewed from this perspective, it makes you think that perhaps some of the newspapers were attracted to the story solely because of the catchy headlines it created.

Final Thoughts

The idea that health and safety has gone mad in this country is a popular one. However, on reflection, it seems that many of the most widespread stories relating to this subject might have been blown out of proportion to create eye-catching headlines.

There are exceptions, of course. Blatant misuses of health and safety law can – and do – occur. However, the creation of most safety laws are done with the best intentions.

It doesn’t matter what sort of business you are; effective health and safety management is essential. It can reduce accidents and losses, decrease absenteeism and help efficiency – all of which, in combination, can help boost your profits.

At Simply-Docs, we provide a huge selection of fully customisable, ready-to-use documents that are ideal for businesses. Our range of health & safety documents include risk assessment forms, fire safety documents, food hygiene paperwork, and many more documents that make health and safety management for businesses much easier.

For more information about how our services can save you money, contact our friendly team today.

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