Ridiculous Health and Safety

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Ten of the most ridiculous health and safety excuses of 2012 were exposed by a regulator today. Bans on yo-yos in playgrounds, knives in kitchens and kettles in offices have all been wrongly blamed on workplace safety laws this year. Analysis of cases shows that 38 were down to jobsworths making an excuse for an unpopular decision or simple poor customer service.

Almost a quarter of all cases were found to involve over-interpretation of legitimate guidelines, leading to daft decisions being made, probably through fear of being prosecuted. One sixth of all cases came from people who had been given advice that confused health and safety with other regulations or regulators. A similar amount was down to communication failures when explaining the reasons for a decision.

Ridiculous Health and Safety

Employment minister, Mark Hoban said: “It’s so frustrating when people are stopped from doing perfectly sensible things on the false pretence of health and safety. Our panel has now exploded 100 myths and is helping ordinary people fight back against the jobsworths.”

Judith Hackitt, Chair of HSE commented: “It’s really important that we are all ready to challenge stupid decisions made in the name of health and safety, and that we as the regulator give the public the confidence to do so. Not only do the jobsworths who make these ridiculous edicts waste time and money, and interfere needlessly with harmless activities, they also undermine our efforts to reduce the number of people made ill, injured or killed by their work. There’s a lot myths about what health and safety requires, and a good deal of confusion. Getting the focus back on managing real risks in a sensible and proportionate way is a gift we could all enjoy this New Year”.

Example Cases

  • Driver refused to allow customer on bus with hot drink because of health and safety

    A bus driver refused to let a passenger on with a cup of hot coffee on health and safety grounds. Of course there is no occupational health and safety legislation stopping people with hot drinks onto a bus, and while the company is free to determine its own policies, they should not then cop out and blame it on health and safety.

  • Bar refused a customer to carry a tray of drinks because they had not been health and safety trained

    Tim from Hampshire thought the bartender of a local restaurant was having a laugh when he was told he couldn’t have a tray to carry drinks from the bar to his table in a local pub. It turned out that the bar had brought in this daft rule as some bright spark thought only people with specialist training could possible grapple with the rigours of balancing a tray of drinks.

  • Charity shop said that they cannot sell knitting needles for health and safety reasons

    A shopper from Homfirth was stunned when she went to her local charity shop to buy some knitting needles and was told the shop did not sell them for health and safety reasons. But the trained paediatric nurse smelled a rat and approached us to confirm that there are no health and safety regulations that apply to the sale of knitting needles. It urged the charity to reconsider its decision and at least come clean on the real reason for its decision.

  • Public hall removed knives from kitchen on the grounds of health and safety

    John from Cambridgeshire knew a barmy decision when he spotted one when he discovered the local public hall did not allow knives in their kitchen. Most people agree that a knife is an essential kitchen tool, but someone at the hall obviously thought he knew better. John brought this daft decision to the attention of the HSE who ruled that a knife ban in a kitchen was neither sensible nor proportionate, and certainly no laws existed banning them from their natural home!

  • Shop refused to put coffee in customers own reusable cup on the grounds of health and safety

    A coffee shop refused to fill a customer’s own reusable cup with coffee, citing health and safety. The HSE ruled there is no health and safety regulation preventing the use of reusable cups and advised the customer to ask the shop to explain the real reasons why his reusable cup remains empty.

  • Airline passenger told boiled sweets were no longer provided on the grounds of health and safety

    Like most people Sandra from Kingston finds sucking on a boiled sweet when flying relieves the air pressure in her ears during takeoff. So she was unimpressed on one airline when she requested a sweet from a member of the cabin crew only to be told that boiled sweets were no longer provided on the grounds of health and safety because children could choke on them! The fact Sandra, is an adult didn’t seem to matter and anyway, she knew the health and safety excuse was a load of nonsense. HSE sided with Sandra and found the issue does not relate to health and safety legislation and even the Civil Aviation Authority do not prevent boiled sweets being given out on flights, so only the airline knows why it embarked on this flight of fancy.

  • Hotel chain does not provide floor towels due to health and safety

    A hotel chain does not provide floor towels for stepping out of the bath or shower due to health and safety as people could slip over. Of course there is no health and safety regulation which prevents hotels from providing bath mats or towels in bathrooms says the panel. It would be much better if the hotel chain explained the real reasons for their decision, rather than pretending it is motivated by concerns about health and safety.

  • Fish and chip shop told customer he could not have batter scraps for health and safety reasons

    Geoff popped into a fish and chip shop after work in Dagenham where he now works for his traditional Friday night fish and chips. As is tradition in the North East, he asked for some extra fish batter scraps to complement his meal. However, he was left disappointed and bemused when the server denied him the tasty morsels for health and safety reasons. An unimpressed Geoff went straight to the HSE. They told Geoff that if the fish and chip shop owner has decided not to sell the batter scraps for whatever reason, then that was up to them, but health and safety was a lazy excuse.

  • School bans yo-yos on health and safety grounds

    A school has banned the use of yo-yos on health and safety grounds. In exactly the same way as the now legendary conker myth, there is no health and safety law which bans yo-yos from schools. Like many toys, there will always be a risk of yo-yos causing minor injuries; it seems a bit over the top to ban them from the school though.

  • Office workers advised that kettles and microwaves were not allowed due to health and safety requirements

    Office workers were advised that kettles and microwaves are not allowed due to health and safety requirements and that insurance would be needed at a cost to the employer. There is no health and safety law prohibiting the use of kettles and microwaves in the office. The office workers have been misinformed. It would be much better if their employer explained their real concerns about having this equipment in the office.

Learn more about workplace health and safety with Know How Training. We specialise in providing a range of health and safety courses in compliance with a businesses obligations under the law. For more information, please see our health and safety courses section or contact us.

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