A common sense approach to health and safety


We all hear about ”Elf n Safety gone mad” as a term to describe an “over the top” approach to health and safety.   Excessive health and safety red tape/legal constraints is a perception by some Managers as a real hinderance to getting on with the day job or loss of production.


Over the years, the Health and Safety Executive have helped to reduce what they called “gold plating” or “red tape” in their regulatory framework.   They also challenge organisations who print reasons for not doing something as Health and Safety when clearly that is not the case.   So why then does health and safety have such a bad reputation?


We all remember ridiculous stories about health and safety:


  • In 2015 the University of Birmingham banned the graduates from throwing their mortar boards in the air for reasons of health and safety!
  • Ice Cream toppings banned for reasons of health and Safety……..really?!
  • Pupils can only bring shop bought cakes for bring and buy cake sale for reasons of health and safety!
  • Following a pupil getting struck in the eye with a triangular flapjack, a school in Essex banned them as they were too dangerous  – Only square or rectangular ones could be sold!!!


When I read these stories (or worse still continuous jibes on the radio or TV)  it makes my blood boil…………grrrrr!     In my 26 years involved in health and safety I have never had to enforce the well-known Triangular Flapjack Cessation Regulations or the Ice Cream Topping Banning Orders!!


These stories stick in peoples’ minds and ridicule health and safety professionals and continue to do so.     Health and safety is often used as an excuse for not doing something, saving money or just crazy advice from someone who hasn’t thought things through properly?   Let’s get back to sensible and proportionate health and safety and continue to challenge this nonsense from over-enthusiastic bureaucrats.   Having worked in Local Authorities for over 20 years it saddens me to say that most of these relate to schools, educational establishments or Council Services.


Let’s bring back that old common-sense approach to health and safety.      Let’s encourage young people to cook or bake, take risks and climb, go outdoors, encourage good behaviour in schools and not to throw food, pick up litter, wipe up ice cream topping spillages, play with conkers and do stuff that “health and safety have banned”.   And finally let’s dispel the myths on an ongoing basis.   A sensible and proportionate approach to health and safety should be encouraged that promotes risk awareness rather than risk avoidance and puts in controls to manage the real risks.    A healthy dollop of common sense never did anyone any harm!

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