And Finally

Wednesday 20 August 2014

When health and safety goes too far

Published 24/12/2012 | 00:14

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Bans on kettles in offices is just one of a number of workplace safety laws highlighted in a new report

Bans on yo-yos in playgrounds, knives in kitchens and kettles in offices have all been wrongly blamed on workplace safety laws this year, a new report has revealed.

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A health and safety "myth-buster" panel set up to expose mis-uses of the law - or just silly decisions - has received scores of complaints from members of the public in 2012.

The panel has now responded to its 100th case, with 38 put down to jobsworths making an excuse for an unpopular decision or simply poor customer service.

Almost a quarter of the cases were found to involve over-interpretation of legitimate guidelines, leading to daft decisions being made - probably through fear of being sued.

Cases included a bus driver who refused to let a passenger on with a cup of hot coffee, a pub customer told he could not carry a tray of drinks from a bar to his table, a charity shop refusing to sell knitting needles, and an airline passenger told to stop sucking a boiled sweet - all on "health and safety" grounds.

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.

"The panel has now exploded 100 myths and is helping ordinary people fight back against the jobsworths."

Judith Hackitt, who chairs the Health and Safety Executive, said: "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 Christmas."

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