Watchdog publishes list of biggest health and safety 'myths'

 
Baby being fed Incidents cited by the watchdog included cafes refusing to warm up baby food

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Over-zealous health and safety decisions made by "jobsworths" are interfering too much with people's lives, a watchdog says.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published what it calls "blatant examples" of firms using health and safety as an excuse to refuse service.

Incidents include cafes refusing to heat up baby food, a golf course banning golf buggies and an airline refusing a passenger a blanket.

Ministers said this was "frustrating".

Through its Myth Busters Challenge Panel, the HSE seeks to draw attention to inaccurate claims that health and safety forbids certain activities when no such rules exist.

An HSE spokesman said the campaign aimed to stop organisations "hiding behind the term health and safety" and to give the real - often valid - reasons behind their decisions.

'Smokescreen'

Since April the HSE has been calling on people who think they were subject to a "ludicrous ruling" to submit examples to them for professional assessment.

TOP 10 'HEALTH AND SAFETY MYTHS'

  • A boot supplier claimed that it was banned from accepting dirty boots for return
  • Cafes and restaurants refusing to heat up baby food
  • A golf club told players that golf buggies were not health and safety authorised
  • A hospital refused the use of a microwave on a ward
  • A gym-goer was told he could not lift weights without wearing trainers
  • A woman was banned by her boss from wearing sandals in the office in summer
  • A passenger was refused a blanket on a flight but told she could buy one
  • A campsite banned sleeping in a camper van
  • A primary school's treehouse had to be located away from the premises because of a risk to children
  • A council banned a nursery teacher from taking children to an allotment

Source: Health and Safety Executive

The panel picked a top 10 from the submissions received about decisions made by insurance companies, local authorities, employers and others.

HSE chair Judith Hackett said the panel had "seen some blatant and disturbing examples of people using health and safety as an excuse in the last few months, ranging from a smokescreen for a whole host of unpopular decisions to completely nonsensical interpretations of what the law requires.

"We're tackling these jobsworths and their lame excuses, which trivialise the real work of health and safety. The real task is to prevent death, serious injury and ill health caused by work."

The HSE has published lists of health and safety myths in previous years but these were based on press reports rather than direct evidence from the public.

The HSE said it had taken this year's claims "at face value" as it did not have the resources to investigate each incident individually, just to rule on whether or not health and safety law applied.

Blanket refusal

The list includes the case of a woman refused a blanket on a Monarch Airlines flight when returning from a holiday in Turkey.

Zoe Hammond claimed she asked an attendant for a blanket because she was cold but was told she could not have one on grounds of health and safety.

Start Quote

It is hugely frustrating when excuses are being made in the name of health and safety”

End Quote Chris Grayling Employment Minister

The attendant then said a blanket could be purchased for five pounds.

The panel ruled: "This is a blatant case of health and safety being used gratuitously to cover up poor customer service or a commercial decision. It is clear that there's no health and safety concern given that blankets are available - at a price."

In a statement, Monarch confirmed that blankets and pillows were complimentary on long haul flights but were only available on short haul flights for a charge.

The airline said that passenger comfort "remains one of our top priorities" and it would investigate Ms Hammond's claim.

'Fight back'

In another incident, a mother said that cafes and restaurants had refused to warm up baby food for her daughter because the hot food might burn the 14-month-old girl's mouth.

The panel said that no such health and safety restrictions exist and ruled that the incidents were "a matter of company policy regarding customer service and [cafes] should not be using health and safety as an excuse to hide behind".

Employment Minister Chris Grayling said it was "hugely frustrating when excuses are being made in the name of health and safety".

"The Myth Busters Challenge Panel is helping the man and woman on the street to fight back against the jobsworths," he added.

 

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  • rate this
    -41

    Comment number 135.

    Once the government gets involved it always becomes a mess

    You used to drive up to a roundabout, go left, right, or straight ahead.

    NOWADAYS you have up to 3 sets of traffic lights, ON EACH APPROACH ROAD, plus half a dozen different signs saying don't do this and you must do that... plus time of day stuff

    oh yes...and while you're digesting that lot don't crash or knock anyone over please...

  • rate this
    -24

    Comment number 6.

    The government must genuinely think all citizens are idiots who can't look after themselves. Refusing to heat up baby food? Surely giving a baby cold food is more of a risk?

  • rate this
    -23

    Comment number 168.

    H&S people are nutters

    If I was starting up a business, especially a wealth creation business, I would move to The Republic of Ireland
    Britain is awash with badly trained government jobsworths

    At my local garage, Council H&S nutters even demanded that the guy who runs the place should buy new sets of spanners, tools etc

    As I say

    Nutters

  • rate this
    -17

    Comment number 119.

    H&S is largely driven by socialist employees and TUs who believe accidents caused by an employees stupidity, (or no ones stupidity, just bad luck) is the fault of someone/some organisation with more money than them) who they can then sue. Employment law & HS law are a millstone round the economy and the countries doing best in this world are the ones where such approaches have no legal weight.

  • rate this
    -16

    Comment number 4.

    Im am fed up of cafes and resaurants refusing to heat up baby food, (especially if you bought it from them in the first place!).

    That's ok, I'll give my baby food poisoning instead then.

    Then I'll sue you!

 

Comments 5 of 474

 

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