How myths give health and safety a bad name | 19 May 09
MYTHS about the supposedly malign influence of health and safety on a range of activities are clouding real concerns, a leading law firm has warned.
High-profile media reports of alleged health and safety rules stopping apparently innocent activities have helped to create a potentially dangerous mix of anger and apathy in attitudes towards health and safety and its enforcement, according to North law firm Ward Hadaway.
James Thompson, partner in the health and safety team at Ward Hadaway, said: “We have all seen reports of ridiculous so-called rules putting a stop to ordinary, everyday activities.
“In many, if not all of these cases, the reports often exaggerate the extent of the legal requirements set down to ensure health and safety standards are maintained.
“Some of these stories may make us laugh, but the atmosphere they can help to create is no joke.
“If people don’t follow sensible health and safety guidelines because they believe they are created to prevent all types of daily activities rather than actively prevent harm, then a serious incident could occur.”
Recent health and safety myths have included the need for written health and safety assessments for Punch and Judy shows, poles being banned from fire stations and park benches being lowered to comply with health and safety regulations.
James Thompson said: “All these myths have no basis in fact, yet they are still acquiring the status of truth in many people’s minds.
“As a result, it is difficult to convince society of the absolute need for a sound system of health and safety to safeguard us in our everyday activities.
“It is important to accept that health and safety precautions are necessary, but at the same time they have to be proportionate in their application.
“In a similar vein, health and safety enforcement needs to be proportionate to situations we face in everyday life – if enforcement is unnecessarily heavy-handed, that doesn’t help to enforce the fact that health and safety is important.
“Understanding the real risks and dealing with them can be crucial so getting expert guidance is one piece of advice that is certainly not to be discounted!”
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