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Health and Safety Gone Mad: HSE Myth Busting

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Written by Andy Trainer– Fri 09 Nov 2012

‘Health and safety gone mad’; that well-worn phrase that's nearly as high up on the Daily Mail’s list of go-to headlines as gives you cancer’. People love to point to supposed incidents of over the top safety regulations as evidence of a growing nanny state culture in Britain.

In reality, these stories that make the headlines tend to be exaggerated at best and are just plain made-up at worst.

Even these guys have to wear hard-hats sometimes

Whilst some might seem quite funny, it is a serious issue that has badly damaged the reputation of Health and Safety as a concept. People believe these myths to be fact and then begin to view Health and Safety as over the top. This leads to people ignoring health and safety regulations on the whole, which results in an increase in serious injuries and deaths that could have otherwise been prevented.

As such the HSE is committed to disproving these wild claims in order to maintain the necessary regard for Health and Safety overall. Each month they choose a different myth and set out to prove that it has no actual basis in fact.

In that vein, we thought we'd come up with 5 of our favourites that the HSE has managed to disprove.

Need to learn or brush up on your Health and Safety regulations? Our Health and Safety courses are accredited by IOSH, the world's biggest health and safety membership organisation.

Take a look at our Top 10 Health and Safety tips to get an idea of which regulations aren't myths.

1/ ‘Kids banned from playing conkers without wearing goggles’

The classic health and safety myth, this one has everything. Children? Check. Beloved, nostalgic childhood game? Check. Absurd overreaction to minimal risk? Check.

The truth is a few schools have banned conkers, and yes some may have even enforced the ‘wearing of goggles if playing’ part but none of this has anything to do with health and safety.

If one child decides to start physically abusing another with a conker, it’s a disciplinary issue not a Health and Safety one: there is no anti-conker legislation in force!

2/ ‘Candyfloss not allowed on sticks anymore because of a choking/being impaled hazard’

So you may have noticed candyfloss coming in bags more frequently these days. That’s got to mean that the government has banned it from being on a stick right? I mean, it couldn't possibly be the case that it’s cheaper to manufacture and easier to distribute that way. No, it’s got to be that sticks are considered a threat to health, safety and national security. While you’re at it we better get rid of that blind man’s cane…it looks awfully pointy.

Only Morgan Freeman can handle it on a stick ... because he's Morgan Freeman

3/ ‘Kids not allowed to throw snowballs’

Like the conker example, this revolves around the emotionally charged issue of children’s safety. Also like the conker one, it’s complete rubbish. How on earth would that be policed? Men with a clipboards hiding in snowmen ready to pounce on any unsuspecting snowball outlaws?

"Take that Health and Safety man! I don't play by your rules"

Why not download our free Risk Assessment Template to use in your business?

4/ ‘Fireman’s poles are banned’

Watch out Strip Clubs, you’re next. The short answer to this one is, no they aren't. One fire station decide against it because of restricted space. Again one of those, ‘How dare they remove something that reminds me of the good ol’ days’ myths. Funnily enough, fireman are probably a bit more at risk from FIRE than from the pole in their station.

"I'm glad they removed that pole...makes our job so much safer"

5/ ‘Bunting is banned’

This one somewhat panders to the target demographic of Health and Safety haters. What is the most trivial symbol of Middle-England we can think of? Bunting. Sorted. Right no bunting then. This one doesn't even seem to give reasons why bunting could potentially pose any kind of risk. Maybe that’s because it doesn't, except from perhaps a cardiac arrest caused by being overly twee.

"I'm sorry Mr. Prime Minister, it'll have to come down"

Health and Safety exists for many reasons: ‘to stop people dying’ is quite high up on the list, but these trivial ‘Health and Safety gone mad’ myths don’t help it’s reputation. In these cases common sense should and does prevail. This is what you will begin to learn on our IOSH Introduction to Risk Assessment Training and then develop on our IOSH Managing Safely Training.

These myths are unlikely to stop coming, I just can’t wait for the day that the planets align and the Daily Mail runs with the headline; ‘Health and Safety gives you cancer’. Now that would be mad.

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