Why is Health and Safety important? The prevention of accidents, ensuring safe working environments, protecting the well-being of employers, employees, visitors and customers is paramount. Preventing accidents and ill health caused by work should be a key priority for everyone active in the workplace. Over 200 people are killed each year in accidents in the workplace and over one million people are injured.
While the key principles of Health and Safety are ultimately to be praised and put in place for very good reasons, there are occasions when the rules and regulations might be considered overzealous on occasion. Here are five of the most bizarre and bewildering Health and Safety myths:
1. An old chestnut - children banned from playing conkers unless they are wearing goggles
A school teacher with good intentions decided children should wear safety goggles to play conkers. Latterly, some schools appear to have banned conkers on 'health & safety' grounds or made children wear goggles. Practically, the risk from playing conkers is extremely low. If kids deliberately hit each other over the head with conkers, that should probably be considered a disciplinary issue, not health and safety.
2. Tis the season - office workers banned from putting up Christmas decorations
Every year some businesses prevent their workers from putting up Christmas decorations in their offices for 'health and safety' reasons, or require a suitably 'qualified' worker to do the job. Most organisations manage to put up their decorations and celebrate the spirit of Christmas without any significant fuss. Sensibly they provide their staff with appropriate step ladders to help put up the decorations.
3. Aerial acrobatics - trapeze artists ordered to wear hard hats
This particular myth has been widely reported and regularly repeated. However, this story is completely absurd. There have never been any such regulations. Hard hats do an excellent job of protecting construction workers from overhead obstacles and falling debris, but ultimately have no place on a circus trapeze.
4. Eeyore - pin the tail on the donkey games deemed a health and safety risk
The traditional party game of 'pin the tail on the donkey' is allegedly under threat because some parents consider it a health and safety risk. Not being able to trust children with drawing pins might seem to be unduly protective. Many children have been playing traditional party games like this for years without any problems.
5. All the fun of the fair - candy floss on a stick banned in case people impale themselves
A visit to the fun fair is not complete without sampling good, old-fashioned candy floss on a stick. Apparently though this traditional favourite is under threat due to a potential 'trip and impale' hazard from the wooden stick. The truth is that there are no health and safety laws banning candy floss on a stick. It is however more often seen today produced and stored in relatively harmless plastic bags.
It should be noted, that all five myths have one thing in common - they are not required by health and safety law.
Health and Safety is inherently a good thing: identifying hazards, assessing risks, employing risk control measures to protect workers. Businesses which neglect health and safety can risk prosecution, may lose employees, and could incur increased costs and reduced profitability as a result. Many businesses depend upon competent employees working in a safe and healthy environment. Health and Safety is important because it protects both people and business.
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