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 Who you gonna call? Myth busters!

Who you gonna call? Myth busters!

4 January 2013 Email this article

After years of being blamed for everything from bans on children playing conkers to workers not being allowed a microwave in the office, the HSE is fighting back!


They listed their 10 most ridiculous health and safety excuses of 2012, including a man being told he couldn’t carry a tray of drinks in a bar because he hadn’t had the appropriate training.


The misuses of health and safety were spotted by the Health and Safety Executive's Myth Busters Challenge Panel, which was set up in earlier this year to challenge a stream of silly decisions wrongly blamed on health and safety.


The panel has now responded to its hundredth case – and helps to empower the public by overturning unreasonable bans or restrictions and forcing businesses to honestly explain the real reason behind their decisions to ban things on non-existent ‘elf and safety’ grounds.  

There were various reasons for the public being fed spurious health and safety stories. Analysis of the cases dealt with so far shows that 38 were down to ‘jobsworths’ making an excuse for an unpopular decision or simple poor customer service.

Almost a quarter of the cases were found to involve over-interpretation of legitimate guidelines, leading to less than sensible decisions being made through fear of being sued. One sixth of all cases came from people who had been given advice that confused health and safety with other regulations or regulators. A similar amount was down to communication failures when explaining the reasons for a decision.

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, Chair of HSE and the Myth Busters panel, added:"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.

Cases the panel looked at this year included:

1. A driver refusing to allow a passenger on a bus with a hot drink because of health and safety

2. A bar not allowing a customer to carry a tray of drinks because they had not been 'health and safety trained'

3. One Charity shop saying they cannot sell knitting needles for health and safety reasons

4. All knives being removed from the kitchen of a public hall on health and safety grounds.

5. A shop refusing to put coffee in customer's own reusable cup on the grounds of health and safety

6. An Airline passenger being told boiled sweets were no longer provided on the grounds of health and safety

7. Hotel chain does not provide floor towels due to 'Health and Safety'

8. A fish & chip shop telling a customer he could not have 'batter scraps' for health and safety reasons

9. Yo-yos banned in schools on health and safety grounds

10. Office workers being advised that kettles and microwaves were not allowed due to health and safety requirements