Businesses making a mess of health and safety


A new survey has revealed the lengths that some small firms mistakenly go to trying to comply with health and safety.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which is encouraging small and medium-sized employers to use its free online tools and guidance in a bid get risk management right, revealed it has uncovered a range of “bizarre and unnecessary actions” taken by UK employers.

It said one business completed a risk assessment for using a tape measure and another introduced written guidelines for walking up stairs.

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HSE’s survey shows how myths about health and safety could cause unnecessary confusion and flagged some of the most absurd things employers had been advised to do.

One in five people (22%) surveyed believed they weren’t capable of managing health and safety themselves and needed to hire a specialist consultant. 11% believed that a qualified electrician must test electrical appliances, such as kettles and toasters, every year — another persistent myth.

Nearly a third of small businesses surveyed classed themselves as ‘hopeful-have-a-go’s’ when it came to health and safety — aware they have to take some action but unsure where to start or if what they are doing is correct.

HSE’s small business lead, Kate Haire, said: “Health and safety is all about taking reasonable steps to manage serious risks of ill health and injury in the workplace. If something sounds completely unreasonable, more often than not it will be totally unnecessary too.”

John Allan, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, blamed a “fear factor” for forcing many businesses to adopt unnecessary health and safety procedures.

The HSE has published a ‘H&S ABC’, which provides simple information for companies to get started with sensible health and safety.

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Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

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