Whenever the media reports on something being banned, removed or stopped, health and safety officials are the first to be blamed. Some companies will even ban something and say that it is due to Health and Safety legislation, but often this is completely untrue, and there are other reasons why the company have chosen to stop a tradition. The health and safety myths pass into tradition, however, and so it is a good idea to bust these myths before they do any more damage.
1) The Airline Blanket
A woman reported that she was refused the use of a blanket on an airline as it ‘breached health and safety’, but the blanket could be bought for £5. The myth busting panel reported that this was an obvious attempt to prevent hand-out blankets being offered, and using HSE myths to cover poor service. Health and safety could not be the issue, as blankets were available at a cost.
2) Hot Baby Food
Another well-known restriction is where a mother could not warm up food for her baby ‘in case the child was burnt’. In this case, it is clear that no limitations currently exist which would limit the food being warmed, and instead not heating up food was down to company policy. In these cases, the business was clearly hiding behind health and safety in order to prevent objections.
3) Kids and Conkers
Another well-known myth is the story of kids being forced to wear goggles when playing conkers. This was proclaimed as health and safety restrictions, but was in fact caused by one over-anxious head teacher. After the news was reported, more schools banned conkers, or made children wear protective clothing. This was nothing to do with health and safety, and there is no legislation that requires it.
4) Park Benches
A report stated that all benches in a park had to be removed as they were three inches too low. This was cited as health and safety, but in fact it was clear that there is no law on this, and instead a local manager had decided to order the changes themselves. As yet, there are no rules on the height of park benches – it was just someone being too officious.
5) No Decorations/Bunting
On a regular basis, the media reports that offices have had to ban Christmas decorations, and or bunting for parties. The office responsible will usually say that this is for ‘health and safety’, and that there is nothing they can do about it. This is not the case, as a quick visit to any health and safety council office will show. Most of the officials there will put up decorations, bunting or anything else they want. The office may provide step-ladders to prevent accidents, but that’s as Health and Safety as it gets.
6) Flip Flops banned
Another report in the press said that a woman was prevented by her boss from wearing flip flops at the office. Health and safety was cited again, but again there is no reason for this. Although this type of shoe wear might not be suitable for those working in factories, or with fork-lifts, in an office setting, there is no health and safety legislation. Blame the boss for being too fussy!
Jill Henderson is a Representative for Cube Safety Signs, a Bristol based company which provides an array of health and safety signs for the workplace including, first aid kits, safety clothing, cones and barriers.