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Revealed: The unnecessary safety measures wasting business’ time and money

Date:
27 February 2014

A new survey has revealed the lengths some small firms mistakenly go to trying to comply with health and safety. One business completed a risk assessment for using a tape measure and another introduced written guidelines for walking up stairs.

These bizarre and unnecessary actions were uncovered by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which is encouraging small and medium sized employers to use its free online tools and guidance, specifically designed to help them get their risk management right.

The H&S ABC provides simple information to help small firms save time, effort and money by identifying the things they really do and don’t need to do.

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 per cent) surveyed believed they weren’t capable of managing health and safety themselves and needed to hire a specialist consultant. Eleven percent 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.

“What’s great about H&S ABC is that it contains all the information smaller businesses need to know to manage health and safety sensibly and comply with the law. It highlights the real risks in a workplace and how to put reasonable precautions in place.

“We have worked with some key industry partners who have regular contact with SMEs to make them aware of the benefits of using the free online tools and guidance HSE has to offer. We hope employers will realise health and safety does not have to be complicated or cost lots of money.”

 John Allan, National Chairman, Federation of Small Businesses, said: 

“The fear factor forces many businesses to adopt unnecessary health and safety procedures which costs time and money. So to introduce a new resource to give small businesses a way of clearly identifying guidance and information designed for them can only be a good initiative. It’s a tool which will not only help to sense check compliance, it will also avoid ‘gold plating’ and show how health and safety need not be a burden on their business.” 

Whether a business employs one or two people, or is expanding to multiple locations, the free online guidance will help even complete beginners get health and safety right. Visit www.hse.gov.uk/abc to get started with sensible health and safety.

 Notes to editors

  1.  Forty five SMEs were surveyed and asked a number of questions relating to their approach and beliefs around health and safety.
  2. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill-health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulation and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. http://www.hse.gov.uk
  3. There have been two major reviews of health and safety legislation in recent years Lord Young’s ‘Common sense Common safety (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/common-sense-common-safety-a-report-by-lord-young-of-graffham)  and Professor Löfstedt’s ‘Reclaiming health and safety for all’ (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/66790/lofstedt-report.pdf) These reviews found that the existing legislative framework was broadly right  but that businesses did more than the law required driven by a number of factors including fear of being sued in civil law.

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