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HSE calls for New Year resolution on health and safety blame game

Date:
2 January 2015

The Health and Safety Executive wants businesses that provide customer service to turn over a new leaf and stop blaming health and safety for poor or over-the-top decisions.

The regulator launched its 40th anniversary year with a call to stop the culture of blaming anything and everything on non-existent ‘health and safety’ rules.

Retail and leisure businesses feature prominently in new research (published today) by the University of Exeter, which reveals half of all cases put to HSE’s Myth Busters Challenge Panel came from shops, cafes and leisure centres.

Traditionally January is a time when people want to get fitter, healthier, or take advantage of the sales. However, customers are being left increasingly frustrated by ridiculous decisions made in the name of health and safety, more often than not to cover up what is simply poor customer service.

Imagine bagging a bargain in the sales only to be forced to pay a £30 delivery charge, wanting to up your fitness in the pool but are refused the use of floats or goggles, or being told you can’t return an unwanted Christmas present because you unwrapped it to take a look!

These are just some of the many examples submitted by bemused customers to the challenge panel, which was set up to refute inaccurate or over-the-top decisions made for ‘health and safety reasons’.

The research which also looks at perceptions and understanding of health and safety regulation in society, found the fear of being sued, cost avoidance and lack of training were other key reasons behind the use of the health and safety myth.

Department for Work and Pensions Minister Mark Harper said:

“The Health and Safety Executive has done fantastic work over the past 40 years to keep working people safe.

“Elf n safety’ myths get in the way of what the law is for – saving lives, not stopping people living them.

“No employer or worker should hide behind the health and safety excuses, if they act in a sensible way. If you hear of a bogus health and safety myth, report it to our panel.”

Judith Hackitt, Chair of HSE and the Myth Busters Challenge Panel said:

HSE wants to encourage everyone, especially those working in leisure and retail, to make a resolution to stop using the health and safety catch-all excuse.

“Give the real reason for the decision you take. We want people to be honest – giving health and safety the blame is lazy and unhelpful.

“Customers are at the heart any business. Getting rid of over-the-top decisions blamed on health and safety will improve the service customers receive and enable the business to prosper.”

The full research report is published on the University of Exeter’s website.

Notes to Editors:

  1. 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 regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. Interviews with report author Dr Claire Dunlop available on request.
  3. The Myth Buster’s Challenge Panel encourages members of the public, workers and employers to tell HSE when they think ‘health and safety’ has been cited wrongly. It draws on the knowledge of a range of panel members, from a variety of backgrounds, to consider the facts and then publish a ruling.
  4. More examples of leisure and retail related cases received by HSE’s mythbusters challenge panel can be found on HSE’s website and on Pinterest
  5. The University of Exeter is a Russell Group university and in the top one per cent of institutions globally. www.exeter.ac.uk

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