Health and safety rules are vital to prevent accidents at work.
But when the rulebook falls into the wrong hands, it seems even the simplest task can become a minefield of hidden hazards.
Washing up and playing table tennis are some of the activities deemed to pose a risk, according to the latest gaffes exposed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Myth Busters Challenge Panel.
‘Injury claim’ fears
The panel was set up by the HSE last year to offer advice for people who had been the victim of ridiculous or disproportionate health and safety decisions. So far, the panel has reviewed more than 200 decisions, ruling that almost none had any basis in health and safety law.
Cases which have come before the panel this summer include a village hall committee in Oxfordshire which ordered residents to use a dishwasher after hosting parties or other events at the venue, as putting their hands in soapy suds was declared a health and safety risk.
In another incident, a DIY store was criticised for refusing to help a customer buy some timber. The man had visited his local branch to collect some timber, but when he discovered it was too long to fit in his car, he asked staff to cut it down to size.
The store assistant refused, saying it was against health and safety laws – but the customer was not even allowed to cut the wood himself, as the company believed it would be in danger of an injury claim if he had an accident.
Meanwhile, one unlucky group of factory workers had their break-time table tennis table removed after it was deemed a health and safety risk.
All three decisions were dismissed by the panel.
‘Giving health and safety a bad name’
Commenting on the latest revelations, Employment Minister Mark Hoban said: “It’s time businesses and others stopped hiding behind health and safety when the simple truth is that they are either jobsworths or giving poor customer service.
“Their attitude gives health and safety a bad name and it undermines good health and safety which keeps people safe and enables them to enjoy the summer.”
HSE chair Judith Hackitt added: “The stories just keep on coming in – you just could not make them up. I am proud of what our Myth Busters Panel has achieved in exposing the real reasons behind all of these so-called ‘health and safety’ stories.
“If we understand what is really driving this blatant misuse of health and safety then we can all tackle the root causes – jobsworths be warned!”
Date Published: August 10, 2013
Author: David Brown