You often hear people say that The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is a buzzkill, or has gone mad on safety laws. You could be forgiven for thinking this when you read headlines saying how children are at a risk when playing party games, or that flip-flops in the workplace can kill you.
The HSE is not out to ban everything remotely fun. They do not want to ruin children’s parties, they do not want to ban graduations, and they do not want to turn workplaces into a sea of red tape.
The one goal of the HSE is to keep you safe.
However, despite this noble goal, there’s quite a lot of myths floating about society, claiming the HSE is out to stymie business and make life less enjoyable.
Well, we set ourselves the challenge of picking out 5 over the top myths and busting them once and for all.
1. Trapeze Artists being ordered to wear hard hats
According to the HSE this story is “utter nonsense”. Which seems believable because trapeze artists wearing hard hats would be pretty ridiculous.
Hard hats are normally used to protect your head from falling objects. Not to protect your head when you’re the falling object!
They honestly don’t even know where this rumour came from as there appears to be no logic behind it.
2. Pin the tail on the donkey is banned
This is why HSE can get a bad rep. They don’t want to be the buzzkill off simple kid’s party games. And they aren’t.
The rumour of HSE banning the game ‘pin the tail on the donkey’ was a complete fabrication.
If the parents see it as a risk to their child’s health and safety, that is their concern. But they better start wrapping them in cotton wool now because ‘pin the tail on the donkey’ is not a Health and Safety risk.
HSE themselves believe that it could be a ploy to drum up the sales of party games? But who knows.
3. Flip-flops banned in the workplace
This one to be fair does make some sense. Like come on, who wants to see gnarly feet in the workplace? Only joking. But there is added risk to wearing poor footwear.
We get that when the weather is so hot your feet can feel caged in their socks and shoes and that’s when many people opt for flip flops.
That’s fine for at home, but surely not in the workplace, it wouldn’t be safe.
Well, contrary to popular belief, flip flops are not banned by HSE.
They do say however, when slips, trips and falls account for over 30% of all workplace accidents, it might be wise to choose appropriate footwear.
Dropping a heavy box on your work shoes can be sore enough never mind your unprotected toes!
Any workplace or environment that has you dealing with wet floors or handling heavy equipment should have appropriate and safe footwear rules in place. But it is not against the law.
4. Graduates not allowed to throw their mortar boards in the air
The chance of being injured by a mortar board is incredibly slim if at all.
Therefore the myth that graduates aren’t allowed to throw their mortar boards due to health and safety is a total lie.
HSE fully support graduates having fun and celebrating their success in the time-honoured fashion of mortar board throwing.
What they don’t support is companies that like to blame HSE for their decision making.
5. Pubs goers were banned from opening champagne bottles
One of the most common myths floating around out there concerns pubs, bars and restaurants banning drinkers from popping their own champagne bottle.
There are absolutely no regulations preventing people from opening bottles of champagne in bars or restaurants.
In all likelihood, the bartender was just trying to avoid a late night cleaning champagne off the ceilings, or a complaint of the cork landing in someone’s food!
Health and safety is an important issue and therefore HSE take it very seriously when companies try and and blame HSE for unpopular decisions that they want to make in their company.
The best way to deal with this issue, say Neil Budworth, corporate health and safety manager at energy provider E.ON UK, is to educate rather than ban.
“Initially, simply banning things seems the more attractive option, but I believe strongly that wherever possible you should educate. It’s easy to ban something, but you need to think about what message that sends out in the long term.”
Educate your workers on health and safety and the reasons behind certain decisions. This way, they can understand and take personal responsibility so everyone in the workplace is safe.